In the modern age, the Chinese box office is a big deal. There are a lot of movie fans in the most populated country on Earth, and getting a blockbuster hit over there means raking in a lot of money. The problem is that opening an American film in the nation's theaters isn't the easiest task. Not only does the government limit the number of titles that can be released annually, there are also strict guidelines in terms of content that is allowed and that is not allowed. It's created a complicated history between Hollywood and China, and now a new chapter is being written due to a controversy surrounding a scene in Paul W.S. Anderson's Monster Hunter that has been deemed racially insensitive.
According to Variety, the video game adaptation starring Milla Jovovich hit the big screen this past Friday, but its run has come to an abrupt end as a result of a scene in the movie that some people have found to be offensive. The scene in question features Chinese rapper Jin Au-Yeung a.k.a. MC Jin and an unnamed actor riding in a vehicle. At one point Jin's character exclaims, "Look at my knees!" and the other character responds, "What kind of kneese are these?" Jin jokingly responds, "Chi-knees."
The reason this has been found offensive is because some have linked the line to an archaic, racist schoolyard rhyme that begins, "“Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees..."
Monster Hunter first premiered at midnight on Friday in China, and approximately 25 percent of screenings around the county were showing the film – but by Saturday the controversy had become so widespread that the percentage dropped to .7 percent. The trade's sources say that there was at one point a notice that said that a new censored cut of the movie was going to be made available, but the plans to make the edits haven't moved forward.
In an official statement (via Deadline), German production company Constantin Film has issued an official apology, saying,
There was absolutely no intent to discriminate, insult or otherwise offend anyone of Chinese heritage. Constantin Film has listened to the concerns expressed by Chinese audiences and removed the line that has led to this inadvertent misunderstanding.
This is a pretty big deal for the box office business of Monster Hunter, which was surely hoping that the film would find success in China. Major markets around the globe are still being affected by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, which means that every ticket sold counts right now, but there is also the consideration that Paul W.S. Anderson movies have expectations of doing well overseas. As an example, the director's last film, 2016's Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, made $312.2 million when all was said and done with its global release, and $159.5 million of that came from China (that's 51 percent). Not being able to show in those theaters is going to seriously hurt the bottom line.
We'll have to wait and see where things go from here when it comes to this China situation, but for those of you who are interested in seeing Monster Hunter stateside the good news is that plans for its release have not changed. After initially being shifted to 2021, the movie – which stars the aforementioned Milla Jovovich and Jin Au-Yeung in addition to Tony Jaa, T.I., Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, and Ron Perlman – will be released on the big screen in open theaters on Christmas Day.