The 2012 remake of Red Dawn starring Chris Hemsworth centred on a group of young people who defend their American hometown from a North Korean invasion – though it was initially a Chinese invasion. While in post-production, the invading army and antagonists were changed from Chinese to North Korean in order to maintain access to the Chinese box office, digitally editing Chinese symbols and recording dialogue to be Korean. However, the movie was still refused a release in China.
Chris Fenton was president of the Chinese-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, General Manager of DMG North America (owners of Valiant Comics), and Senior Advisor to IDW Media Holdings. He has now written a book, Feeding The Dragon, looking at his career, getting American movies into Chinese markets, notably Looper and Iron Man 3. I just read it, quite the page-turner, and there are so many nuggets to share. You can follow along with a few I'm sharing with this tag. In it, he gives greater detail as to what went down with Red Dawn, and the lessons learned.
That was exactly the mistake both Sony and MGM did in the reboot of the film Red Dawn. In the remake, the story took the Wolverines, the brave young American heroes of the film, and pitted them against an invading Chinese army instead of the old Soviet Union-backed, nondescript Latino force that was in the original film. Though the reboot was entertaining and decently well-crafted, the strategic move to portray China as the film's hated antagonist was a huge mistake by both studios.
Not only did China forbid Sony and MGM from ever releasing Red Dawn in the country, but because the movie was made with such ignorance to the Chinese point of view, they also punished both studios beyond Red Dawn. China issued very poor release dates to Sony and MGM for other movies. And in some cases, China flat-out rejected normally approved films from those studios. Such severe corporate punishment resulted in the studios reshooting, editing, and using VFX work to alter all images of a "Chinese Army" to one that was North Korean instead.
It comes up, as Marvel was suggesting that The Mandarin be the villain of Iron Man 3, which DMG were approaching as a co-production deal with Marvel for greater Chinese distribution. And he puts the issue to Marvel COO Tim Connors.
"Ask yourself this, then. If Marvel does use him, could he be a Red Dawn kind of antagonist that gets us all banned from China?"
They went with a very different Mandarin…