Milla Jovovich is at the center of an international controversy involving her latest movie, and she didn’t even say the lines that are causing such a stir. But these days it doesn’t take much to be embroiled in a messy situation. Sometimes what can seem as simple as just a joke, is enough to insult and enrage an entire fanbase, or in this case, an entire country. In fact, one line was enough to have her latest movie removed completely from theaters in China.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s video game adaptation movie Monster Hunter, which stars Milla Jovovich in the lead role, debuted in China over the weekend. The film, about a group of, well, monster hunters included a poorly written *joke* that has one soldier (an Asian American) asking “guess what kind of knees these are” to which another soldier answers “Chinese”. Besides just not being anything close to funny, the line also stems from a derogatory rhyme that was meant to insult folks of Asian descent who’d immigrated to America. Why Anderson would choose to include it (and it seemed to be a non-sequitur anyway) is baffling and has led to a big response in China.
In only its fourth day in Chinese theaters, where it debuted internationally, Monster Hunter was pulled off of screens. Considering the intermingling of the Chinese government and its public business, coordinating a full-on * canceling* of Monster Hunter across the whole country didn’t take much to enact. What is strange is that the line wasn’t picked up earlier considering the country has a very stringent vetting process for foreign movies going up on the screen.
The studio is apparently trying to work with Chinese officials to get Milla Jovovich and Monster Hunter back up on the screen, presumably with the scene in question removed. But the damage may have already been done where this movie is concerned. And it wasn’t just the Chinese government dragging Milla Jovovich and company, plenty of folks took to Twitter to review-bomb the film because of its lapse in judgment.
Financially, having a movie removed from Chinese screens is a moderate disaster. Last year, China accounted for $8.5 billion worth of box office dollars, the second-biggest movie market after the United States. If Monster Hunter were to stay off screens it likely would be a massive blow to the film’s bottom line and could make it tough to recoup its $60 million budget.
This isn’t the first time a movie has been banned in China. Over the summer, Disney’s live-action Mulan was denied any coverage in the country. Chinese officials took umbrage to references made to a certain section of the country where they are accused of human rights violations. The film wasn’t allowed on screens and definitely hit Disney in the wallet for the big-budget film. Now Milla Jovovich is in an even worse spot.
Situations like what Milla Jovovich and Monster Hunter are dealing with now likely mean increased scrutiny around movies heading into Chinese markets. Considering the financial implications studios are likely to cater even more to how fans and government officials react to films.