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.


  1. Ryan

    The movie is also out over here in Dongguan. Since you purchased a bootleg copy of this film this makes you a criminal, what’s worse you watched it. Aren’t you worried since you posted this on your site that the FBI or CBI will be knocking on your door?
    I just have a few more questions for you Ryan.

    1. Place of birth.
    2. Parents name.
    3. Occupation
    4. Place of employment.
    5. Wife’s maiden name.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you.

    Sincerely Yours
    Agent Third Class Shén Jīng Bìng
    China Bureau of Investigation

  2. Ryan:

    The looted treasures from Summer Palace are legal to put into auction, so why not a pirate movies?

  3. Pingback: Sack this! | Lost Laowai China Blog

  4. Shén Jīng Bìng has an appropriate name considering china doesn’t give a rat’s ass about this kind of thing. alsoi know he’s joking but wife’s maiden name? i wasn’t aware chinese women changed their name upon getting married.

    I agree it’s cool to see it unpolished. I watched Disney’s Atlantis this way and about a quarter of the movie was still just the black ink sketches from the story board itself. that worked since it was a mike mignola (hellboy) movie so it was like a comic book on tape.

    the Children of Huang Shi was available in finished form a week before it hit theaters as well. stumbled on that last year before i’d otherwise heard of the movie.

    and finally, 5.5 RMB? you’re getting ripped off my friend. someone tried to charge me 6 for an xbox game once. i walked out.

  5. I stopped by my favorite computer market this weekend to check out some new DVDs only to find the entire floor of DVD shops had been cleared out. Seems they were raided. It happens every few months, as I’m sure happens at yours, but what crappy timing! I really needed some cinema-therapy. I think I’ll wait on the X-Men movie, though, I’d love to see the real deal. I’d pay for it, too, if I could…

  6. Ryan

    This comment by Kellen “I wasn’t aware chinese women changed their name upon getting married.” When you got married to Maggie did she take your last name?

  7. Ah, fair point Jriglo. She did – but not in any official capacity – as we still live in China, and it would be a little impractical. Incidentally, I took her Chinese surname as my Chinese surname.

  8. i gotta say, ryan, i’m a little surprised you didn’t already have a chinese name. or did you but just changed the family name?

  9. I did – when I first moved to China a TA helped me figure out a suitable name – 累瑞安. I used Lei Ruian until I got married, and then I took her family name and became 王瑞安. When I was teaching I used it a lot more – now rare is the occasion I need it. But the exchange was symbolic between my wife and I.

  10. Pingback: Around Shanghai: Pirated wolverines, cultural relics saved from demolition, and the Australian pavilion | Get Shanghaied

  11. I saw this in my local store a day or so ago, but ended up not buying it… I’ll wait for a finished version… But 5.5 RMB? Seems like an odd price… I’m in Shaanxi, and stores I’ve been to in both Xi’an and Hanzhong usually charge 6 RMB for “DVD 5” discs or 9 RMB, sometimes 10 for “DVD 9” discs… Maybe it’s cheaper further to the east…?

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