I have been wanting to write something about movies, and the cinema- one of my favourite past-times, along with the majority of the population I’m sure. Before I moved to China, I of course knew that the entertainment and movie business was censored. To what extent, I didn’t know, but I soon found out. Cinema goers will rejoice, as Beijing has no shortage of cinemas, most of which boast huge 3D (and quite a few 4D) screens, and plenty of sweet, sweet popcorn.
First of all, I am a comic book geek, so anything produced by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc. I’m all over it. And with the production (some might say overproduction) of superhero movies and TV shows gracing our screens right now, it is an exciting time! When I first arrived in Beijing in August 2014, Iron Man 3 was being talked about. Having had a little later release date in China, like a lot of movies, the Chinese version caused some controversy. This was down to one of the final scenes in the movie being remade for Chinese audiences, to make it seem like the Chinese authorities had provided aid to our hero Iron Man, and thus helped saved the day! There is also an added scene where the character of Dr. Wu is pouring a glass Yili Chinese milk, clear product placement, but that is for another time…
There are always going to be little tweaks and changes to movies of this sort. Scenes are going to be cut, due to language, violence, or nudity. Otherwise, these movies would not make money, or reach the same level of fame as they do internationally. Recently, Deadpool was banned all over China. Naturally I was devastated. Months of watching teaser trailers, all gone to waste. I searched for why China would do such a thing. Apart from all the violence and swearing, which I’m sure played a factor, there was another reason entirely. Deadpool (and I’m picking this film as an example) is heavily ironic and sarcastic. This was a huge reason it has done so well in most places around the world, but with the Chinese language, it faced a problem. Irony and sarcasm are two things that don’t translate particularly well into Mandarin Chinese, and so many of the big moments and jokes would have been lost to the general audience.
Leonardo DiCaprio has been about China, promoting his latest film, The Revenant. The film has done well in China since its release, but was feared to do badly, despite its Hollywood success, and the Oscars it won. In the past movies such as these (The Kings Speech, Gone Girl, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, and The Artist for example) have not done as well as they have internationally. The specific themes and subjects of these more independent movies are not relatable to Chinese culture, and so Chinese people have a difficult time grasping the nature of them. The Revenant did better than expected due to the fact that it was promoted quite well, and the Chinese audiences have a soft spot for Xiao Li or “Little Lee” as he is affectionately known by locals.
With that said, most of the highest grossing movies in China right now are fantasy, high octane action, and superhero movies- so I have no major complaints!