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Shanzhai! Stop me if you've seen this movie before...
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A poster of 'Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg'

A poster of "Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg" 

With local movie buffs still gripped by "Transformers" fever, Hong Kong director Jeffrey Lau has released his latest parody or shanzhai (knock-off) of the Hollywood live-action series.

"Metallic Attraction: Kung Fu Cyborg," which was released across the country last week, has a star-studded cast of pop idols - Alex Fong, Hu Jun, Wu Jing, Ronald Cheng and Sun Li.

Director Lau prefers to call his film a sci-fi romantic comedy which features people transforming into battling robots.

A third of the film's US$14 million budget went on motion capture and CGI technology to produce the robot action, some of which is based on Bruce Lee's trademark fighting methods using nunchaku and sticks.

Lau says he came up with an idea to make a film about superheroes in China after seeing "Spider-Man," "Superman" and "Batman" years ago.

"I burst out laughing when watching 'Transformers,'" Lau says at an earlier interview.

"The visual effects were stunning but the robots didn't know how to fight. So I decided our Chinese superheroes should be kung fu experts."

Set in 2046, the film centers on a cyborg who falls in love with a human girl. But the intelligent cyborg has a computer program which prohibits him from a romance with human beings. Meanwhile, he has to stop the destruction of some evil cyborgs.

The film's visual effects are the work of a team who contributed to Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle." All the cyborgs in the movie are adept at kung fu. They can instantly transform into vehicles like trucks and motorcycles and they use a variety of sophisticated weaponry.

However, China's answer to "Transformers" has aroused much controversy among movie buffs.

Some audiences praised the film's more vivid depiction of the cyborgs' emotional world.

"When I watched 'Transformers' with my boyfriend, the dazzling and noisy fight scenes were excitement for him but torture for me," says Kathleen Song, a 20-something accountant. "But Lau's film shows a good balance of romance and action. I was impressed by the touching love story as well as some typical Chinese humor."

However, in the eyes of many Transformers fans, the knock-off version lacks originality and passion.

Some say it's good for director Lau to have big dreams, but the material for this film, particularly the robot's love for a human being, is too familiar and outdated.

Lau doesn't want to make comparisons between "Transformers" and his latest effort. He would rather regard this movie as a sci-fi sequel to his highly acclaimed fantasy "A Chinese Odyssey" from 15 years ago.

"Love seems to be an eternal subject for my films," he says. "I hope that the audience can find humanized cyborgs in my film. They have intricate characters and warm hearts."

Shanzhai, literally mountain village, refers to knock-off and pirated brands and goods. Nowadays, shanzhai covers film, TV and other realms of culture and commerce.

For the first time, this year's China Central Television's (CCTV) Lunar New Year's Eve Gala faced competition from a grassroots online parody.

This shanzhai version presented by ordinary netizens aimed to change the old-fashioned format and tedious programs in the original and appear to be more casual, avant-garde and funny.

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