Fight Club is getting an entirely different ending in a new online release in China, where imported films are often altered to show that the law enforcement, on the side of justice, always trumps the villain.
The 1999 film by David Fincher originally ends with the Narrator (Edward Norton) killing his split personality Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). With the female lead Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), he then watches all the buildings explode outside the window and collapse, suggesting Tyler’s anarchist plan to destroy consumerism is in the works.
The exact opposite happens in the edit of the same film released in China. In the version on the Chinese streaming site Tencent Video, the explosion scene has been removed. Instead, viewers are told that the state successfully busted Tyler’s plan to destroy the world.
“Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding,” a caption said. “After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”
The ending of Fight Club's Chinese version suggests the police has cracked down on the cult. Photo: Tencent Video
It’s unclear if the ending was altered out of self-censorship or by government order. Tencent Video declined to comment. A source familiar with the matter said the film was edited by the copyright owner and then approved by the government before it was sold to streaming sites for distribution. The Chinese publisher of the film, Pacific Audio & Video Co., is an affiliate of the state-owned Guangdong TV.
Disney, which owns the film’s production company 20th Century Fox, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fight Club was only shown in Chinese cinemas during the Shanghai International Film Festival, although most Chinese fans have likely watched pirated versions of it. It is unclear whether the Chinese cinema version was altered. The film has received more than 740,000 reviews and a high rating of 9 out of 10 on film review site Douban.
Screenshots of the new ending went viral on Chinese social media over the weekend and offended many Fight Club fans who have praised the original ending as a cinematic classic. Some say the censorship is why Chinese viewers have preferred bootleg copies of foreign films.
“There is no point watching this film without that scene,” a person commented on the microblogging site Weibo.
“Probably Ocean’s 11 would have all been arrested. The Godfather’s entire family would end up in jail,” another person said in ridicule.
China has a stringent censorship system to ensure all TV programs, dramas and films released to the public reflect what the Communist Party deems correct aesthetics, morality, and ideology.
Domestic films would carefully design their plots, dialogue, and casting to avoid anything that would trigger censorship. And foreign films that get approved often suffer from substantial cuts because some scenes are deemed too violent, sexually explicit, or subversive.
The Chinese version of ‘Lord of War’ ends with the arms leader jailed for life. Photo: Tencent Video
In some cases, films get a completely different storyline or ending when they are screened in China.
The American crime film Lord of War ends with its protagonist, an arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage, evading jail time and returning to arms trafficking. It also states that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S. and China, are the biggest arms suppliers.
But the Tencent Video version, which is about 30 minutes shorter than the original, replaces the ending with a new caption, saying the arms dealer “confessed all the crimes officially charged against him in court, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the end.”
Viewers have protested against the censorship in the Chinese version of ‘Lord of War.’ Photo: Tencent Video
Producers from Hong Kong, which has made some of the most influential Chinese-language films, sometimes create a more censorship-friendly version of a film just for the mainland Chinese market. Besides leaving out nudity and gore, the mainland versions often show gangsters being rounded up or ugly crimes taking place when Hong Kong was still a British colony.
When the 2003 Hong Kong film Naked Ambition was released in the mainland, for example, the original story about the rise of poor porn stars was edited into one about how Hong Kong and Chinese police worked together to crack down on the porn industry.
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