5 Eyebrow-Arching Ways China Altered Hollywood Movies
Chinese moviegoers love giving Hollywood money, and Hollywood loves taking it from them. Still, the country's strict censorship laws constantly get in the way of both parties consummating this beautiful relationship. While trying to balance out the need to protect its citizens from Western debauchery and said citizens' innate desire to watch stuff explode on a big screen, China's censors have ended up altering famous movies in some pretty ridiculous ways; like...
Fight Club: Tyler Durden Goes To A Mental Hospital
There are those who think the only point of Fight Club is its ending, in which Edward Norton shoots Brad Pitt/Tyler Durden's brains off even though said brains happen to be in Norton's own head. Next, Norton and his gal pal Elena Bonham Carter watch as bombs previously set by Tyler blow up several credit card buildings while we hear what is now the official theme song of multiple personality disorder plot twists. (Note: NSFW subliminal peen shot in the video below, don't watch with your grandma, or it'll be awkward. Trust us.)
It's a classic finale, but when the movie debuted on Chinese streaming site Tencent Video, viewers noticed a tiny difference: instead of the buildings blowing up, we get a text screen saying that "the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals" thanks to a "clue provided by Tyler," who sounds more like a Riddler-type villain in this version. We're assuming "Gigantic" or some other upbeat Pixies song plays during this screen.
We're told that Tyler was "sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment" and was "released in 2012." This, ironically, makes the censored version more faithful to Chuck Palahniuk's original Fight Club novel, where Tyler's bomb malfunctions and the narrator wakes up in a mental hospital. Not that you'd know that in certain parts of America where, as Palahniuk points out, his books are not welcome. Despite praising the changes made by the movie in the past, the author seemed enthusiastic about the more book-accurate ending on Twitter:
Tencent ended up restoring Fight Club's original ending this week, supposedly due to the public outcry. We say "supposedly" because we suspect that maybe they just learned they were inadvertently setting up the stage for the bonkers and completely official Fight Club comic book sequels where, after leaving the hospital, Tyler ends up funding ISIS and trying to trigger a nuclear holocaust, among other things.
Mission Impossible III: They Censored China's Dirty Laundry, Literally
Despite being partially recorded in China, Mission Impossible III had a hard time getting approved for release in the country due to "inappropriate" moments "involving flashes of underwear." If you can't remember any panty shots in this movie, then you weren't paying attention, because it was full of them. Here's one:
That's right, what the Chinese censors objected to was the shots of dirty laundry hanging on rooftops and balconies, which were deemed "harmful to China," according to the local media. Presumably, the worry was that if China's enemies could see what specific type of underwear everyone uses, that would open up the country to the threat of more specific and devastating playground taunts. This would be a huge problem because you see a ton of these shots while Tom Cruise is sprinting through Shanghai like a blue hedgehog.
In their official review, censors also objected to the "truly insulting" moment when Cruise distracts and kills two Chinese henchmen (via atomic wedgies, we're guessing) and a scene where he runs across two old men calmly playing mahjong while his wife is kidnapped on the next room, which made it look like "common Chinese people were insensitive to a hostage situation." Why couldn't the old men play mahjong while flailing their arms and looking alarmed the entire time?
Six minutes ended up being cut from the movie to ensure the peace of mind of the Chinese public, but it's still frightening to think that those six minutes are somewhere out there, threatening to throw the entire country into underwear-related disgrace.
Lord Of War: Nic Cage's Arms Dealer Has A Change Of Heart
Lord of War follows Nicolas Cage as a rising star in the world of international arms trafficking, which is probably in the wheelhouse of what he'd be doing if he wasn't paid to be a madman onscreen. The movie ends with the Interpol agent played by Ethan Hawke finally catching Cage ... who correctly predicts that someone important will come to bail him out right away. In fact, the whole point of this movie (which was sponsored by Amnesty International) is to raise awareness of the ongoing reality of illegal arms dealing and that countries like the U.S. and China are perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to it if it benefits them.
Or at least that's the movie's message in most of the world. At one point in this scene, Cage drops this dialogue: "My family has disowned me. My wife and son have left me. My brother's dead. Trust me, I fully appreciate the seriousness of my situation. And I promise you, I won't spend a single second in a courtroom." But, in the version available on Tencent Video (which is 30 minutes shorter), Cage reportedly stops after "I fully appreciate the seriousness of my situation," making it sound like he's suddenly seeing the error of his ways. Then, we cut to this screen:
Yes, this remorseless dealer of death abruptly decides to confess all of his crimes and accept a life sentence, presumably inspired by Kendall Jenner offering him a Pepsi off-camera. The final sequence with him going back to business as usual and the text about how the biggest arms suppliers in the world are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (including China) are both omitted. We're taking this to mean that this movie is set in the timeline from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and this is the point when Superman threw all the world's weapons into the sun, making the arms dealer job obsolete. Cage, a Superman fan and almost Superman actor, probably agrees with us.
Infernal Affairs (The Departed): The Mole Gets Away ... And Is Immediately Caught
Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs follows the same basic plot as its American remake, The Departed, but spoken in Cantonese instead of whatever bewildering dialect they use in Boston. Lau is a young gangster who is sent to act as a mole within Hong Kong's police, while Chan is a police cadet who has to infiltrate Lau's gang. After nearly two hours of butt-clenching tension, the two double agents meet on a rooftop, and Chan (that's the good one, in case you're already lost) is killed by another cop who also turns out to be a closet gangster. But then, as the two secret gang members are going down the elevator, Lau kills his friend and frames him as the sole mole. In short: IMPOSTOR VICTORY.
While this version of the story lacks the final scene with Mark Wahlberg shooting the mole in the head after he thought he got away with it, Lau ran into something arguably even worse than Marky Mark's face: the Chinese government. Like with Fight Club, Infernal Affairs' original ending ran afoul of the Chinese Film Industry Administration Regulations, which state that no film "which propagates obscenity, gambling, violence or instigates crimes" can be shown in China. Under their definition, showing a crime go unpunished is the same as actively encouraging everyone in the audience to go out and do it -- so, in order to prevent complete anarchy from descending upon the mainland, the filmmakers shot another ending where Lau is arrested like four seconds after he steps out of that elevator because of unspecified "proof" against him, thus rendering the previous plot twists pointless.
You can tell when the "Law Conquers All" footage starts because of the jarring change in film quality. Another problem with this ending is that Infernal Affairs III (which is a Chinese co-production and has a strong pro-law and order message) shows Lau still working as a police officer six months after Chan's death. Either Lau got a remarkably short sentence for all those murders and was able to rejoin the force right away, or his "arrest" was a poorly-timed prank by his cop buddies.
As for The Departed, the movie was straight up banned from Chinese theaters because Martin Scorsese refused to cut the subplot about China's government buying advanced military hardware for a potential nuclear attack against Taiwan (all of which has to go through Boston mobsters, of course).
Brokeback Mountain: China Censored The Whole Movie (Then Praised The Director)
Aside from criminals winning, other topics to avoid if you want your movie to be shown in China include: time travel (Back to the Future is reportedly banned for disrespecting the sanctity of the timeline), ghosts (unless the director adds "it was all a dream" at the end, which some do), reincarnation (not just in movies but in real life), and ... gay people.
We've talked about how China removed all references to Freddie Mercury's homosexuality when they showed Bohemian Rhapsody in cinemas, but hey, at least they showed it. Brokeback Mountain wasn't shown at all due to "outraging censors" with its tame same-sex cowboy romance ... until the movie won a bunch of Oscars, anyway. Then, China's official state newspaper praised director Ang Lee, who was born in Taiwan, as "the pride of Chinese people all over the world" and "the glory of Chinese cinematic talent." His acceptance speech for Best Director was played all over the Chinese media with great pride, minus the parts about gay people or his mention of Taiwan, of course.
Despite the ban, the movie was still fairly easy to find in bootleg form, as evidenced by the fact that the word "brokeback" became a synonym for "gay" in China. Anyway, if there are any Chinese or Taiwanese directors reading this: please keep working on that Oscar-bait script about time-traveling gay ghosts who do crime and dry their underwear on balconies to put China in a really awkward position.
Top image: 20th Century Studios, Lions Gate Films