Money Talks – Chinese Versions of Films

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It comes as no surprise that more and more films are now adapting for a special consideration – a Chinese Version intended to cater for the taste of The Chinese Government. China is the largest country in the world in terms of population, and has the second-largest film market, overtaking Japan, according to the box office gross, ranked after the Hollywood’s origin – the US.

The Chinese Government has made no secret of its disdain for any little plot details that is negative in nature. Brad Pitt’s latest production, World War Z, an apocalyptic horror film about zombies was planned to be released in December 2012, but was since rescheduled – why?

The Wrap revealed that after a test screening by Paramount, the film distributor and crew decided to change a scene in the film, originally filmed in China, of the zombie outbreak. Rumour has it (yet to be confirmed) that the Chinese Government said that the film might not land a distribution deal unless the production team make a “special version” for the Chinese audience. As a result, the crew buckled and filmed another scene that only the Chinese audience would be able to see in the movie theatre. This means that, there will be an original version showing outside China, and a “catered” version showing within China. The Chinese version also added a new character, a Chinese scientist who is the first person to recognize the zombie virus.

It seems that a special Chinese version of films has become a global trend; in fact it makes perfect sense doing so since the costs of re-filming and revising minor details can be fairly cheap compared to the financial implications of showing it in Chinese theatres. The fact that the box office gross of “Avatar” was even higher in China than in the US is testament to this fact. China is expected to overtake the US in 2020, becoming the largest film market in the world. Currently there is a quota restriction on imported films, which is set at 34 films per year, but the restriction does not apply if the investors are Chinese enterprises. As a result, more and more distributors are willing to collaborate with Chinese enterprises in order to break into the Chinese market.

Recent examples include Transformer 4 which will be partly filmed in China and Kung Fu Panda 3, which will have its production done in Shanghai, a major city in China. Hollywood’s film distributors are now adding more Chinese actors/actresses into their casts in an attempt to please the Chinese audience. Michael Mann, the director of the crime film classic “Heat”, has just had his audition in Hong Kong which attracted Hong Kong film stars such as Shawn Yue and Nick Cheung to attend.

Hollywood films that have adapted a Chinese version include “Looper”, “Iron Man 3”, “Skyfall”, “Titanic (3D version)”, to name but a few. If you want to figure out which part has been altered, watch it and compare it yourself. You might not notice the difference because the changes were so minor and insignificant. The trend pleasing the Chinese audience seems to have expanded into music industry as well; American singer-songwriter Chris Brown has released his latest single “Fine China” on 2nd April 2013, the single cover picture shows a black background and five Chinese words “精美的瓷器” which means “exquisite porcelain”. American rock band Guns N’ Roses also released an album called “Chinese Democracy” in 2008, but quite understandably that was sarcasm because China has in fact no true democracy.

Critics fear that the trend of adapting Chinese versions of films and adding more Chinese actors/actresses into the cast will hamper freedom and creativity in film-making, but filming is a business, and business is about money and unfortunately money will always win that particular competition. I guess it’s surmise to say that money talks.

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