If many films from the Marvel team have been released all over the world, trouble has been flying in squadrons for a few years, to the point of being banned or censored… Here are seven examples.
Within the Middle Kingdom, the scissors of censorship are moving more frantically than ever. And even if many superhero films from the Marvel stable have been able to come out there, others have suffered the wrath of the censorship office. The 630 million dollars in revenue collected by Avengers: Endgame in China seems a very distant memory…
Already subject to a policy of drastic quotas, Hollywood films are now more than ever subject to political pressure in the country of Xi Jinping, who largely prefers to favor films flattering nationalist pride than consumerist works. Made in USA. And the Covid-19 pandemic, which has largely paralyzed Hollywood, has only reinforced this observation, and even amplified it.
A background considered suspicious, a more or less direct reference to homosexuality, a remark or consideration, even harmless, provoking the wrath of the Beijing authorities and largely fueled by the sounding board offered by typical Chinese social networks Weibo… Everything is good to pass certain works by the wayside.
“As a country governed by the rule of law, China regulates the film industry in accordance with its film works regulatory authorities” recently asserted Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, when the fate of Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness was still uncertain in China.
An observation that is obviously not exclusive to the country; far from it. In the Middle East, prohibitions rain down.
Here are 7 examples.
Vulgar? Check! Trash ? Check! Ultra violent and uninhibited? Check! Nudity? Check! It is an understatement to say that the movie Deadpool logically ticked all the boxes on the list of prohibitions under the elbow of the Chinese censors. And to face the facts: impossible to cut bits of scenes without unraveling the whole film. In the end, the simplest thing was to ban him. Nevertheless, and once is not custom, a complete version was shown within the framework of the 20th Shanghai International Film Festivalin 2017. Given the nature of the film, it’s rare enough to be reported.
Spider-Man no Way Home
According to the site’s newsletter PuckNews, What I’m hearing, Chinese authorities demanded major changes to Spider-Man no Way Home, which was a huge worldwide box office success with over $1.8 billion in revenue. And the biggest hit of all time for Sony.
The changes demanded actually concerned the end of the film, during the confrontation between the three versions of Spider-Man on Liberty Island, trying to send the supervillains back to their respective universes. This Homeric battle is almost entirely located on the island, with a Statue of Liberty under construction surrounded by scaffolding, which eventually crumbles.
The dispute in Beijing concerned the place deemed too important for the monument. The Chinese authorities therefore asked Sony, without laughing, to completely erase the statue. What the studio refused to do. Faced with this refusal, the Chinese censor then asked that smaller cuts be made, mainly concerning the Statue of Liberty, as it was deemed “too patriotic”.
If Sony apparently initially considered the question, the studio finally refused to make these cuts there too. A wise decision moreover, because removing such a symbol, so dear to Americans, would certainly have caused a backlash which the studio did not really want.
Signed by director Chloe Zhao, The Eternals grossed just over $400 million at the worldwide Box Office. A mixed success for these superheroes from the Marvel team. The film has had quite a few ups and downs abroad. While it was to be presented in preview on November 11, 2021 in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, it was purely and simply cancelled. Then the movie was banned. In question: the evocation of the family of the first openly gay superhero of the MCU, that of Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry). Homosexuality being illegal in these countries.
The Eternals weren’t released in China either. A retaliatory measure against its director. The Beijing authorities did not appreciate that the interested party let go in an interview about her previous film, Nomadland, that “China is a country where lies are everywhere”. Not only have the local media and Chinese social networks largely understated the success of nomadland despite his numerous Oscars, but they also torpedoed any possibility of releasing his new film.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Like other (Disney) productions, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was more than amply calibrated to perform in the Chinese market, notably starring Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu. The ace. In fact, the authorities of Beijing have swung a torpedo on the film of Destin Daniel Cretton and blocked its exit on the territory.
It all started on May 11, 2021, when the Chinese government channel CCTV6 announced the release date for all Phase 4 films of the Marvel Universe… except those of Shang-Chi andEternals. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings suffered a “bad buzz” long before its release, with many Chinese commentators writing on social media that “the film is only going to show stereotypes” or that it is “a bad taste attempt to steal money from Chinese audiences.”
Moreover, the most recurring criticism of Shang-Chi is that the character was created in the 70s in order to surf on a stereotype: that of the Asian martial arts adept and conveying the worst clichés. Added to this is that in these comics, the hero’s father was none other than Fu Manchu. The latter is today a very controversial figure since anchored in the era of the racist concept of “Yellow Peril”. Kevin Feige tried to step up to clear the ground, but nothing helped.
The knockout blow came in September 2021. Deadline reported that an old interview with actor Simu Liu had just resurfaced, in which he criticized the regime in which his parents grew up. He said at the time that living conditions under the communist regime made people “starve to death” and called China a “Third World country”. Blessed bread for the Beijing authorities to bring down the ax…
Originally slated for a spring 2020 release, Black Widow suffered several postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A domino effect which logically extended to China, to finally see the private film released in theaters in July-August 2021.
A godsend for the Chinese regime, which preferred, in the context of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Chinese Communist Party, give pride of place to patriotic productions meeting with a colossal success, and occupying the main parks of cinemas. American studios were therefore unable to penetrate the Chinese market for several months; no summer US blockbuster having been able to obtain from the government the visa allowing its diffusion in the rooms.
As a result, Cate Shortland’s film was only released in Hong Kong, earning just over $6.6 million there. The film was therefore not formally banned, but it’s just like: the trick for the Chinese authorities being to play for time by not issuing a visa for mainland China; condemning the film to wander indefinitely in limbo…
First superhero to have tumbled at the box office in March 2003, preceding X-Men 2 and Hulk, Daredevil left with a serious handicap from the start. The large community of fans of the character born in 1964 and brilliantly revisited by Frank Miller in 1979, saw as heresy the attribution to Ben Affleck of the title role of Matt Murdock. And the name of the director, the novice Mark Steven Johnson, did not inspire much more confidence.
If the film returned to its costs with a little more than 100 million dollars in worldwide receipts for an estimated budget of 78 million, the film’s career in theaters remains a critical, commercial and artistic failure. We still encourage you to see the version Director’s Cutinteresting, and fixing a lot of problems.
Still, the cleanup in the ranks of Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) carried out by Ben Affleck was not appreciated by the Malaysian authorities, who found the film too violent, and it was banned. A little extra for the road: they also didn’t like the word “Devil” in the character’s name. What does the career of a movie in theaters sometimes hold…
Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness
Very big success at the worldwide Box Office with more than $943 million on the counter, Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness has however crashed down on the doors of certain countries. Sam Raimi’s film was indeed banned in Saudi Arabia and in several Arab countries (Except the United Arab Emirates), because Marvel Studios refused to cut twelve seconds of dialogue in which the character of America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez), who is gay like in the comic books, talks about his two mothers.
The film also saw its Chinese release weighed down. In question ? A detail noticed on the first revealed images of the film; and to notice it, you had to have the keen eyesight of an eagle… A symbol was on a newsstand, referring to The Epoch Times. The name of a newspaper founded in May 2000 and openly opposed to the CCP.
To make matters worse: it was co-founded by a group of Chinese-American members of the Falun Gong movement. A spiritual movement banned in China, even taxed as a “perverse sect” by the Beijing authorities, whose members have been ruthlessly hunted down for years in the country, accused of threatening the country’s social and political stability.
The boss of Disney, Bob Chapek, was beautiful temporize and put into perspective the difficulties in breaking into the Chinese market in a socio-political context more tense than ever, this remains a new blow for Hollywood which sees its honeymoon with the Middle Empire more upset than ever…