How long until China makes its own Star Wars?

Chinese domestic movies are claiming a greater market share at the Chinese box office than Hollywood blockbusters. But if there's one area where the Chinese film industry still lags behind, it's special effects. 

Every year, Hollywood superheroes will save the world, again and again, and they pull billions of dollars out of Chinese audiences' pockets. But Chinese filmmakers aren't taking this onslaught sitting down – now they're fighting back.

From Tsui Hark's 3D-movie "New Dragon Inn" to the latest blockbuster "Monster Hunt", special effects are helping Chinese movies gain ground.

Wu Ershan is the director of "Mojin: Lost Legends", an adventure movie similar to Indiana Jones. His new film has more than 1,500 scenes, and 80 percent of them are made using special effects.

"Mojin: Lost Legends"

But can Chinese filmmakers rely solely on their own teams when trying to fulfill the wildest dreams of their imagination? Wu Ershan says no.

"Most of the visual effects crew in China are very young, who are in great need of time and projects to accumulate experience. We and Hollywood are like students and teachers," Wu said.

As Chinese filmmakers race to create grand visual spectacles to compete with Hollywood blockbusters, they are also turning to Hollywood for help.

"It's impossible for Chinese films to afford an entire Hollywood special-effects team because of budget limitations, so all we can do is to hire leading talents from Hollywood to manage our technician team, and outsource the work to different teams in the US, South Korea, and China based on levels of difficulty," Wu said.

"Star Wars"

Douglas Smith is the kind of leading talent Wu Ershan is looking for. His first job was working with George Lucas, as cameraman for the original "Star Wars" in 1977. 

Afterwards he went on to work on films such as "Star Trek" and "True Lies". And he won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects on the film "Independence Day" in 1996. 

Now he is in China, working on his second Chinese movie. When asked about how far China is from making its own "Star Wars", Smith says it'll be soon.

And, according to Smith, the other barrier for Chinese visual effects artists to conquer is language.

It is estimated that China will overtake the US as the world's largest movie market in less than five years. According to Douglas Smith, the Chinese visual effects industry is in just the right place; all it needs are time and experience.