Monster Hunter is not off to a great start. China recently decided to pull the film from theatres after a scene surfaced that depicted a casually racist joke about Asian people. Now, the studio has promised to remove the scene globally, and some of the cast and crew are struggling to explain what happened.
Late last week, Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad tweeted out a pirated clip from Monster Hunter (the video has been removed for copyright infringement), calling into question the choice to have actor Jin Au-Yeung (also known as rapper MC Jin) make a reference to a World War II-era chant targeting people of Chinese and Japanese descent. The reveal sparked outrage in China, with theatres there pulling the film and the video game Monster Hunter World getting bombarded with negative reviews on Steam.
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In a statement to Gizmodo, Constantin Film apologised for the scene’s inclusion and vowed to remove it. “Constantin Film sincerely apologises to Chinese audiences for a line of dialogue contained in an early scene of Monster Hunter. There was absolutely no intent to discriminate, insult or otherwise offend anyone of Chinese heritage. Constantin Film has listened to the concerns expressed by Chinese audiences and removed the line that has led to this inadvertent misunderstanding.”
Director Paul W.S. Anderson echoed the sentiment, along with stars Jin Au-Yeung and Milla Jovovich. In a video on Instagram, Jin apologised for the joke (which Jovovich said in a comment was “improvised”) and added that he chose to address the ensuing controversy because he’s spent the past few decades “using my platform to embrace and be a positive voice for my community.” In a reply to the video, Jovovich said he had nothing to apologise for and that the cast and crew should’ve done their “due diligence” before the scene ended up onscreen. Both actors, along with Anderson (in a statement to Deadline), insisted that the joke was unintentional and that the film is supposed to be about unity.
Here’s Anderson’s statement in full: “I am absolutely devastated that a line from our movie, Monster Hunter, has offended some audience members in China. I apologise for any anxiety or upset that this line and its interpretation caused. Monster Hunter was made as fun entertainment and I am mortified that anything within it has caused unintentional offence. We have respectfully removed the line from the movie. It was never our intention to send a message of discrimination or disrespect to anyone. To the contrary — at its heart our movie is about unity.”
The scene in question has been removed from all screenings. However, there’s no word whether China is going to bring the film back to theatres. Monster Hunter is set to come out in Australian theatres on January 1, 2021.