Now I’m no big-time Hollywood producer, but I would think that in a year where the film industry is teetering on shaky legs due to the COVID-19 pandemic closing up cinemas in nearly all the key box office markets, then maybe you shouldn’t piss off the one remaining key market that could actually keep your movie from being a total bomb. Clearly, the folks behind Monster Hunter were not so wise.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring his wife/frequent leading lady Milla Jovovich, Monster Hunter is an adaptation of Capcom’s popular fantasy adventure video game series. The film is co-produced by Sony and Chinese entertainment giant Tencent. While I’ve thought the movie looked terrible from the get-go, Monster Hunter’s setting of giant monsters and over the top action seemed tailor-made for the Chinese market. But just one day after Sony released the film into Asian cinemas on 3 December, Monster Hunter: World – the most recent entry in the original video game franchise – had been review bombed over 1000 times on Steam (via PCGamer), with the vast majority of the negative comments referring to the movie as “racist”.
It all stems from a joke in the movie in which Jin Au-Yeung’s Chinese-American soldier says “Look at my knees. What kind of knees are these? Chi-knees!”. I’ve embedded a clip of the scene above – which spread like wildfire on Chinese social media and abroad – but they are all being furiously yanked offline by the studio so if the vid doen’t work at the time of publishing, you know why.
In a Twitter thread, analyst Daniel Ahmad explains that the controversy stems from the joke being reminiscent of the old offensive playground rhyme “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees – look at these?”. International movies released in China are usually vetted by a strict censor board, so it’s uncertain how this joke made it through. One possible explanation is that the subtitles for the movie don’t actually link up with the English spoken dialogue, instead quoting a Chinese idiom.
As Ahmad notes, Capcom has been trying to put out the social media fires, pointing out that they didn’t directly produce the movie and thus are not responsible for any creative decisions. The video game studio did promise though that it was taking up the complaints with filmmakers. And it would appear that they did something as Chinese cinema chains received instructions early yesterday morning to cancel all showtimes of the movie.
Reportedly, Monster Hunter was to be allowed to screen again after a newly edited version of it was released. Tencent prepared this modified cut of the film with the offending scene edited out, but even the showtimes for those are being canceled. There’s been no official statement from Sony or Tencent yet. China is the second-largest box office market in the world – the biggest being the United States which currently is basically non-existent – so I’m guessing they’re hard at work trying to negotiate Monster Hunter back into cinemas.
Last Updated: December 7, 2020