The iPhone helps reignite a struggling director's dreams in Apple's Chinese New Year film

Apple's iconic device finally makes an appearance in Zhang Meng-directed film spanning action, comedy and sci-fi

Published On
Jan 20, 2022

Editor's Pick

Apple has made it a tradition to celebrate Chinese New Year with heart-tugging, artfully-crafted films, all shot on the iPhone. There was 2018’s tearjerker depicting the reunion between a hard-working mom and her boy, a story about a grownup son who dutifully makes the hard trek home, a teary reconciliation between an estranged mother and daughter and last year’s fantasy-filled retelling of the classic Nian legend shot by Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”). 

In all those films, the iPhone was a silent character, remaining behind-the-scenes and off-camera. But for 2022, it finally makes a starring appearance on screen in a more than 20-minute-long genre-spanning blockbuster about a struggling director who finds passion for his craft once again—on “Mars.”

“The Comeback” tells the tale of an aspiring filmmaker whose day job is to get bruised and battered on set—as a stuntman. A debilitating injury following a series of explosive fight scenes across temple rooftops and a moving tram car sends him back home to his village, a place so barren and remote, it might as well be the red planet.

His friends and family greet him as a “big time” director, not realizing how he really makes his rent. But his father wants to make the most of his son’s return and enlists him to create a film that will bring fame—at least internet fame—to their hometown.

What then ensues is a rousing, at times hilarious and at other moments harrowing tale of a community banding together and giving it their all to make an unexpectedly spectacular sci-fi thriller about a rescue on Mars. The iPhone 13 Pro serves as the young director’s trusty companion throughout, whether he’s capturing breathtaking landscapes, amateur actors dangling from makeshift rigs, miniature models and more.

The film falls in line with Apple’s iPhone latest marketing under the strapline, “Hollywood in Your Pocket,” which has touted the iPhone 13 Pro’s advanced filmmaking capabilities. On display in this project are features such as Cinematic Mode, which allows users to shift focus between subjects while creating depth of field, slo-mo, time-lapse, Dolby Vision capture and edit and the ProRes high quality video compression format. 

Related: Apple mocks movie clichés to promote iPhone 'Cinematic Mode' 

The longform ad was directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Meng with cinematography by Luo Dong, who used only the iPhone 13 Pro to shoot, with no additional lenses. 

As with previous films, Apple created a behind-the-scenes featurette on the film's production, which shows how Zhang made use of Cinematic Mode, macro, low light and the iPhone’s ultra wide and telephoto cameras.