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‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ is the latest case of Chinese film censorship


When the Chinese theatrical release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” was announced this month, some fans noted that the Chinese version would be a minute longer than the cut that aired elsewhere. This led to strong speculation on social media that Chinese viewers might get a version with exclusive bonus scenes.

The bonus, which moviegoers discovered when the film was released last week, was an alternate ending. Its effect: to show that good triumphs over evil, in accordance with the desire of Chinese censors to convey a social message endorsed by Beijing.

In the original film version, Gru, an aspiring villain voiced by Steve Carell, and his comrade-in-crime, Wild Knuckles, evade capture. But in the Chinese cut, Gru promises to “lead a good and honest life” and returns to his three young daughters. (Some Chinese viewers saw it as a nod to Beijing’s attempt to reverse its low birth rate.) Wild Knuckles, meanwhile, is arrested and sentenced to prison.

The montage sparked a torrent of mockery online, with a Weibo post that compiled the ridiculousness of the ending by getting some 60,000 likes in 24 hours. Another WeChat blog post received over 100,000 views before it was deleted. Film critics have acknowledged the attempt to please China – which has become the world’s largest cinema market by box office receipts during the pandemic – by including Chinese elements such as the dragon dance and the ‘acupuncture. But they lamented that the version they were able to watch was “condescending”.

It was an ending with “core socialist values,” said a commenter on Weibo.

“Why are we the only ones getting the [extra minute of] advice and special care to be protected from the “bad influence” of an animation? DuSir, a movie blogger with over 14 million followers, wrote in a since-deleted post. “How vulnerable and lacking in judgment do they think the Chinese public is?”

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The late August release in China of the latest Minions installment came more than a month after American audiences first saw the film. China typically reserves June through August for domestic films, which Beijing seeks to promote as a counterbalance to Hollywood’s dominance. Huaxia Film Distribution and China Film, the distributors of “The Rise of Gru” in China, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A senior Chinese official this month told American filmmakers to show more cultural respect, in a rare public remark about censorship after China recently shunned a string of American blockbusters, including the latest Spider- Man and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten”. Rings.”

“We hope America can continue to improve the quality of its films on the basis of respecting our culture, customs and viewing habits,” said Sun Yeli, deputy propaganda minister of the Party. Chinese communist. said at a press conference last Thursday. “We will import from all the countries that make better films and titles that [better] correspond to the taste of the Chinese public.

Many other film studios have agreed to omit or alter films – sometimes to the point of changing their script – to gain access to the Chinese market. Titles that do not meet the censors’ requirements risk being banned or shelved indefinitely. (Notably, “Top Gun: Maverick” became a worldwide hit without airing in China.)

Cult Hong Kong crime thriller ‘Infernal Affairs’, which Martin Scorsese successfully remade at the Oscars as ‘The Departed’, had an alternate ending for the mainland Chinese market to avoid being snubbed for appearing to promote criminal activities. In the original version, a character manages to conceal his identity as a triad spy, while in the Beijing-approved cut, he is arrested.

Chinese censors have also cut more than 10 minutes from “Logan”, the 2017 superhero film starring Hugh Jackman in his final performance as Wolverine, after some fight scenes were deemed too violent. References to homosexuality in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” and the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” have been removed, as it remains a taboo subject in China.

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The censorship is not limited to theatrical releases, as Chinese streaming services have also reportedly cut or edited older films.

Earlier this year, Chinese viewers realized that Tencent Video changed the ending of David Fincher’s 1999 “Fight Club.” Its quirky ending shows the success of a subversive plan to reshape society, with buildings destroyed by bombs. Tencent’s version was much less explosive: instead, viewers were presented with an on-screen graphic indicating that the police had foiled the plot, arrested all the criminals, and sent the protagonist to an asylum. (The actual ending was later restored after viewers protested.)

When “Friends” relaunched on Chinese streaming platforms this year, video site Bilibili removed references to lead character Ross’ ex-wife being a lesbian.

And in “Lord of War,” a film starring Nicolas Cage as a fictional Ukrainian arms dealer, the audience is told that the title character is being sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being released.

“When I was told…’Fight Club’ didn’t explode, and Nicolas Cage was arrested [in ‘Lord of War’]you’ll start to wonder if what you remembered from the movies was real,” said one commenter on Weibo.

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