Pixels script changes for China

This weekend brings the release of the video game-infused sci-fi action comedy Pixels, and with a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems pretty clear that Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production banner have botched an awesome concept with juvenile comedy. Not even supporting cast members like Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage can save the movie.

This is even more frustrating when you learn that Sony went out of their way to change the script for Pixels in order to avoid potential problems with authorities in China, but couldn’t be bothered to make sure the rest of the script was better. Find out about the pandering Pixels script changes for China after the jump!

To make sure the film was met with open arms by Chinese authorities and Chinese audiences, some arguably unfavorable references to China were removed. For example, in Pixels, a series of recognizable monuments and locations are destroyed by the aliens who arrive in the form of 80s video game characters, pixelizing everything they touch. This includes the Washington Monument, the Taj Mahal, and more.

One of those locations was supposed to be The Great Wall of China, but according to e-mails from the infamous Sony hack (via Reuters UK) that was changed to avoid any possible issues with the film down the road. In an e-mail from December of 2013, Li Chow, chief representative of Sony Pictures in China, wrote:

“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. I would then, recommend not to do it.”

Chinese authorities have been known to be pretty touchy and picky about how the country is depicted on the big screen, going so far as to edit certain releases or simply boycott them from being released. The idea of creating a special cut of the film just for China was discussed, but Steven O’Dell, president of Sony Pictures Releasing International explained in another e-mail why it should just be changed for all versions:

“Changing the China elements to another country should be a relatively easy fix. There is only downside to leaving the film as it is. Recommendation is to change all versions as if we only change the China version, we set ourselves up for the press to call us out for this when bloggers invariably compare the versions and realize we changed the China setting just to pacify that market.”

And since China is one of the biggest markets in the world, studios will do anything they can in order to make sure the film gets the largest possible audience. Other changes included removing a reference to China being the country responsible for an attack, along with a reference to  “Communist conspiracy brother” hacking an e-mail server (which is a bit ironic). In the end, there’s actually no references to China whatsoever.

This is as frustrating as it is stupid. But I’m really not surprised that a corporation made a decision like this just so profits wouldn’t be affected. If anything, it’s more frustrating that executives are more careful about not pissing off other countries for box office receipts rather than ensuring that the script and overall quality of the film are up to snuff. But again, it’s not surprising, and that’s the problem.

Pixels is in theaters right now, but you can probably skip it, especially since an appearance by Mario is wasted.

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