The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, might have taken in over a billion dollars at the global box office, but that doesn’t make it bullet-proof in the eyes of the Chinese censors.
Not many English-language movies get released in China and Skyfall has been targeted by authorities, who have taken umbrage with some scenes in the Sam Mendes-directed movie, which stars Daniel Craig playing the British secret agent for a third time.
What don’t the Chinese care for in particular? To start with, some moments which take place in their part of the world. A scene in Shanghai in which 007 kills a security guard has been taken out, as have comments on prostitution in Macau. The prostitution part of the plot in the original version finds Bond asking the hostess, Severine (Berenice Marlohe) if her tattoo stems from being forced into the oldest profession in the book at a young age. But in China, the meaning is altered to hint that Bond is asking her about connections to the mob. And subtitles have also been tweaked to hide the references made by Bond villain, Silva (Javier Bardem) to the torture he suffered at the hands of Chinese security forces.
It’s not as if Skyfall is the first blockbuster to suffer such a fate. In recent years, the likes of Men in Black 3, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End and Mission: Impossible 3 have all been edited by Chinese authorities. And there are arguably other forces at work. Skyfall was originally set to be released in China last November, which was roughly the same time as much of the rest of the world; it was delayed reportedly to try and ensure that domestic (and state-backed) Chinese movies, such as Back to 1942 and The Last Supper, didn’t have to compete with Bond at the local box office.
But the BBC has written that there remains one way to avoid censors, and that’s by procuring a pirated version of Skyfall, which has been available for the past few weeks in China.