6 Blockbuster Movies Hollywood Changed to Appease China
UNDATED: In this undated handout photo from Eon Productions, actor Daniel Craig poses as James Bond. Craig was unveiled as legendary British secret agent James Bond 007 in the 21st Bond film Casino Royale, at HMS President, St Katharine's Way on October 14, 2005 in London, England. (Photo by Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images)
Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images

It’s no secret that Hollywood has made a habit of appeasing China in the hopes of earning big yuan at the Beijing box office. The latest embarrassment came when action star John Cena debased himself by giving an extended apology on Sina Weibo, also known as “Chinese Twitter,” for saying Taiwan is a country during his promotion for the latest “Fast and Furious” movie. Cena’s original statement about Taiwan’s political status was, in fact, correct. But it raised the ire of the Chinese Communist Party, which considers the democratic nation part of its territory under the “One China Principle.”

The following movies by no means represent the extent of the entertainment industry’s recent obeisance to China, but they are some of the most notorious cases.

Red Dawn (Sony, 2012)

The original 1984 classic about a group of teens fending off a Soviet invasion acted as a compelling (if campy) anti-communist manifesto. So it made sense that the script for the 21st century remake once again featured a red menace. As Reagan had since brought the Soviets down, the obvious choice for the new villain was China. There was no chance the movie would play in Beijing as drafted, and after Sony acquired the rights to distribute the film from a bankrupt MGM, it wanted to salvage its chances of scoring release approval from the CCP. This meant completely altering the script that centered on the massive U.S. debt China holds and, with a little dubbing and CGI magic, changing the invading army from Chinese to North Korean.

“The filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from ‘Red Dawn,’” the L.A. Times reported at the time, “substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.” 

With all the elements that made the original film a hit gutted, the remake inevitably flopped. As an MGM insider told Vulture: “Everything that was interesting about the premise was kind of neutered to accommodate the new distributor.” 

Doctor Strange (Marvel, 2016) 

When “Doctor Strange” first hit screens in the U.S., Marvel took a drubbing for claims it “white-washed” the character of The Ancient One by turning him from a Tibetan man into a Celtic woman, played by Irish actress Tilda Swinton. Many progressives insisted it was proof of systemic racism. They were wrong. What it was really proof of was how far Disney, Marvel’s parent company, would go to put their film in front of Chinese eyes.

Once again, the studio tried to claim the move had nothing to do with appeasing the CCP. But as with Dench, a team member on the film let the cat out of the bag. Asked about the process of creating the Ancient One, screenwriter Robert Cargill told the “Double Toasted” podcast, “He comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bulls**t and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’”

Pixels (Sony, 2015)

Few of the movies on this list present as stark a case of Hollywood’s pandering to the CCP as “Pixels.” The original script had aliens blowing up the Great Wall of China. But by the time the movie hit screens, their target had changed to the Taj Mahal. A leak of Sony emails revealed why.

“Even though breaking a hole on the Great Wall may not be a problem as long as it is part of a worldwide phenomenon, it is actually unnecessary because it will not benefit the China release at all,” chief representative of Sony Pictures in China wrote to U.S. Sony executives. “I would then, recommend not to do it.” No surprise, they didn’t.

Casino Royale (MGM, 2006)

In the promotional run up to the James Bond blockbuster, MGM insisted it had made no changes to the content in order to score a Chinese release. But Dame Judi Dench, living up to her lofty title, wasn’t willing to go along with the party line. She let the world know that was nonsense.

In the U.S. version of the film, Dench’s character, M, says, “Christ, I miss the Cold War.” Dench revealed in an interview with CTV that the studio had her re-voice the line for Beijing.  “I wasn’t allowed to say that for China. I had to re-dub it,” she said. “It was: ‘God, I miss the old times.’ Not quite the same thing.”

RoboCop (MGM, 2014)

Another victim of the infamous Sony leak, internal emails exposed just how far the studio was willing to go to placate the CCP. After seeing a rough cut of the film, one executive asked the filmmakers to move the fictional U.S. weapons company, Omnicorp, from China to another Southeast Asian nation like Vietnam or Cambodia.

“Censorship really hassling us on ‘Robocop,” Sony senior vice president, Steve Bruno, wrote of the Chinese authorities. Asked about Bruno’s memo, the studio’s media reps stonewalled, saying: “We are not going to comment on stolen emails or internal discussions about specific content decisions. There are myriad factors that go into determining what is best for a film’s release, and creating content that has wide global appeal without compromising creative integrity is top among them.”

Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount, 2021)

When the trailer for the long-awaited sequel to the beloved 80s action flick hit in 2019, eagle-eyed fans noticed an alarming difference on Mav’s iconic leather jacket. In the original film, the garment bore patches depicting the Taiwanese and Japanese flags. China has a fraught relationship with Japan and, as mentioned above, considers Taiwan a part of its territory. So both patches had to go, replaced with unidentifiable symbols in similar colors.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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