Hollywood bows to China by making its villains Korean

Nov 22, 2012
Richard A Jinman

Chinese bad guys air-brushed out of new action movie Red Dawn by producers fearful of upsetting Beijing

CHINESE invaders were air-brushed out of the new action movie Red Dawn and replaced with North Korean villains, the latest example of Hollywood bowing to Beijing and making creative decisions to woo the powerful Chinese market.

Red Dawn, a re-make of a 1984 film in which Russian forces invade the US, opened in the US yesterday to mostly negative reviews. But it is the "unprecedented" decision to digitally remove the Chinese invading force and replace it with North Koreans that has sent shock waves through the film community.

The BBC’s Today programme says the seeds of the $1 million re-edit were sown in 2009 when photographs leaked from the set showing Chinese symbols pasted on American buildings prompted strong criticism in Chinese publications and websites over "negative stereotyping".

The film was shelved when MGM, the studio making it, went into bankruptcy in 2010 and by the time new finance was secured, China had become the fastest-growing market for Hollywood films. Producers were anxious not to offend China’s leaders or alienate Chinese distributors and audiences, so they digitally morphed the invaders into North Koreans.

"China’s movie market is rapidly expanding and they didn’t want to get shut out of it," Today says.

Tripp Vinson, one of Red Dawn’s producers, told the programme the changes made the movie "scarier, smarter and more dangerous". But some commentators believe it is just the latest, most drastic, example of film studios sacrificing artistic control in the face of China’s growing economic might.

The International Herald Tribune says laundry hanging outside in Shanghai was cut from Mission: Impossible III, scenes from a shootout in New York’s Chinatown were cut from Men in Black 3 and highly skilled Chinese engineers were written into Salmon Fishing in the Yemen even though no such characters were in the original book.

"Such artistic compromises carry a financial logic. The Chinese movie market, worth more than $2 billion last year, is seen as increasingly vital for Hollywood filmmakers," the Tribune reports. "One film industry expert said Chinese movie-goers can bump a film’s box office receipts by as much as $50 million."

The changes have not impressed film critics. Writing for Salon, Hugh Ryan called Red Dawn a "ghoulish parody of reality" served up to an audience whose "enjoyment will be directly proportional to its ignorance".

The film does not yet have a UK release date.

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