Hollywood blockbuster Monster Hunter has been pulled from China one day after its release for using a pun that is deemed insulting, according to reports.
The fantasy action film sparked an uproar in the Far East after showing two soldiers make a joke with the words ‘knees’ and ‘Chinese’ in a brief scene that is considered racially offensive.
Local media said on Saturday that cinemas had been ordered to cancel all screenings and authorities were re-censoring the fantasy action film after its Chinese premiere on Friday.
The controversial scene involves an Asian-American character, played by Jin Au-Yeung (pictured, far right), and his Caucasian screen partner as they banter. Jin shouts to his partner: ‘Look at my knees.’ His companion asks: ‘What kind of knees are these?’ Jin jokes: ‘Chinese’
The film’s German co-production company has apologised over the dialogue. It said it had ‘absolutely no intent’ to ‘insult’ anyone of Chinese heritage.
Directed by British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson, the $60million (£45million) movie is based on a popular role-playing video game of the same name.
It is meant to have been inspected by the Chinese film authority before being allowed to screen, but a 10-second banter has drawn it waves of criticism, leading to its unexpected withdrawal.
The controversial exchange happens between an Asian-American character and his Caucasian screen partner while they are driving.
The Asian-American character, played by American-Hong Konger Jin Au-Yeung, shouts to his companion: ‘Look at my knees.’
His partner asks: ‘What kind of knees are these?’
Jin jokes: ‘Chinese.’
The lines have been associated with a racist playground rhyme, ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees’, used to mock children of Asian origins.
The offence also comes from the fact that the Chinese translation has Jin answering ‘gold’ instead of ‘Chinese’ – while Jin’s lips can be easily read otherwise.
The translation derives from Chinese proverb ‘there is gold underneath a man’s knees’, meaning a man should have dignity and not kneel easily. It remains unclear whether or not the translation was an effort to avoid potential controversy.
Directed by British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson, the $60million (£45million) movie was released in China on December 4, three weeks before its premiere in the United States
Almost immediately after the film’s release in China on December 4, three weeks before its US premiere, the perceived racial slur was called out by cinema-goers as well as Chinese authorities.
The official social media account of the Committee of the Communist Youth League of China took a swipe at the film by posting the line ‘what kind of knees are these?’ with an image carrying the words ‘Floyds, Can you breathe?’
The post, which has been taken down, apparently tried to condemn racism in America by linking the film with George Floyd’s death, which sparked the Black Lives Matter protests across the world.
The official social media account of the Committee of the Communist Youth League of China took a swipe at the film in a now-removed post. It linked the film to Black Lives Matter protests
On China’s film review website Mtime, the live-action production has been rated 4.3 out of 10 points. Its comments section is flooded with messages from furious Chinese web users, who hail the authority’s decision to block the flick.
One person known as ‘malong615’ praised: ‘It’s a good ban.’
Another critic, ‘shaunof’, wrote: ‘[The film] cursed [Chinese] people first. Don’t be generous. [I] won’t watch and will give it one point.’
Moreover, the matter took an intriguing twist when posts and topic pages condemning the film in China started to disappear one after another from the country’s social media platforms.
A search by MailOnline on Monday showed no hashtags or trending topics of the film on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. Instead, a warning reading ‘topic pages are not shown in accordance with relevant laws and policies’ appeared.
The rare, reverse censorship is speculated to be linked to the fact that the film is co-produced by Chinese internet giant Tencent.
Monster Hunter has been removed from cinemas across China following an uproar over a line of dialogue in the film. The film’s German co-production company has apologised (file photo)
One of the few remaining Chinese-language reports of the ban can still be read on NetEase.
The article accuses Monster Hunter of using lines that ‘insult’ China but does not specify the exact conversation.
According to the report from Saturday, relevant authorities were ‘working overnight to produce a new version’ after instructing all cinemas to stop showing ‘the old version’.
An English-language report by the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid, also confirmed the ban in a report on Sunday.
The film’s co-production company, Germany’s Constantin Film, has issued an apology following the backlash.
In a statement sent to MailOnline on Monday, Constantin said it ‘sincerely apologizes to Chinese audiences’ over the dialogue.
The statement added: ‘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.’