WORLD WAR Z Preempts Censors, Moves Outbreak Source Out of China
In Marc Forster's adaptation of the cult novel by Max Brooks, China is cited as the source of a zombie outbreak that subsequently consumes the entire planet. This is clearly a throwback to 2003's SARS epidemic and subsequent bird & pig flu scares that have shaken the region, and as a result makes sense as a believable epicentre within the context of the story.
However, with China now the fastest growing film-going market in the world, and set to overtake the USA and clinch the number one spot within the next decade, studios are doing whatever they can to help their films succeed there. As a result, executives are reportedly taking the preemptive measure of relocating the source of the film's outbreak away from China.
That a local market might demand cuts before exhibiting a film is hardly news, but China is proving a special case. With no published censorship guide, filmmakers are at the mercy of China's censorship body, SARFT, and each film can be cut or refused a release for almost any reason they choose. We have also seen a number of big budget Hollywood productions, co-funded by Chinese money, developing separate versions of their films for the China market. Shane Black's Iron Man 3 and Rian Johnson's Looper are just two examples of this growing phenomenon.
What Paramount is apparently doing with World War Z, however, is more worrying still. By attempting to preempt SARFT (there is no guarantee this strategy will work) and remove any potentially offensive material ahead of release, China is essentially imposing its own censorship on everyone. It may well be deemed the most cost-effective strategy going forward for studios to make their films China-friendly and have that be the default version for the whole world. After all, it is already looking mighty confusing out there in the marketplace with so many different cuts of each film floating around. It will be much simpler for audiences, studios and censors if there is only one version of any particular film available. And with China generating US$2.7 billion in box office revenue last year alone, that's a pretty strong argument to blame Thailand for the zombie apocalypse instead.