The latest news out of the Marvel film universe makes near perfect sense. Marvel Studios will release a different version of the upcoming Iron Man 3 to China, one with new scenes featuring Chinese actress Fan Bingbing plus bonus footage not included in the U.S. version.
Smart. Very smart. The plan gives Chinese audiences extra incentive to see the film, and the Web will be full of folks from Asia sharing news about that extra footage. The Chinese movie market is booming, and Marvel is simply acknowledging this trend with a commercially sound policy. Heck, that bonus footage will likely wind up on the Blu-ray edition soon enough anyway.
The announcement still has a big potential downside.
Last year’s Red Dawn remake was supposed to feature China as the country invading U.S. borders. The studio behind the project got cold feet and changed the enemy to North Korea. The switcheroo certainly had a financial component. Why anger an entire continent filled with people who would otherwise love to see your film?
There’s more to it than that. As TheWrap.com reports, China is very strict about the content it allows to be shown in its country. Will future films cater to the country’s whims hoping to snare approval? Can we expect pro-Chinese sentiments sneaking into content?
Consider The Karate Kid, a recent film remake in which endured some nips and tucks due to its Chinese connection.
The “Karate Kid” decision not only launched the biggest modern movie co-production between an American studio and China, but also opened up the film to government-mandated creative controls that ultimately yielded two slightly different movies, as Chinese censors asked that several scenes, including sequences of bullying and a kiss between two young characters, be trimmed. The geographic move also launched an internal debate about changing the film’s name to “The Kung Fu Kid,” as karate is a Japanese fighting style.
When The Weinstein Brothers were asked to take a few foul words out of the documentary Bully to secure a PG:13 rating the movie world roared in disapproval. This is art, people (as well as Weinstein officials) said. We cannot change it simply to meet a ratings board requirement.
A similar fuss was kicked up over the suggestions The Kings Speech get re-released minus a few F-bombs to snag a PG:13 rating.
And yet here’s Marvel Studios kowtowing to a Communist country’s movie goers hoping to sell a few more tickets.
Iron Man 3, featuring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley, hits American theaters starting May 3.