Monster Hunter movie removes controversial joke, director and star apologise

Troops looking at a giant skeleton in the Monster Hunter movie.
(Image credit: Sony pictures)

Last week PCG reported on a brewing controversy around a line in the new Monster Hunter movie, which released in China December 3. In a scene featuring two soldiers, the character played by Asian-American Jin Au-Yeun asks his counterpart "what kinda knees are these," referring to himself. There's no response and a few seconds later he says "Chi-knees."

The joke went down like the Titanic, with some saying it's racist and making a link to the playground rhyme "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees." As a result Monster Hunter World, the game, was review-bombed on Steam to such an extent that Valve has marked all reviews from December 4 to December 9 as 'off-topic.'

Director Paul W.S. Anderson has now apologised and announced that the film has been re-edited to remove this line. In a statement provided to Deadline, Anderson says:

“I am absolutely devastated that a line from our movie, Monster Hunter, has offended some audience members in China. I apologize for any anxiety or upset that this line and its interpretation caused. Monster Hunter was made as fun entertainment and I am mortified that anything within it has caused unintentional offense. We have respectfully removed the line from the movie. It was never our intention to send a message of discrimination or disrespect to anyone. To the contrary — at its heart our movie is about unity.”

In addition actor Jin Au-Yeung, aka MC Jin, released his own video statement about the scene, explaining the intent behind what was said, denying any link to the rhyme, and apologising to those upset by it.

"Why I'm so frustrated and whyit's eating at my heart is that this was a scene that was supposed to be a moment for Chinese people to be like "yes, that Chinese soldier", that's all," says Au-Yeung. "So for it to be flipped upside-down like this, it's really really really eating at me. But at the same time for anyone that misunderstood or thought it was meant to be belittling, I apologise, I really do. My whole career I've been vocal and proud of my hiertage, and I mean I stand against discrimination, racial discrimination of any kind, anywhere, any time."

The movie's star Milla Jovovich then subsequently commented on Au-Yeung's post: “I’m so sad that you feel the need to apologize. You are amazing and have always been so outspoken about your pride in your Chinese heritage. The line you improvised in the film was done to remind people of that pride, not to insult people. We should have researched the historical origin of it and that’s 100% on us, but you didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. None of us had ever heard the ‘dirty knees’ reference. You included. It was an unfortunate mistake and the Chinese translation didn’t help. We adore you Jin and are so proud to have worked with you on this fun and exciting project and I hope you don’t let this get you down man. It was our fault for not doing our due diligence and finding the WW2 era rhyme that’s caused this uproar.”

A new edit of the movie was inevitable following the backlash, which went far beyond a social media row. Following the movie's release and the blowup over this line, Variety reported that Chinese cinemas had began to pull the film, and Chinese regulators were examining it anew.

Monster Hunter is due for release in North America on December 18, and an unspecified date early next year in the UK.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."