The best and worst translations of foreign films hitting cinemas in recent times
For Fall 2017’s translations, click here.
The season of festivities and joy is almost upon us, and this means a new batch of movies have hit or will be hitting silver screens near you.
Let’s take a look at these films and see how well they’ve made the translation into Chinese.
银翼杀手2049 (Yínyì shāshǒu 2049)
Title – Blade Runner 2049
Translation – Silver Wing Killer 2049
Rating – 9/10
By itself, “Silver Wing Killer” sounds like a genre-crossing action film that will go direct-to-video.
So why is the rating so high?
The main reason is that a precedent has already been set. The original Blade Runner movie was translated this way, so it is unsurprising that the sequel would follow the same pattern.
Another positive about this title is how much it has been embedded into the Chinese language. Plugging “银翼杀手” into an online translator will give “Blade Runner” as the result. Even more shocking is that just translating “银翼” (which would be the silver wing part) will also give “Blade Runner”.
全球风暴 (Quánqiú fēngbào)
Title – Geostorm
Translation – Global Storm
Rating – 9/10
Although the movie was a critical and commercial disaster (pun very much intended), Chinese translators came up with a very accurate rendition.
Using “geo” as a prefix often attaches the meaning “earth” to the word. This means that Geostorm conjures up an image of a worldwide natural disaster. In other words, it’s a global storm.
雷神3：诸神黄昏 (Léishén 3: Zhūshén huánghūn)
Title – Thor: Ragnarok
Translation – Thor 3: Twilight of the Gods
Rating – 8/10
By all accounts, this name would be perfect. “Twilight of the Gods” is just another way to say “Ragnarok”.
Unfortunately, the Chinese had to give in to one of their most used tropes by taking time to point out that this film is the third in the series.
东方快车谋杀案 (Dōngfāng kuàichē móushā àn)
Title – Murder on the Orient Express
Translation – Murder Case on the Orient Express
Rating – 9/10
Similar to Blade Runner, Murder’s translation has historical precedence and so gets high marks for consistency.
Unfortunately, also like Blade Runner, the original translation has differences from the English title.
正义联盟 (Zhèngyì liánméng)
Title – Justice League
Translation – Justice Alliance
Rating – 10/10
As much as one tries, it is hard to find fault with the Chinese title. It is a word-for-word translation of the English.
恐袭波士顿 (Kǒngxí bōshìdùn)
Title – Patriots’ Day
Translation – Terrorist Attack on Boston
Rating – 4/10
Finally, a movie that scores towards the lower end of the scale.
Patriots’ Day is supposed to be a holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. Patriots’ Day is about a terrorist attack in a state that observes this holiday. “Terrorist Attack on Boston” ignores any attempt at creativity and translation and can be read as an IMDB plot description.
至暗时刻 (Zhì àn shíkè)
Title – Darkest Hour
Translation – Darkest Moment
Rating – 5/10
The English title of this film comes from a phrase said by Winston Churchill during World War II.
The common translations of Churchill’s quote in Chinese tend to use “darkest days” (最黑暗的日子). However, because a new translation was used for the title, this choice can only be due to one of two reasons.
Firstly, translators were not aware of the film’s plot and so simply went with what they felt would be the most accurate version.
The second possibility is that they did not feel that “最黑暗的日子” was pleasing enough for audiences and so decided on a title that has been discarded by many horror filmmakers for being to generic.
鲨海 (Shā hǎi)
Title – 47 Meters Down
Translation – Shark Sea
Rating – 3/10
Translators have again gone for the obvious plot description again, this time making the film sound like a horror film that involves killer sharks.
Not that it’s wrong.
But it’s completely inaccurate in translation and generic in formation, making it just plain boring.
Images from Mtime