New ‘Minions’ movie gets China-exclusive ending where villains turn good

Society & Culture

No bad guys are uncaught in the Chinese version of the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru, which opened in the country over the weekend.

Image from COVER MEDIA via Reuters

When Minions: The Rise of Gru, the latest animated film in the Despicable Me series, announced its theatrical release in China earlier this month, some fans were delighted that the film’s Chinese version would be one minute longer than the run time listed for other countries, suspecting that the additional content would be a special bonus only for Chinese audiences.

Their wish was granted…sort of. Instead of a pleasant surprise, the extra minute turned out to be a China-exclusive addendum that completely changed the movie’s original ending, turning it into a morality tale where no villains are left unpunished.

A slew of complaints about the altered ending surfaced on the Chinese internet over the weekend after the animated film hit local theaters on Friday. According to posts and screenshots from the movie shared on social media, the Chinese version has a series of post-credit scenes, in which Gru, the main villain in the Despicable Me franchise, is shown having a change of heart. “Gru eventually became one of the good guys,” a caption reads. “But his biggest accomplishment is being the father to his three girls.”

As for Wild Knuckles, Gru’s mentor and partner in crime, he gets caught by police in the edited ending. During his two decades in jail, the character “pursued his passion for acting and started his own theater troupe,” another caption says. 

In the international version, the film concludes with the pair driving off into the sunset after Wild Knuckles fakes his death to escape captivity. “One day, I hope to fake my own death to escape the authorities,” Gru tells his teacher in the closing scene, to which the supervillain says, “Shoot for the moon, kid.”

The addendum left some viewers upset, including Dú Sir 毒Sir, a popular film critic who has 14.4 million followers on Weibo. In an article published to their official WeChat account on Saturday, which has received over two thousand likes so far on the platform, Du Sir called out the alternation for its “absurdity” and likened the current state of moviewatching in China to the world depicted in the renowned sci-fi film The Truman Show, where the main character, played by Jim Carrey, gradually realizes that his life is an elaborate ruse constructed by people around him.

“Why doesn’t the rest of the world need this extra minute? Why are we the only people who need special guidance and care?” the piece reads. “Why would someone think that an animated film has the power to ‘corrupt’ us? Are we really that easy to be influenced and led astray?’

Similar gripes could also be found on Weibo, where some viewers pointed out how the change contradicted the overarching story of the franchise. They argued that since Minions is a prequel to Despicable Me, where Gru is the main villain, him turning into a good guy at the end of the movie created obvious plot holes. “A reformed villain eventually becomes a family man under the three-child policy. What a wholesome ending with Chinese characteristics!” a Weibo user mocked.

According to Variety, Minions: The Rise of Gru has grossed 78.6 million yuan ($11.6 million) at the Chinese box office since its opening on Friday. Expectations for the film’s ticket sales in China are high given that the movie contains multiple references to things related to China, such as the Chinese zodiac, acupuncture, and Lunar New Year. 

It’s unclear whether the addition was the result of self-censorship, a government directive or a combination of both. To find out the answer, Reuters contacted Huaxia Film Distribution and China Film Co, but the film’s Chinese distributor did not respond to a request for comment. 

Minions: The Rise of Gru is far from the only imported film to undergo special edits in order to secure a theatrical release or find a legitimate broadcast home in China. While elements of violence, nudity, or same-sex relationships used to be the main targets of Chinese movie censors, in recent years more and more Hollywood imports have been revised to show that bad guys are always reliably brought to justice, and that crime never pays. 

Earlier this year, the digital release of Fight Club, David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic, on Chinese streaming site Tencent Video caused controversy in the country as its iconic ending showing the destruction of a cluster of skyscrapers was altered to portray the film’s antihero reforming his ways. The original ending was later resorted after the alternation prompted an intense backlash domestically and made international news.