Like most of us, I love Hollywood and the film industry that made it famous. I love how Hollywood is synonymous with the craft of screen writing, the amazing technology that immerses us in the best stories, the glitz and the glamour of celebrities and red carpets. I love how Hollywood inspires us to change the world, save the world and dream of a better future for all. Yet behind all this love there lurks the bitter sweet paradox of all that is Hollywood; I love to hate the studios.
The reason for this strange love affair is that no matter how grateful we are for all the wonderful moments Hollywood films deliver, they are also responsible for some of our greatest disappointments. There surely can’t be anyone in the western world that hasn’t been devastated by a Hollywood film that managed to butcher their favourite book, portray their favourite superhero out of character, or even just kill a good story with an insipid, corny finale.
Perhaps it is with some irony then that the Chinese cinema fans who welcomed the arrival of the Hollywood behind the Great Wall are now outraged at the Chinese version of Iron Man 3. The film, a joint production between Disney and China’s DMG entertainment opens with the name of a popular milk drink on the screen, which then becomes a focal point for product placement throughout the film. There is even a Chinese character not seen in the US version that saves Iron Man’s life at the end of the film. In addition to these changes there are also extra scenes in the Chinese version that feature Chinese actors and landmarks.
As a result Chinese fans have taken in numbers to Weibo (the local version of Twitter), to express their dissatisfaction with Hollywood for attempting to capitalize on China’s cinema market. Perhaps the Hollywood grass seemed a little greener over The Wall? Maybe they thought that the US film push into China would finally allow them access to the best films in the world?
But film making is a business, and Hollywood is the biggest business of them all. At the top end of the film making food chain, the Hollywood Blockbuster is all about big budgets in the hope of big returns. The stakes are high, and the enormous potential of the Chinese cinema market is a way to ensure investors get a return.
That the studios put profit ahead of the craft has been an ongoing trend since the 1970s. Awful remakes of classics, sequels that spoil the original release and big name casts in films that stink are more common than they should be. Product placement, blatant merchandising and inappropriate endorsements are now part and parcel of the film industry. For the Chinese fans of cinema upset by the local version of Iron Man 3, perhaps it’s just their first taste of the love hate relationship the rest of the world has with Hollywood.
Watch FiST Chat 118: Hollywood And China Get Cosy for more on this topic.