I’ll let you in on a secret: not everyone in the world watches movies in English. I know, shocking right? But that’s not to say we haven’t produced a few (thousand) spectacular hits along the way, hits that people in other countries want to see and would pay to have translated in their language so that they too can enjoy them. Now as with any other translating gig, some of the original movies are bound to be lost.
A joke here, a cultural reference there, anything minute that isn’t too important to the plot may be overlooked by the translators working on the project if it’s too much of a pain to incorporate; not exactly an ideal situation, but an understandable one. What’s not understandable (and borderline unacceptable) is when translators go the extra mile by changing the title altogether. Then it’s a different story altogether.
Why does this even happen?
Well, to put it briefly, to encourage viewers to watch the movie. But hold on then, you say. What was wrong with the original title that was good enough to herd viewers in its country of release? Well, according to Spanish, Chinese and a few other translators (and translator agencies that sometimes accept this kind of work), it wasn’t descriptive enough of what the movie was really about. Let’s look at an example: naming your movie “28 days later” isn’t a something that’d make obvious to a reader that the movie is about a biohazard event on a large scale. The solution? Calling it something like “Extermination” would be good. And though I don’t approve of this renaming policy, it’s hard not to see the logic behind it.
Why this could be a problem
For the general viewer? Not much of a bother since he isn’t connected to the project emotionally (It may even be helpful to let him decide whether or not to watch the movie, so he’s good).
For fans? The reaction could range from slightly annoyed to enraged ranting and angry emails to the people responsible. A vast spectrum of emotions, but one that would decidedly be against the butchering of the original title.
For the creator (of the title at least)? A metaphysical slap to the face as someone thinks he can do his job better. And a lot of time and effort down the drain if the title was one thing that took a lot of board meetings to decide on (seriously, coming up with a good title is a big deal in making a good film).
On the bright side though…
While most of the translations are harmless and unremarkable, there are some that strike humorous cords. In that, they come off as completely bonkers and are epitomes of hilarity as a result. While there are many, MANY, that fall into this category, allow me to share some of the worst funniest titles translations that prove my point (an original name first, translated name after, and my personal opinion in parenthesis):
- Home Alone = My poor little angel – (Little devil more like)
- Scream = Scream, Keep an Eye on Who’s Calling – (Expert advice the characters could have used)
- Superbad = Super Cool – (I see you liked the movie Mr. Translator)
- 101 Dalmatians = The Night of the Cold Noses – (I’m sorry, what?)
- Jackie Brown = Triple Betrayal – (giving the ending away there, don’t you think?)
- The Sixth Sense = He’s A Ghost! – (Seriously, stop it with the spoilers!!)
- Finding Nemo = Seabed General Mobilization – (I…. I can’t even…… What…… How……)
- As Good as it Gets = Mr. Cat Poop – (Ok, now you’re just doing this on purpose)
See what I mean?