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In Hollywood Twist, China Gets Its Own 'Iron Man'


ROBERT DOWNEY JR: (as Tony Stark) No politics here. Just good old-fashioned revenge.


That's Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 3," which opened in theaters last weekend and has grossed nearly 800 million worldwide. The movie also broke box office records in China where Marvel Studios tried something new. They created a special cut that will only be seen by audiences in China and includes extra scenes featuring big-name Chinese actors.

ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Some of the reports out of China, after the movie premiered there, weren't that positive. They kind of thought that was pandering. You know, we didn't really need this. Just give us the regular movie. We don't need these extra bonuses.

RATH: That's Anthony Breznican, a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly. He's been covering this recent trend, and he says "Iron Man 3" is not the first film to do this.

BREZNICAN: Another example of this was the recent "Die Hard" movie. I think it was "Die Hard 5," but my brain may tell me it's "Die Hard" 11, 12 or 13. I feel like there've been so many "Die Hard" films. If you watch that film - and I saw it with a group of friends - we went out and were very disappointed, despite our enthusiasm...

RATH: You had a high bar there for "Die Hard 5"?

BREZNICAN: You know, there's - yeah. "Die Hard 1" is a classic. But this film, I was shocked that there were just no great lines. Like, that's what defined John McClane, Bruce Willis's character in "Die Hard," is his sort of great lines and his dialogue that really transcended the action genre at the time and then redefined it. But, you know, it was kind of missing from this...

RATH: No quips right before he shoots somebody or blows them up?

BREZNICAN: Nothing that was clever. And it occurred to me, you know, the more I read about this and talked to people, that this was a movie, really, they were marketing this movie internationally. And it did very well internationally. It's all set in Russia, so you don't have to add Chinese scenes the way "Iron Man 3" did. It's set in Russia.

And, you know, if you keep, sort of, the things that are dialogue-specific out of the movie, if you don't have a lot of heavy dialogue that needs to be followed with subtitles, people can just follow the action almost as if it's a silent movie. You have better luck selling that movie to people who don't speak that language. So...

RATH: I guess the belief is that action and explosions are the universal language.

BREZNICAN: Exactly. Yes. Everybody speaks the language of boom boom, pow pow.

RATH: Anthony, last month, the sixth season of "Mad Men" premiered. Now, as usual, critics get to see the episodes far in advance. But this time around, the show's creator sent a letter that asked critics not to write about certain things, as they would spoil it for their fans - things like the number of floors that Sterling Cooper and Draper now occupies. What do you make of this? Is this a common practice now?

BREZNICAN: Well, you know, every storyteller wants to protect his or her twists and secrets. The interesting thing about that memo was the types of things he considered to be spoilers - like, don't write that there are now stairs in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office. Just seemed like, really? Like, that's your secret? If that's your secret, maybe you have some narrative troubles.

Now, I'm not going to pass judgment on the series this season. But you see, filmmakers, show runners, you know, they get very touchy about protecting their storylines because social media makes it so easy to spoil. Now, the question is what defines a spoiler?

RATH: A lot of people now, like me, are watching series like this, sometimes years after the fact. You know, we'll binge on seasons of ""Breaking Bad" or "Battlestar Gallatica." And I've noticed the websites with reviews for films or TV that are sometimes years-old warning about spoilers. Is this something that writers like you take into consideration now when you're writing?

BREZNICAN: Yeah, you do. You know, I experienced that myself because - I'll just make a confession here on the air - I haven't seen "The Wire." I know it's the greatest television show ever made, and I'm determined to watch it. I just haven't had a chance to sit down and binge on that one just yet.

And I try to avoid reading about "The Wire," even though it's been off the air for years. But if anything is spoiled for me, that's kind of my fault.

RATH: It's on you.

BREZNICAN: Get with the program, Anthony. Like, this show's been off for a while. You have no one to blame but yourself for not catching up with it. I think the more time passes, the less worried you have to get about, you know, protecting that secret for readers. But still, like, if you don't want to know anything, don't read the article.

And there are certain things that sort of age out after time. I think everybody knows what "Rosebud" is from "Citizen Kane." Everybody knows what Bruce Willis actually was in "The Sixth Sense."

RATH: We are going to get letters now, you realize that.

BREZNICAN: Yes. But we haven't said anything. You know, but movies that are out last year maybe people haven't seen. There was a case of writing about a character in "The Avengers" from last summer. I was writing about "Iron Man 3," and I wrote about a particular character in the magazine. And my editor said, you know, are we sure we want to say this? And I thought, well, if you're reading Entertainment Weekly, you've probably seen "The Avengers." And if you haven't, what are you doing, man? Hurry up.


RATH: That's Anthony Breznican. He's a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly. Anthony, thanks for talking to us.

BREZNICAN: Thanks. I hope we didn't spoil anything for anyone. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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