It’s not terribly uncommon for films to receive tweaked cuts depending on the international audience. But the Chinese version of Cloud Atlas might as well be a different film.
Though it's been out in the U.S. for a while now, Cloud Atlas just now opened in China. The weird thing? The cut that played at the Beijing opening was only 130 minutes long—a full 40 minutes shy of the original cut that opened in the U.S. and elsewhere. So what happened?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s Chinese release partner decided to cut some “expository sequences” and “passionate love scenes” in an effort to appease Chinese censors. But apparently most of the violent scenes (i.e. a character being shot in the head, a graphic shot of a throat being slit) survived the editing bay.
To make matters worse, directors Andy and Lana Wachowski weren’t even involved in the re-editing process. For a film that’s already pretty confusing, you’d have to think slicing out 40 minutes would make it downright incomprehensible.
Here’s how Qiu Huashun, with the Chinese firm that released the film there, explained the decision:
“Chinese audiences might want to see more of a popcorn movie, and considerations for the Chinese market were made in the making of the Chinese version of the film.”
Considering the original cut is a pretty smart (albeit convoluted) flick, it’s sad an entire country will only get to see a butchered version made to look like a “popcorn movie.” If you have to rip a movie apart to get it onto screens, is it even worth releasing at all?