What were our localizers thinking? 10 movies with weird title translations

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It often happens that the literal translation of the title of the film will be incomprehensible outside the home market. Especially when it comes to some phraseological units or other cultural aspects. Therefore, translations require professional localizers who select the most suitable analogues from their own language. However, it happens that in their creative or marketing impulses they go too far, completely losing and twisting the original meaning of the name. About the most egregious examples of unsuccessful Russian localizations later in the article.

Goodfellas – Goodfellas

Perhaps it is worth starting with one of the most non-obvious options. The word goodfellas can be decomposed into good, which means “good” or “glorious”, and fellas – “buddies” or “guys”. Therefore, the literal translation of the name “Goodfellas” looks good. But only until you learn the fact that in English this word is closely associated with members of the Italian mafia. That is how they called themselves in an approving sense, and it was this interpretation of the word that was fixed among ordinary Americans. The film tells just about a guy who dreams of becoming a member of the Italian mafia, but not about Nice Guys. As a result, the Russian name absolutely does not correspond to the content of the tape. One of the options for a good translation is “Thieves”.

American Beauty – “American Beauty”

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Another example of why some names cannot be translated literally.

Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning film American Beauty was named “American Beauty” in Russia. Beauty has another meaning – “beauty”. However, neither one nor the other option absolutely does not reflect the essence of the film, in which we are talking about a person tired of hypocrisy. One of the key visual and metaphorical roles in the tape is played by roses. And the Russian viewer, unlike the American one, is absolutely incomprehensible that American beauty is a variety of roses bred in France, very popular in the USA. And therefore, the subtlety that the name gives to the story is absolutely lost with such clumsy localization.

World War Z – World War Z

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In pursuit of associations with well-known franchises, localizers often invent some nonsense. For example, Wildling was translated as “The Monster Saga. Twilight”, forcing viewers to perceive the rather gloomy horror as another teen melodrama. A more extreme example of this amateurishness, which completely killed the beauty and meaning of the original title, is the localization of the zombie action movie World War Z with Brad Pitt. In English, the First and Second World Wars are called World War I and World War II, respectively. The letter Z in the names of many products was associated with zombies (zombie). Therefore, World War Z literally means the third world war of mankind against zombies. And World War Z is a failed attempt to entice H.G. Wells fans.

Silver Linings Playbook – “My boyfriend is a psycho”

There is a proverb in America: Every cloud has a silver lining, the Russian equivalent of which is “there is a blessing in disguise.” Accordingly, the idiom silver lining means “the bright side of something” or “an encouraging prospect in some kind of difficulty” (according to the plot, the main character is just trying to look for positive moments in his life after a big failure). The last word in the title, Playbook, has two meanings. The first is a “collection of scenarios for dramatic plays”, which is reflected in the creative impulses of the protagonist. The second is “a notebook that contains strategies and team play patterns,” which alludes to a sports betting father. Therefore, any variation of interpretations of the name (for example, “Collection of Rays of Hope”) would reflect the meaning much better and more accurately than what the localizers gave out.

Fair game – “Game without rules”

The literal translation of the film about the political intrigues in the US administration under President Bush is “Fair Game”. It is based on a true story in which the former US ambassador to Gabon wrote several op-eds about WMD intelligence manipulation in the presidential administration. Then, out of revenge, some politicians reveal the fact that the ambassador’s wife is a CIA agent, which puts their lives at risk. Naturally, all this is very dirty and unpleasant things, so the localizers decided to change the original title to “Game without Rules”, thereby killing all the intrigue, as well as all the irony. It was the same with the film All is Lost (“Everything is lost”), which in Russia turned into “Hope will not fade away”.

Constantine – “Constantine: Lord of Darkness”

A similar situation with the distortion of the meaning of the film happened with “Konstantin”. True, here the localizers simply decided to embellish the name, which sounds too ordinary for the Russian audience. There would be nothing wrong with this desire if, in the end, instead of the main character who fights the dark forces, some kind of lord of darkness appeared. And if in some other examples presented in this article, erroneous localizations can still be explained by ignorance of the subtleties or a desire to become attached to a popular franchise, then here it is not at all clear what happened. It seems that the localizers just looked at the poster without watching the movie or even reading the synopsis.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – “Snow White and the Huntsman 2”

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. In the original film, the protagonist saved Snow White from the evil queen. In the prequel, the creators decided to reveal why the villain became so callous and how a hunter got into her service. And the Ice Queen is responsible for creating harsh weather conditions and endless wars, which is reflected in the original title. As you might have guessed, Snow White is not in the second film. Thus, localizers sometimes create an absolutely unthinkable combination of non-existent characters and inappropriate time frames in headlines for the sake of dubious marketing success.

Terminal – “Done”

A more extreme example of creating an entire marketing campaign through localization alone is the movie Terminal. In English, this word has many meanings that come down to the end of something – “last”, “extreme”, “final stage” and so on. The film is about a woman who works as a waitress in an eatery located at the terminus of a railway track. In addition, she herself is on the verge and wants to change her life. This is exactly what the original title does. But the main character is played by Margot Robbie. Therefore, localizers, wanting to play on her hit image from the “Suicide Squad” (Harley Quinn), came up with the name “Funky”. And to make it more convincing, they replaced the film’s slogan with “Guys, I’m back!”.

Seeking Justice – “The Hungry Bunny Attacks”

Of course, Seeking Justice (literal translation of the phrase seeking justice) is not a very attractive title for a film, especially with Nicolas Cage in the title role. So something more catchy is needed. On the one hand, the localizers did not invent anything, but only took a phrase from the film that members of an anonymous group of avengers cracking down on criminals who evaded justice used as a password. On the other hand, what will the viewer think of a movie called “The Hungry Bunny Attacks”? It’s definitely not a dramatic thriller. This is the case when it was difficult to even come up with such a funny and ridiculous name.

Demain tout commencement – “2 + 1”

Returning to the topic of attempts by localizers to leave on associations, one cannot fail to mention such a unique case as the film Demain tout commencement (which can be translated as “everything starts tomorrow”). It is worth starting from afar. In 2011, the film Intouchables (“The Untouchables”) starring Omar Sy was released, which was localized as “1 + 1” (and it was a successful localization). Since then, the actor has been associated with this tape. “It all starts tomorrow” is apparently not such a catchy title for a film with Omar Sy, so the localizers decided to reinvent the wheel and the picture turned into “2 + 1”. The problem is that it is not at all clear here on what basis these figures can be tied to history. It turns out that any film with Omar Sy can be called “3 + 1” or “4 + 2”, and that’s it.

Source: Trash Box

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