X-Men Origins in theatres next month, on DVD in China now

xmen-origins-dvdI read with interest last week that the new X-Men film, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine“, had been leaked online by somebody close to the production. I was interested because I figured it was only a matter of time before my local DVD shop would have a copy.

Sure enough, after a nice meal out with the wife last night we swung by the shop to see if there was anything decent to watch, and there it was. Seeing I was visibly giddy, my wife injected a bit of reality saying, “if it’s new, it’s likely going to be a crappy theatre version.”

But what she didn’t realize was the movie isn’t due out in theatres until next month. It couldn’t be a cam job because it’s not playing in any cinemas yet. I happily dished out the 5.5 RMB (about $0.80 USD) and headed home.

Fox has tried to discourage fans from viewing the movie by disparaging the quality of the pirate release – describing it in a statement as “incomplete and early” – and by threatening to prosecute websites that posted it. The version that made its way around the internet was missing special effects and several scenes, and included what Fox called “temporary sound and music”. The studio said an electronic watermark would help investigators trace the film’s leaker.

When I initially read the above I had assumed it was just the studio attempting to do a bit of dissuasive damage control – but turns out they were absolutely right. What in the first few scenes sort of resembled some intriguing storyboard-like effects quickly proved to be unpolished (or completely absent) CGI effects.

Additionally, there were a few parts that had obviously un-tweaked voice-overs, and a few other unfinished items. All-in-all though, it was completely watchable and pretty rad – even if “incomplete”. In fact, and maybe this is just the excitement of watching a major release a month before it’s in theatres, the missing effects were actually cool to see. For anyone into films and the process of film making, it was a rarely-available peak into the machine.

There’s little doubt this will be an industry game changer, and that security will be tightened across the board to assure something like this never happens again. It will also be interesting to watch what happens with the FBI investigation and if they discover where the leak came from.

Obviously this sort of thing brings up all sorts of ethical questions about whether it’s right for fans to download the movie – both in that they don’t get to see the movie as its creator intended and they don’t get to feed the bloated industry that produced it. But for us that live in China, we largely live outside of that moral question — at least until the country takes more than a jaywalking attitude towards piracy.

With only a spattering of legit titles available at the supermarkets, even less in wide-release at cinemas, and virtually no DVD rental shops; purchasing pirated DVDs is simply the way it’s done here.