Dune has been making early waves at the box office with a strong opening weekend even though it was simultaneously streaming on HBO Max. But there is some controversy here as well, with more evidence that the executives in Hollywood are willing to make concessions to “please” a Chinese market that has become somewhat critical in the overall financial landscape for the film industry. A recent promotional poster for Dune had a noticeable character omission as compared to the domestic one with the actress playing Dr. Liet-Kynes, Sharon Duncan-Brewster conspicuously removed from the Chinese version.
The omission is plain as day when comparing the two posters. In the United States poster, we get the majority of the major names in the cast featured. And the same is in the Chinese version, but there is a reworking of the spacing and placement of the characters and Duncan-Brewster has been removed. You can see for yourself in what is just another example of some rather obvious marketing ploys to appease a certain country’s possible proclivities. Check it out. First is the U.S. promotional poster for Dune.
And then there is the Dune poster that was used for Chinese audiences. Notice the differences in which characters are shown.
According to Bounding into Comics, one thing that would point to this not being some random mistake, is that not only are there actually more characters featured in the Chinese version (nine compared to eight) but that one also replaces Sharon Duncan-Brewster with Chang Chen, a Taiwanese actor playing Dr. Wellington Yueh. Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban is also in the poster promoted in China and not featured in the United States version.
In the Dune movie, Sharon Duncan-Brewster plays Liet-Kynes a critical character who acts as something of a bridge between the House Atreides and the Fremen. The character was race-swapped for the theatrical version compared to Frank Herbert’s novel, though that obviously doesn’t matter for the purposes of the film. But this has certainly been something that has happened before when it comes to Hollywood promoting movies to a Chinese audience. Another notable example, as mentioned by Bounding Into Comics, but widely reported at the time it happened was the treatment of John Boyega’s Finn character in the promotional material for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Check it out:
Like this poster from Dune, The Force Awakens has a clear difference in which characters are prominently featured. In the case of the Chinese version, Finn is shrunk down to the point of almost disappearing even though nearly every major character remained at the same feature size.
And there are other examples as well. When Black Panther was hitting screens in China a few years ago there was a noticeable difference in how the character was portrayed. In the United States version, Chadwick Boseman was obviously and clearly featured as the main character. But the Chinese version of the poster put Black Panther in a full mask instead. Now, that movie ended up performing well at the box office in China, but there was a clear difference in how they wanted to promote the movie.
Dune ultimately did have a solid, if unspectacular showing in China for its opening weekend, scoring $21 million in box office sales there through its first few days. But the obvious differences in promotional material continue to be a talking point in how Hollywood is pandering to this audience.