The Chinese government has a censorship policy in place when it comes to Hollywood movies—and Men in Black 3 is the latest U.S. export to fall under the knife.
An anonymous source has told the Los Angeles Times that at least three minutes of the latest entry in the Will Smith sci-fi franchise has been left behind at the border, while the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph speculated that 13 minutes of footage was removed.
One snipped scene includes a battle inside a Chinese eatery between Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and aliens masquerading as restaurant workers. A follow-up scene, in which Smith wipes the memory of Chinese locals watching the fight, has ironically been wiped itself.
One Chinese newspaper suggested that the memory-wiping scene may have been cut because it was symbolic of the way China censors the Internet (which leads us to wonder: How did the paper itself get that opinion out there?)
The cuts don't seem to bother anyone in China—the movie opened to $21 million at the box office there, making it the most lucrative of the 50-plus foreign markets that Men in Black 3 landed in last weekend.
Other Hollywood movies, like Mission: Impossible III and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, have had scenes removed for release in mainland China for casting the country or the Chinese people in what could be construed as an unflattering light. The still-unreleased Red Dawn remake actually changed its villains from the Chinese to the North Koreans in advance to meet the Chinese government's approval (which it still might not get, since the two nations are allies).
Part of the problem is that one can never be sure what might set the censor off. For instance, it was recently determined that time-travel stories treat history too frivolously and therefore had to go.
Some of the Men in Black 3 footage can be seen in the trailer below. Since the scenes come from the earlier, less interesting part of the film, the cuts might actually be an improvement. But all kidding aside, how do you feel about a foreign government censoring an American-made movie? Is that the cost of doing business internationally (which is where studios are making more and more of their money), or should some bold filmmaker take a stand?