Daniel Craig takes his third ride as James Bond in Skyfall, now playing in Beijing theaters.Photo: CFP
The new James Bond blockbuster Skyfall has stirred controversy over China's movie censorship system as it started screening in China. Chinese bond fans are dissatisfied with a slightly different version from director Sam Mendes' film, due to a missing scene of an execution in Shanghai and some altered dialogue referring to prostitution and politics related to China.
Skyfall sets Daniel Craig's 007 mission in two of China's cities -Shanghai and Macao. This has been interpreted as a sign of growing attention being paid by Hollywood producers to China. Western movie critics believe that the movie censorship in China makes using Chinese elements in movies both a blessing and a curse.
Although Skyfall kicked off to a strong start in China on Monday with a reported box office take of over 32 million yuan ($5.1 million), the censored version faces disagreements among local audiences.
Western filmmakers complain that they have to pander to Chinese censors as well as please audiences, meanwhile, China's censorship system contributes to increasing illegal downloads of uncut versions of films.
Film censorship is hardly unique to China, particularly given the lack of a rating system. Pornographic or violent content, and in some cases politically incorrect segments, are what censors target.
A notable trend is that in recent years, China's censorship of Hollywood blockbusters has been decreasing. Many movies hit theaters across China with uncut versions such as Conan the Barbarian, 2012, and Hugo to name a few.
Within the country, voices asking for reforms to the movie censorship system and setting up a rating mechanism are getting louder.
Hollywood blockbusters have great attraction to Chinese audiences. Figures from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) show that China has become a major market for Hollywood blockbusters. According to the MPAA, the US had a box office market of about $2 billion in China in 2011 and the figure is expected to have reached $3 billion in 2012.
However, the Chinese public doesn't accept all Hollywood blockbusters. For example, many Chinese Hollywood fans expressed their discomfort with the scenes in Big Fish which defamed Chinese soldiers during the Korean War.
Ideological divisions can often be found in Hollywood movies, especially in those which take place during the Cold War.
Chinese movie censors might need to relax a bit more. But if Chinese people are portrayed more accurately in future, they will surely be less busy.