“Django Unchained” has recently had its share of big troubles in bigger China. The culmination of all that led to the film bombing at the Chinese box office back in May. But was it really the result of heavy editing that the Chinese government demanded on the film, or the result of bad marketing timing? Either way, Quentin Tarantino is going to have to find out whether his films can ever really have a market in China.
Those who follow movie news know that the Chinese government pulled “Django Unchained” from Chinese theaters right before it was scheduled to premiere last April. While there was never any explanation, it was obviously due to concern over the extreme violence that Chinese moviegoers are rare to witness. When even Tarantino’s films get criticized by anti-violence groups here in America, there must have been some concern going in that the Chinese government would balk.
Ultimately, with the agreement to remove some of the most offending scenes, the film premiered later against “Iron Man 3”, “Oblivion” and “The Croods.” With all three of those films being relatively family friendly, does it tell the U.S. movie industry what kind of film will be accepted in China? There still has to be a “what-if” involved on how “Django” would have gone over, regardless of the later competition.
No one in America has ever seen a Tarantino film with reduced violence. And it’s worth pondering whether his films would turn to nothing without those scenes or still work on some intellectual level. Considering how creative of a screenwriter Tarantino is, some might consider his violence to just be gratuitous rather than necessary. For others, Tarantino’s violence is a mandatory part of his overall brand.
Perhaps China could have taken the film at its core elements without the violence and made it a hit. Conversely, “Django Unchained” possibly couldn’t have worked without the violence considering the subject matter of brutal slavery.
No matter one’s opinion, it could have still hit a nerve based simply on the exploration of repression and finding freedom. China would find much to relate to in that department. It may explain why Tarantino thought his film could potentially go over well there.
Now Tarantino has to take on a massive think about whether any of his future films will ever go over well in China. He can’t really canvass the citizens there to find out if it was due to the public shunning of violent material or just bad timing. Perhaps the only way to find out is if Tarantino does a superhero movie the next time around.
Yes, China likes the cinematic superhero that takes on an international rogue, even if there’s nationalistic American pride as part of the context.