Just got back from a screening of Iron Man 2 in Xintiandi (Sunday afternoons are great for movie going in Shanghai — only eight other people in the theater) and once again China’s censors didn’t fail to disappoint. This was the oddest one I’ve seen yet: They made all spoken references to “Russia” or “Russian” inaudible. (One Twitterer believes they simply played the words backwards.) A short scene from Russia and a clip from Russian TV, both near the beginning of the movie, were left in. But why?
The Russian references were not political in nature. They were innocuous nods to the nationality and spoken language of Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, the villain portrayed by Mickey Rourke. (More information on that character’s background here … be careful, that link features some spoilers.) While most of the censorship consisted of altering the audio track, one scene — during a dinner in a hangar, Vanko asks Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to fetch his pet cockatoo — appeared to be cut short.
Another viewer noted that the censorship, not surprisingly, also carried over to the Chinese subtitles:
In one specific scene I recall, the dialogue was between Hammer and the Russian guy, and he says “You do realise that I don’t speak Russian?” The word was distorted enough to make me think something was briefly wrong with the audio, but the Chinese subtitles also said “You know I don’t speak your mother language?” (What should have been 俄语 had been replaced with 母语)
Chinese censorship is nothing new, but this latest edition really has me confused. It had nothing to do with China. Nothing to do with politics. Nothing to do with violence. And, as far as I know, “Russia” is not a dirty word here — at least officially. So what’s going on? A Cold War comrade pact that somehow got grandfathered in?
I’d love to hear your theories. And I’d love to see what they would have done with Rocky IV.
Find Iron Man 2 showtimes here. Yes, that is a Google.cn URL. No, I don’t know why it still works.