After months of delay the new Bond film will be released in China but with key scenes removed and alternative translations written into the subtitles to appease the country’s censors.
Sam Mendes’ Skyfall might have already broken records at the British box office but its impact on the lucrative Chinese film market has been hampered by the inclusion of politically and culturally controversial narrative events which take place in Shanghai and Macau.
The edited version omits a scene set in Shanghai where a French hitman (Ola Rapace) shoots a Chinese security guard. References to prostitution and corruption in China have either been edited out or obscured in the subtitle translations.
In particular the backstory to villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who was tortured by the Chinese government after working for MI6 in Hong Kong has been softened with all references to China removed.
The scene where Daniel Craig’s Bond and the character Severine (Berenice Marlohe) are at a Macau casino and he enquires if her tattoo is the mark of an infamous prostitution ring remains intact but the subtitles have been changed to refer to a gang.
Skyfall was originally slated for release in China in November. It has been hailed as the most commercially successful Bond film in the franchise’s 50 year history taking more than $1bn worldwide.
Sony Pictures’ Chinese spokesperson was not available for comment at press time. Beijing has previously taken offence at depictions of China in movies, in particular 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet which starred Brad Pitt.
In November MGM Studios’ special effects teams digitally removed all references to China from new release Red Dawn, with flags and symbols changed to North Korean ones, to salvage its box office potential.
The remake of 1984 cult movie starring Chris Hemsworth depicted a Chinese invasion of small-town America before it was altered. But newspapers in China got wind of the subject matter and wrote a series of articles with headlines including "US reshoots Cold War Movie to Demonize China". Only when the army was changed was the film picked up for distribution.
China has a cap on the numbers of foreign films it shows, and refuses to screen those that criticise the country or its government. One theory regarding the delayed distribution of Skyfall was that the authorities wanted to give Chinese language blockbusters Back to 1942 and The Last Supper a better chance at the box office.
Other films which have been amended for Chinese audiences include Mission: Impossible3, Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End and Men In Black 3.
Craig has signed up for two more films as Bond, with the latest in the series expected possibly as early as 2014.