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Hack job

By  Wei Xi (Global Times)

11:05, February 01, 2013

Poster (file photo)

Realities of business and ideology wield the axe of movie censorship

By far, the most highly anticipated Hollywood film to hit Chinese theaters in the first weeks of 2013 is the billion-dollar-grossing, multiple-Oscar-nominated Skyfall, the 23rd entry in the action-packed franchise featuring James Bond. Yet after nearly three months of waiting (It was first released in October.), Chinese 007 fans were finally able to see the film last week. Most of it, that is: some original scenes were cut from the Chinese version and some captions have been sanitized.

As you might expect, the heavy-handed censorship generated a slew of complaints by moviegoers and renewed cries for a rating system by industry insiders.

The frustration mounted again when movie fans found out the mighty sword of censorship had hacked out almost 40 minutes of another Hollywood movie, Cloud Atlas. The pared down version opened on the Chinese mainland yesterday even though pirated DVDs of the full version have been on store shelves for a month.

Not the director's cut

According to a report from, there are three main cuts or revised subtitles in the Chinese mainland version of Skyfall: a scene of a Chinese security guard being killed in an elevator lobby is cut; subtitles for a conversation between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Severine (Berenice Marlohe) change from her tattoo being due to child prostitution to it being mob related; and "the film's Chinese subtitles also fudge the exposition of the back story of the film's villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who tells Bond … he suffered immense torture at the hands of his [Chinese] interrogators before attempting to kill himself."

In the Chinese version of Cloud Atlas, as Nanjing-based newspaper Modern Express reported after a prescreening, a number of dialogues in the fifth story and some nude scenes of South Korean actress Bae Doona and Chinese actress Zhou Xun are cut.

As such news is released, an interesting phenomenon occurs among Chinese audiences. Whether they have seen the new version or not and even if they are satisfied with the final result, they prefer an original version.

"It's not that good, maybe it's because some parts have been cut," a netizen from Hubei Province with the name "lensflare" wrote Tuesday on Sina Weibo about Skyfall.

That same day, Beijing netizen "Ming Er 520" also wrote on Sina Weibo, "Bond is so handsome! I personally think it is a good film, but I suppose it could be better if one scene had not been cut."

Some moviegoers said it is unnecessary to cut the scene in which a Chinese security guard is killed. They point out that it is not bloody, nor does it reinforce any negative impression of Chinese people.

"Cloud Atlas is about to screen, but I am still wondering whether I should go to watch it in the cinema. I heard 40 minutes have been deleted," Shanghai Sina Weibo user "Xiguan Bei Yilai" wrote.

Looper, which screened on the Chinese mainland during last year's National Day holiday period, has also been used as an example to judge cutting scenes and editing subtitles.

"Due to the cutting of many violent scenes and scenes in which [the protagonist] is taking drugs, the protagonist, who starts out as a blood-thirsty drug addict, ended up looking like an upright person. It weakened the theme of redemption in the end," the Shanghai Evening Post wrote.

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