It would appear that Paul WS Anderson, director of the new effects spectacle Monster Hunter, has become the monster hunted. His hotly anticipated sci-fi epic will come to theaters in the US on Christmas day, but it’s already gotten a release in the expected moneymaker market of China, where the release has been scuttled by an unsavory controversy.
As Variety reports, Monster Hunter has been pulled from Chinese cinemas following its premiere on the 4th of December, due to a brief exchange of dialogue that caused an outcry for evoking a racist nursery rhyme. Though the production company Constantin Film and Anderson and star Jin Au-Yeung have apologized, their film’s future in Asia now looks unclear.
A scene in which a Chinese soldier jokes to his Australian partner, “What kinds of knees are these? chi-knees!” elicited a strong pushback for its seeming allusion to the WWII-era schoolyard taunt of “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees.” These lines have been deleted from the edit for the versions that will go to other global territories, but in China, the damage has already been done.
It took only a day for some Chinese movie houses to pull their screenings, and film info and ticketing sites have erased all trace of Monster Hunter’s existence. The rejection has been so swift and severe that the Hainan International Film Festival canceled and refunded tickets for the film Fishlove, just because the characters of its Chinese title were deemed too similar to those of Monster Hunter.
This poses a crushing blow to the fortunes of Anderson’s latest, reliant as it was on the Chinese ticket sales to square its $60 million budget. His last film, 2017’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, made most of its money in China, its $160 million take over six times of that earned in the States. Whether accidental or not, Monster Hunter’s folly could very well cost it everything.
Published 9 Dec 2020
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