It’s no great secret that we totally love Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy around these parts, it may very well turn out to be the best time we had at the movies all year long. Judging by the fact that it just topped the $700 million mark at the global box office, as well as being the top domestic earner of the year so far, there are many of you out there who agree. But not everyone feels the same way, and one group in particular happens to be Chinese film critics.
Marvel’s latest blockbuster recently opened in China and is receiving middling reviews from moviegoers as well as members of the press. If you’re asking yourself how anyone can hate the sarcastic adventures of the mismatched team of space outlaws comprised of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the answer seems to be because of truly terrible subtitles, according to China Daily.
Translating a film into another language is always a tricky proposition (we wrote earlier about the hilariously translated title of Guardians in China—Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team), and can really make or break a property. The same goes for books, TV, comics, and anything else shifting into a new tongue. If the translator doesn’t have a deft enough touch, much of the subtlety, nuance, and intention can be lost.
One social media user who goes by the handle Gudabaihua noted 80 errors in the translation, saying, “Aside from a lot of mistranslations, the subtitles failed to show the original feel of the movie, such as jokes, puns, and homophones. We cannot help but doubt the professionalism of the translator.”
You can see how that would be a huge problem, especially for a movie like Guardians, which relies so heavily on tone, feel, and delivery. And this isn’t the first time that HuaXia, the company responsible for distributing the film in China, has had issues with subtitles. They had a famously bad translation of Pacific Rim a couple years back.
Still, like Pacific Rim, I would have guessed the action in Guardians of the Galaxy would have served the film better. There’s a reason you tend to see more international action movies than any other genre, because you don’t have to subtitle action, and big movies like this, full of fast-paced eye candy, tend to do well overseas. Just look at Transformers: Age of Extinction, which earned more than a billion dollars this years, with more than $835 million of that coming from international markets. Then again, while there is a lot of action, there is also more time spent on character and story in Guardians than in either Age of Extinction or Pacific Rim, though I expected it to be more well received.