China Gets Altered Version Of Iron Man 3: But Is It Fair?

By April 1, 2013
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As you may or may not have heard by now, when Iron Man 3 hits the foreign and domestic theatres this summer, there’ll be two versions: one that everyone else sees and a special alternate version just for China.

Um, what? Yeah, you heard me. This is NOT an April Fool’s joke.

Last Friday, Marvel announced the installment to the Iron Man franchise will “feature a special appearance of China’s top actress, Fan Bingbing, and will offer specially prepared bonus footage made exclusively for the Chinese audience.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.

Known for having a TIGHT leash on entertainment and the media, the Chinese government took it upon themselves to not only cut a scene in Skyfall where James Bond kills a Chinese security guard, they then altered the subtitles in the scene where Bond asks Severine if she was forced into child prostitution or not. And while most of the film takes place in Shanghai (which meant a nice stream of revenue for them), the government also tweaked villain Javier Bardem’s origin story, which originally saw him going bad after being abandoned by MI-6 and in the hands of Chinese custody.

“But, why?” you ask. In the simplest terms, MONEY.

Coming in at $2.75 billion, China is now the second-largest international market for Hollywood movies (Japan is the first) so now care is being taken as not to “offend” or alienate audiences.

And while some changes are FAIRLY acceptable (like replacing images of Paris with those of Shanghai in Looper), some changes border the slightly ridiculous yet understandable (digitally changing the nationality of the Chinese invading soldiers to North Korean in last year’s ridiculously awful Red Dawn remake) to flat out STUPID (cutting 40 minutes from Cloud Atlas involving a same-sex relationship between Ben Whislaw and James D’Arcy’s characters – because China has a strong anti-gay stance).

BUT, it’s still acceptable to have films that view Westerners (a.k.a. Americans) as evil and set out to corrupt anyone and everyone, if you go by the Chinese translation for the plot of The Hangover-style comedy, 21 & Over (which ALSO had scenes modified).

But here’s where 21 & Over gets interesting…according a story published in February by the L.A. Times, Relativity Media execs told the filmmakers and cast to plan on heading to Linyi (Shangdong province) once they wrapped principal filming at University Of Washington (Seattle, WA).

Why? Because Relativity Media-head Ryan Kavanaugh had brokered some sort of massive deal with a bunch of Chinese companies that included, you guessed it, a goverment-owned distribution company known as Huaxia Film Distribution Co, who among their benefits included partial funding toward the film’s budget.

So instead of the typical hedonistic “I turned 21, let’s get wasted and have adventures” college comedy we’re used to, China got a different storyline ENTIRELY.

Co-writer/director Jon Lucas said “In China, ‘21 & Over‘ is sort of a story about a boy who leaves China, gets corrupted by our wayward, Western partying ways and goes back to China a better person,” and even went as far as to include said new scenes at the start and end, so in the Chinese cut, Chang is now a Chinese college exchange student in the U.S. who then returns to China at the end of the film.

Yeah, that’s great. Except A) the new scenes for 21 & Over make Americans look like even BIGGER a-holes and B) Justin Chon (above) is KOREAN. Trust me, I’ve worked with him and being half-Korean myself, we can spot our own.

As far as the edits and dialogue changes go, Lucas’ writing and directing partner Scott Moore said  “I think any filmmaker deals with it, I imagine Avatar, when it’s released in China and they dub it, they sort of get to change whatever they want. I think it just comes with the territory — if you want to release it in China, they get to spin it however they want.”

So China gets final cut or can virtually change any film if it wants if it expects to be shown in Chinese theatres even if it’s NOT a Chinese co-production (Iron Man 3 opted not to be co-produced)?

It just seems weird to me…but then again, I remember how sensitive we got after 9/11; my best friend told me about being on a flight soon after the attacks and in-flight movie Rat Race‘s two Arabic characters’ heads were given the mosaic (a.k.a “block face”) treatment…because they were wearing traditional gear that included turbans.

But some studios (like Marvel) seem okay with it.

“Marvel Studios’ experience working on this film with Fan Bingbing and Wang Xueqi (who appears in the U.S. version) and in shooting in China has been very positive and has created a springboard for future collaboration with China’s talented stars and its growing film and television industry. The Iron Man cast and filmmakers look forward to bringing Iron Man back to China.”

Well, they may be okay with it but I’m not.

But then again, knowing how the Chinese government views homosexuality (banning Brokeback Mountain even though the Oscar-winning director Ang Lee is Taiwan-born, going as far as to CUT the part of his acceptance speech where he thanked friends and family in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong), the place of women in their society and a long standing history of not giving two s**ts about human rights, I have no desire to have China’s involvement or their money in any project I personally make.

I get that the Asian cultures are BIG into “saving face” and I’m not anti-China (I’m actually 1/8 Chinese) by any means nor am I gonna start singing “AMERICA, F*** YEAH!” from Team America: World Police…

I’m pro-ME, and (in my opinion) that’s the way it should be.

Iron Man 3 hits theatres May 3rd, no word on when China will see their version but I’m looking forward to seeing the REAL version.

What’re your thoughts? I’d love to hear ’em!

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee