top of page

May 5,2013

Iron Man 3's Chinese-Exclusive Footage Causes Harsh Criticisms

Screenrant and Daily Mail


Two versions: China's version of Iron Man 3 has an additional four minutes containing Chinese locations and actors to appeal to local audiences

There are two versions of Iron Man 3: One is the international version, and the other is the Chinese version, which featured four minutes of extra footage. This version was made especially for the China. But that certainly doesn't mean everybody there liked it.

At times, Hollywood and China have seemed to be opponents rather than allies, but it's now generally accepted that the Chinese market is becoming increasingly important to the American film industry. As such, studios have even changed movies for the Chinese audiences.

In the case of Shane Black's Iron Man 3, China was the movie's biggest international market; in its opening weekend, it brought in $64.5 million and, over the course of its run, grossed an impressive $121 million in total. Iron Man 3 was the highest-grossing Hollywood film of that year. Oddly enough, though, it received only a lukewarm reception from critics in the country.

The problem was with the China-specific content added to the flick, which was an attempt by Marvel Studios to tailor the film for its Chinese release. On paper it must have seemed like a surefire strategy, but in reality it led to a massive amount of criticism. So how did this come to happen, what are these additional scenes, and did Marvel make a mistake?

About a third of the way into the movie, Tony Stark says he will defeat the Mandarin. Iron Man’s legendary nemesis, The Mandarin, was changed from a Chinese-born villain to a man who is certainly not Chinese at all and not really evil at all. He is played by British actor Ben Kingsley. While Kingsley's villain was the same for all audiences, an additional four minutes of Chinese scenes were included for viewers in that country giving a minor plot twist.

The extra scenes, produced exclusively for the version of Iron Man 3 shown in Chinese theaters, mostly revolve around the character Dr. Wu (played by Chinese movie star Wang Xueqi) who was to conduct acupuncture-aided surgery upon Tony Stark (with the help of his assistant played by female heartthrob Fan Bingbing) to remove the Arc Reactor from the superhero's heart.


Behind the movie curtain: Fan Bingbing plays a doctor who helps treat tony Stark, but US and UK audiences will never see the scene

The first criticism was that: "No one comes to China for medical care," online critics quickly pointed out. "That's just stupid."


Secondly, the extra footage was seen as heavily focussing on product placement deals with the Chinese companies.


Thirdly, Xueqi's Dr. Wu character was considered to be an important secondary role, yet his storyline was basically ousted from the international version. Xueqi once said that he signed up for Iron Man 3 because he was attracted to the complexity of Dr. Wu's character. Suffice to say, viewers disagreed; they were infuriated that Dr. Wu was essentially a throwaway character tossed in to help the film market Chinese products and pander to the government. The fact Dr. Wu's role was so diminished in the international version seemed to underscore Marvel's lack of interest in him; if he added so much depth to the film, why wouldn't those scenes be released everywhere?


The Chinese trailer was heavily criticized for being misleading, hinting that both Dr. Wu and Fan Bingbing's unnamed assistant were somehow crucial to the plot. The product placement was seen as over-the-top and, frankly, insulting to audiences. Chinese bloggers were highly critical online, with many preferring the non-Chinese cut. Interestingly enough, though, even the standard version of Iron Man 3 has a distinctive element of product placement in it - look closely and you'll see TV sets and mobile phones made by the Chinese company TCL.


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.


Another reviewer posted: "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 another Chinese news site, 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 Lianing 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 Beijing-based writer, Eric Jou. "It undermines Chinese people's intelligence and movie savvy."

Recent Posts
bottom of page