Here will be spoilers for Star Wars Episode 3 and Black Panther.
Movie localization is an interesting thing - while necessary for global releases, it takes things away. The intended direction, the voice acting of people who actually were involved in making the movie - they all can get lost in a dub. Nowadays if I have a chance I always watch the English original, or non-English with subs.
But that’s not an option for theatrical releases. Living in the south-east of Ukraine for the most of the movies I see on the big screen are either dubbed in Ukrainian or, in the past, in Russian. And sometimes it can lead to some interesting things.
Black Panther was a great movie. While I and my friends watching it in the theater were not the target audience for some of the issues brought up in the movie, I think it was great. I really liked Erik “Killmonger” as a villain, especially due to the fact that he rightfully bashed Wakanda for the hypocrisy of their policy of isolationism.
But in the ending was something that bothered me. Dying Killmonger says to T’Challa to “bury him in the ocean, where our ancestors jumped from the ships, choosing death before enslavement”. And that line really confused me. He’s talking to T’Challa and the movie led me to believe that he and all of his ancestors lived in Wakanda. There is no reason any of them would be touched by the slave trade. Why is Killmonger saying that?
And the answer is simple - he’s not. Most of you probably know that in the original the line is “my ancestors” speaking about his mother’s side. But in the Ukrainian dub, it’s “our ancestors”. It bothered me for weeks until I’ve heard that it’s different in the original. Thanks, Ukrainian localization team!
I have a warped perspective of the Star Wars prequels, often not thinking or feeling the same way as the majority of the internet does. And the part of it is due to the localization.
The Prequels are notorious for weird and bad line-reading. It is also widely known that in 99% of the times it was due to direct and complete control by George Lucas. A number of pretty talented actors were reading horrible lines and didn’t even had a chance to do some acting with them - Lucas dictated every line down to the tone.
But that weird direction wasn’t passed along to the localization studios. And the results are actually mind-blowing.
It took years for me to hear the movies in their original audio and I was shocked at the differences. Not only were actors doing the dub free to try and act their lines, but small, subtle changes to the lines in translation is like George Lukas after someone proof-reading the script.
Remember all the stereotypical, racist-sounding aliens in the Phantom Menace? That’s gone. The Trade Federation people, Gungans, Watto - they all sound like weird aliens, but nothing more. I’d even say that kid Anakin sounds better.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin doesn’t sound half as whining and actually has some passion during the romance. To the point where to me the line about the sand wasn’t memorable until the Internet and the memes. Oh, and Obi-Wan doesn’t say about the lightsaber “This weapon is your life” he says that “this weapon will save your life”.
And in Revenge of the Sith, instead of “I have the high ground” it’s “I’m standing higher than you”. Just trust me that in Russian it sounds a lot more metaphorical. For years I thought he was talking about the depths of Anakin’s fall and such and not about a couple of feet that somehow matter after them fighting literally all over the planet. It just made more sense.
So here the dub probably made me a lot more forgiving of the prequels than if I heard the original first.
One of the characters in Deadpool is Colossus, who’s Russian. He speaks with a thick Russian accent in the movie. So how do you translate that int he Russian dub? I don’t think you can without it sounding really stupid, so they didn’t.
But in the Ukrainian dub, things were very different. They didn’t just make Colossus sound like he has a Russian accent, they made him sound like one of our previous prime-ministers. He was a native Russian speaker, but being the prime minister of Ukraine he was making official speeches in Ukrainian. And he was so notoriously bad at it, that it almost instantly became a joke. People use to say that him trying to speak Ukrainian would probably one day open a portal to hell or wake up Cthulhu. Our languages are close but are different enough that he managed to make a mistake in almost every word.
So with no reason intended by the original production, every time Colossus was speaking I was chuckling. I probably found it funnier that some people, but damn it, the impression was too good.
So here you have it: a few examples of localization doing bad, good and arguably neutral things. Do you have any interesting localization-related stories?