More than two decades after its release, fight club received a very different ending in China – and this time the authorities won.
Chinese fans of David Fincher’s cult classic were furious over the weekend when they noticed that a version of the film available on popular Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video completely removed its iconic ending.
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The end of fight club shocked audiences when the film hit theaters in 1999.
In a massive twist, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, realizes that Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden character is his imaginary alter ego and kills him.
In the final scene, the narrator stands with his girlfriend, played by Helena Bonham Carter, as they watch explosives detonate a cluster of skyscrapers – all part of what was originally presented to the audience as Durden’s plan to destroy consumerism by wiping out banking and debt. recordings.
This amount of lawlessness – and the government’s inability to stop it – doesn’t seem to have caught up with China’s notoriously strict censorship rules, however.
In the version available on Tencent Video, which CNN Business was able to view on the platform, the entire scene featuring the explosions was cut.
Instead, it was replaced with a caption explaining to the public that the authorities arrived just in time to save the day.
“Thanks to the clue provided by Tyler, the police quickly figured out the whole plan and arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from detonating,” the caption reads.
“After the trial, Tyler was sent to [a] lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was released from hospital in 2012.
The new ending infuriated some viewers.
It was unclear when this version of the film appeared on Tencent Video, but screenshots of the edited film gained traction in China over the weekend as commenters complained about the drastic edit. .
“This is too ridiculous,” wrote one person on Tencent Video’s page for the film.
Another called the change “a pillar of shame in the history of cinema”.
“No one wants to pay to watch a classic that’s been so ruined,” wrote yet another person on Douban, a movie review site.
Tencent declined to comment on the edit.
CNN Business also reached out to the Cyberspace Administration of China, the internet regulator that oversees streaming platforms, and the China Film Administration, but neither government agency responded to a request for comment.
While it’s unclear how or when the editing was done, it’s not uncommon for foreign films to go through heavy censorship before finding a legitimate home in China.
And the Chinese companies that hold the rights to international films in the country often censor themselves to appease regulators ahead of general releases.
Not the first time
According to the version of the film available on Tencent Video, the Chinese publisher of fight club is Pacific Audio & Video Co, a company based in Guangzhou City.
It is affiliated with Guangdong Public Radio and Television.
A Pacific Audio and Video employee told CNN Business that she could not comment on the film’s streaming release.
She said, however, that the company no longer holds the rights to release the film on DVD in the country, which it obtained more than a decade ago.
This is not the first time Chinese audiences can watch fight club legitimately in the country.
The film screened at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2006 – an event Norton and other Hollywood stars even attended – according to Chinese media at the time.
This same festival screened the film again in 2017.
The China Film Archive in Beijing also held screenings, according to Chinese media.
CNN Business did not attend these events and therefore cannot verify whether these projections have been changed.
However, a commentator from Douban who wrote about her experience watching the film at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2017 remarked on the “long-awaited ending”, including the buildings collapsing.
Film censorship in China
Film censorship has a long history in China.
Since the early 1990s, authorities have allowed only a few dozen foreign films to be screened in the country each year – only nine of the top 26 Oscar-winning films were publicly screened in China from 1994 to 2019, for example.
Movies or shows with controversial themes — such as those that allegedly paint China in a bad light, depict taboo subjects like the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, or feature LGBTQ stories — are excluded entirely.
And because China doesn’t have a movie rating system, any content approved by Chinese regulators is heavily edited to remove certain scenes, such as graphic sex or violence.
When Freddie Mercury’s Oscar-winning biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was released in China in 2019, for example, any mention of the Queen singer’s sexuality – as well as his AIDS diagnosis – has been removed.
And the American hit fantasy drama game of throneswhich built its popularity on graphic sex and violence, was so heavily censored on Tencent Video that some viewers complained it had been turned into a “medieval European castle documentary”.