Chinese cinema fans were up in arms on Tuesday over cuts made to Skyfall, complaining that the censors had ruined the latest film in the James Bond franchise, which hit screens this week.
Some scenes from the movie, parts of which were filmed in Shanghai starring Daniel Craig in his third appearance as the British secret agent, were clearly too sensitive for the censors, especially scenes referring to China.
“It’s annoying! Every time it’s the same!” wrote one user named Niccilee in a post on one popular microblog. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long and then they cut it and re-cut it!”
The 23rd official film in the highly lucrative series came out late last year in most markets but Chinese authorities put off the release date until this week under its usual practice of favouring domestic productions.
When it did hit the screen on Monday, it was with several cuts.
Among the scenes to have ended up on the cutting room floor was one where a hitman played by Ola Rapace takes out a Chinese security guard in a Shanghai sky-scraper.
“Are they afraid of copy-cat killings by other criminals?” asked Leslie Zhuang, one disappointed viewer in an online posting. “If scenes like this are cut, you may as well not import the film!”
A scene depicting prostitution in Macau – a special administrative region of China – had also been taken out, as was a line from Bond’s nemesis, played by Javier Bardem, in which he mentions having suffered torture at the hands of Chinese security agents.
“I’d rather watch the pirated DVD,” said Li Xiaotian, another internet user, referring to the illegal copies of films that are easy to come by in China.
The official Xinhua news agency said the cuts had prompted calls for reform in the way films are censored, although there was no criticism of the Skyfall cuts in the state media.
Rules governing censorship in China are opaque and reasons are never given for why cuts are made. Few films escape the censors unscathed, unless they offer a particularly flattering depiction of the Chinese people.
Regardless of the censors, the cuts did not seem to have dented box office sales at one Beijing cinema, Megabox, which reported that most tickets had been sold for screenings on Tuesday.
China imposes strict rules over what films are allowed to be seen by the public, banning what it considers any negative portrayal of contemporary politics or issues it says might lead to social unrest.
After years of pressure, China last year agreed to increase the number of imported films allowed in annually from 20 to 34, in a year when 893 films were produced domestically.