Why Many In China Hate Iron Man 3's Chinese Version

There are two versions of Iron Man 3: One is the international version, and the other is the Chinese version, with added scenes. This version was made especially for the People's Republic. But that certainly doesn't mean everybody there likes it.

This article might contain spoilers.

Keep in mind that I'm not saying that China hates Iron Man 3, as the reaction to the film itself seems just fine. Instead, I'm pointing out that many in China do not like the China-specific content added to the flick.

Beijing-based Kotaku writer Eric Jou saw the film when it opened in China. The film has about four minutes of added content for the country. Before we get to the hatorade, let's review what was added for Chinese audiences and what was apparently not shot by director Shane Black.

About a third of the way into the movie, Tony Stark says he will defeat the Mandarin. A doctor in China named Dr Wu (played by Chinese movie star Wang Xueqi) sees Stark challenge the Mandarin on television.

(Keep in mind that the US press is apparently being told that Dr Wu, who's barely in international version, is a complex character in the Chinese version. According to Jou, he's not. What's more, he ushers in a couple truly odd sequences in the film.)

In Dr Wu's office, you can see Tony's Iron Man on a TV screen, surrounded by Chinese children and what looks like... Dr Wu. The good doctor then calls Tony, but J.A.R.V.I.S., the A.I. butler, answers. It's worth noting that in even in the subtitled version, there are no subtitles in this sequence; J.A.R.V.I.S. speaks in Mandarin Chinese. While speaking with J.A.R.V.I.S., Dr Wu actually says in Chinese, "Tony doesn't have to do this alone — China can help."

There's also this extra long shot of Dr Wu awkwardly pouring a glass of Yili brand Chinese milk. But it's pure product placement. Before the movie starts, there are two China specific ads: One of them is a Chinese milk commercial that, as The Hollywood Reporter points out, asks, "What does Iron Man rely on to revitalize his energy?" (The answer is a Yili milk drink.) The second commercial is for a Chinese manufacturer of tractors and cranes.

M'kay.

Chinese bloggers like Buddha Kicking Rabbit are already calling the pre-movie ads the most unintentionally funny parts of the film and even recommend going early so you don't miss them.

After that, there's fighting and a bunch of Iron Man kind of stuff. And then! Tony Stark decides he doesn't want to be Iron Man anymore and to have the shrapnel in his chest removed, which, I think, would actually kill him, no? But whatever, the important thing is that he decides to go to China for an operation.

"No one comes to China for medical care," Jou points out. "That's just stupid."

The set-up is that Dr Wu is the only doctor able to remove the shrapnel. Then, actress Fan Bingbing, who is not in the international version, walks down a hospital hallway for about fifteen seconds and says, "He's [Tony, that is] here." Apparently, she doesn't even have a name in the movie!

Dr Wu and Fan Bingbing scrub up for the surgery, and Fan Bingbing says something like, "What if we accidentally kill him? Everyone will know it was our fault." And Dr Wu replies that they won't fail.

Then, after the successful surgery, there's a scene in which Tony Stark is hugging Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Fan Bingbing is nowhere to be seen, but there's this strange twenty-second (or so!) flashback to when Dr Wu is talking on the phone. It's not really a flashback, Jou explains, because it didn't happen to Tony per se. Dr Wu was talking to J.A.R.V.I.S. It's just odd and out of place — like most of the China specific content.

People's Daily, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party, ran an article titled: "Iron Man 3 Draws the Audience Ire: This Type of Special Chinese Version Is Pointless" (钢铁侠3引观众吐槽:这种中国特供版不要也罢). The article, which was originally published by Yangtze River Post, reads: "All the problems of the movie can be forgiven. That is, all except the parts with Fan Bingbing and Wang Xueqi. This China centric portion is just terrible. It's a pointless commercial with lots of plot holes." Likewise, People's Daily's own review is also quite critical of the added Chinese content.

A Chinese friend of Jou's describes the added content like this: "When the Chinese show up in the movie, it's like suddenly changing the channel. It doesn't match the rest of the movie."

But the criticism doesn't stop there. On news site CNHubei, the reviewer writes, "This is the first time that I feel an edited version is better than the complete version." Here, "complete version" refers to the full Chinese version. This is particularly a damning criticism, because films are often edited in China and theatergoers cannot see the full versions in cinemas.

On television, too, people don't seem happy with the Chinese version. For example, on Shuo Tian Xia, a talk show on Liaoning TV, one anchor said, "It's a shame. Some audience members have said that the addition of the Chinese scenes are pointless and don't add to the movie." Her co-anchor replied, "It'd be better if they added more to the movie. A good way to get Chinese on board is just make a good movie."

From the sound of it, the Chinese version of Iron Man 3 brings four minutes of film nobody really wants or needs, save the film's producers so they could presumably secure whatever funding was necessary. Shame that they weren't smarter about the deal.

"It literally offends me as an American in China and as an ethnically Chinese person that Hollywood would attempt to sell this to the Chinese audience," says Jou. "It undermines Chinese people's intelligence and movie savvy." But it makes money, no?


Comments

    I don't understand why it's immediately Hollywood's fault (Can't believe I just said that) if Shane Black didn't even shoot those scenes. It sounds to me like China asked for this in order to give funding and it didn't turn out as they hoped.

    China can help? Why not shield or the Avenger? Can China explain the nonsensical premise? Can China explain why the hell the antagonist does what he does? Can China explain why Tony creates a new suit whose main function - is suddenly used by every other suit during the ending? Can China explain why Peppers arm doesn't explode at the end? Please China I need an explanation!

      I can help a little bit, a teensy bit. I hope

      Tony didn't got to SHIELD simply because he has such a huge distrust of them. In the Avengers, they tried to blow up NY and he stopped them. He doesn't like that one bit and wouldn't trust them with his life.
      The Avengers aren't an organisation in Cinema Canon, they're just the heroes. Captain America can't help, Thor couldn't help, Black Widow and Hawkeye are with SHIELD. The only one who might be able to help, but really can't, is Bruce. Bruce is in Iron Man 3, after the credits acting as a therapist.
      The antagonist? I have no real idea. He's trying to make a formula to allow human regeneration like Doctor Connors in Spider-Man. The point he's trying to make? I have no idea. That part didn't make much sense.
      The new suit's main function is to come in pieces and be something Tony can use in pieces or in full. The other suits fly independantly and can open up. Whilst the functions are similar there is a key difference in the way that Tony gets in them
      Pepper was stabilising, I guess? So her arm didn't need to explode? Again that whole situation made no sense.

        I think Killian was trying to create a credible terrorist threat so that he could sell the counter-terrorist tech to the US government like Iron Patriot's reworked internal systems.

          Pretty much. He was aiming to create a monoploy on the war on terror by supplying both sides.

            The regeneration stuff was the weapon. He wanted control of the arms trade due to the war on terror. It's supposed to be some statement about cold war politics and the rise of the arms trad in the US.

            The incredibly well hidden clue was Pepper turning Killian down because 'it could be weaponised'. Amazing that's the first thing she thinks of.

            Sure glad she said that, I wouldn't have got it from the fact that Killian commanded an ARMY of fire dudes thanks to the stuff.

            He totally stole that ploy from emperor palpatine, by the way.

    Chinese movie goers regularly get inferior versions of films, but what sucks even more is the fact that Hong Kong film makers are now tailoring their content to the mainland audience and content restrictions. For example, the bad guys must always be captured or killed, etc. We're losing the HK flavour.

    And now it looks like they may not even get Hollywood pictures in their original state. Piracy could well be the best option for a movie fan, which is sad.

    What a tyrade this story was. Pretty good topic, but every paragraph is just like "And this person didn't like it.. And then this person said they don't like it.. And then..."

    AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED? xD

    Last edited 03/05/13 9:10 am

      Agreed, kind of a mess. I couldn't follow the explanation of the China-specific content at all :S

    If you need cash injection into your film. go to chinese investors. China Is a growing market for foriegn films (although they can only show a limited number). Another example of the Chinese adding stuff for their markert is the B-Grade Shark horror movie "Bait" they added some nonsensical scenes to the film, still the film did reasonably well there.

    Kinda fascinating to hear this stuff. I don't read many other sources of Chinese opinion.

    "It undermines Chinese people’s intelligence and movie savvy.”

    So.. they aren't thrilled by being treated just like Western audiences then?

    That's great. It's like if a Japanese version of Iron Man 3 crammed the extra minutes full of shameless product placement like that Bill Murray Suntory scene. How condescending, but if you have Chinese investors willing to chip in a few million for a few extra pointless minutes to stroke their nationalistic egos, then why not? Looper did the same thing, but more elegantly.

    Last edited 05/05/13 1:54 am

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