17/05/2022

China Asked Sony to Cut Out the Statue of Liberty From SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME

China is a fickle, fickle partner when it comes to the film industry. Studios want their films to open in the country because of the sheer size. It brings in huge box office numbers, and pays the filmmakers, and in turn, the studios a hefty sum when all is said and done. But China does not make it easy, often making requests to change aspects of the films before agreeing to release them. The Chinese government doesn’t want to show any films or scenes that include the critique of law enforcement or Chinese censorship rules, or footage promoting LGBT relationships. So a request for editing isn’t unusual, but when it came to Spider-Man: No Way Home, the ask was just too great.

According to Puck News, when the authorities got back to Sony, they had one request — delete the Statue of Liberty from the ending of the film. You know, the place where the entire final fight scene of the film took place, with the trio of Spider-Men swinging over and around it as they battled the supervillains.   

Sony immediately said no, and figured they’d just have to cut their losses. But the Chinese counter-offered, then asking if the Statue could simply be minimized in the sequence. They hoped Sony could cut a few of the more patriotic shots of Holland standing atop the crown, or dull the lighting so that Lady Liberty’s visage wasn’t so front-and-center. The report goes on to say that, “Sony thought about this request, but ultimately passed, knowing that it almost certainly meant forfeiting that potentially massive China payday. Could the studio have made the changes? Maybe, but the move would have caused a media firestorm in the U.S. and elsewhere. Plus, even with the alterations, there was no guarantee that No Way Home would get into the country, and even if it did, U.S. films just aren’t doing as well in China as they once did. Pretty easy decision.”

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The report added that this is a trend that has been obliged to in the past, with the Red Dawn villains changed from Chinese to North Koreans, the Transformers sequence being altered so the Chinese are the first responders. Now that the market isn’t as lucrative, and acceptance by regulators isn’t as common, there’s less incentive to do their bidding. Plus, studios must consider the rising anti-China political sentiment in the U.S. 

Sony backed Quentin Tarantino’s refusal to omit the sequence in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that features Bruce Lee. The studio ended up doing fine with that movie, and especially fine with No Way Home, which has grossed $1.9 billion (and counting) even without the company bending to the will of China. So it looks like the concessions will be made less and less, and the ones who are really missing out are the Chinese citizens. Hopefully they are getting to watch the unedited films in other ways.