HONG KONG — The bright yellow creatures known as Minions have caused plenty of chaos on movie screens. When their latest film, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” opened in China last Friday, censors decided to impose some law and order.
In the original version, the film’s two main villains make a bold escape, unpunished. But on Chinese social media, photographs of what appeared to be a jarringly different epilogue stitched into the credits section soon began to circulate widely.
According to that epilogue, one of the villains got a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes, while the other became an attentive father of three, in what some saw as a nod to China’s policy of encouraging higher birthrates.
The film’s new ending reflects the increasingly moralistic bent of top Chinese officials, who have called on artists to spread “socialist core values” in their performances. Content regulators have also sought to rein in celebrity adulation, ordering streaming platforms to “purify” the online atmosphere and to rectify “unlawful and immoral behaviors” of internet celebrities.
Many “Minions” viewers in China mocked the propagandistic overtones of the special ending. Some derisively compared the photo-and-text presentation to PowerPoint slides. Others remarked that they preferred additions to deletions — at least, moviegoers weren’t obliged to sit through the epilogue if they didn’t want to.
Bai Xiaochuan, a 21-year-old university student in Guangxi Province, called the conclusion cringeworthy and ill suited to a gleefully unruly animated comedy. Still, she was happy to be able to see the film at all.
“A lot of movies I was looking forward to watching could not be released in theaters,” she said. “I personally think that the addition of these ‘special endings’ is still acceptable, though just barely.”
She added that she wanted to boost box office numbers, in the hopes that more films like it could make it to the big screen in China.
The film’s American distributor, Universal Pictures, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did its distributors in China, Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and China Film Co.
The “Minions” film is only the latest example of a Western film being modified in China to conform to censor-imposed notions of morality.
Screenings of the 2018 biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” scrubbed references to the singer Freddie Mercury’s sexuality — including a crucial scene in which he tells his fiancée that he is gay, and another where his male lover is introduced. And this year, viewers on Chinese streaming sites noticed that the ending of“Fight Club,” the 1999 cult classic, replaced a successful plot to blow up a series of buildings with a note that the character played by Brad Pitt was sent to a mental hospital.
A popular film blog, “Du Sir,” said that the altered plots in the “Minions” movie, which runs a minute longer in Chinese theaters, and other films were condescending to Chinese audiences.
“Why doesn’t the rest of the world need this extra minute?” a writer of the blog wrote on Saturday. “And why are we the only ones who need special guidance and protection, lest a cartoon has the power to corrupt?”
Claire Fu contributed research.