Foreign films and series have become increasingly popular over the last few years, from the Korean movie ‘Parasite’ being the first non-English film to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2020, to the multi-award-winning and highly acclaimed series ‘Squid Game’. Maybe it was the lockdowns that created a need to seek escape to another world. Or perhaps Netflix has just done a fantastic job at screening and promoting films and series produced in other countries.
Of course, for a foreign film to succeed in other markets, it needs to be effectively localised, either by adding localised subtitles or dubbing. It’s not an easy task, and even the most celebrated foreign movies and series have received criticism for not quite hitting the mark. However, some really faltered.
Here’s our review of the five worst movie localisations.
The translated version of Shrek is a prime example of poor or absent localisation. Typically, when content is localised for a new audience, their cultural background and understanding are taken into account, and the script is adapted so that it is appropriate for them. Unfortunately, this did not happen when Shrek was recreated for Polish audiences, meaning the jokes and original cultural references to fairy tales and characters just did not make sense for them.
When the 1988 American fantasy comedy, Beetlejuice, was dubbed for a Hungarian audience by a company in Hong Kong, it received widespread condemnation. Critics claimed the dialogue from the voice actors did not match the characters, with them either speaking too fast or too slow, and their tone was not reflective of the storyline. Furthermore, the subtitles were badly translated or missing entirely.
Hungarian audiences had to suffer similar poor-quality localisation when watching the 1986 movie: The Transformers. The franchise never quite achieved the same following in Hungarian, so it is suspected that not a lot of time or funds were invested into the film’s dubbing. The casting of the voice actors did not match up well with the characters, the dubbing was off-sync, and some of the lines were missing.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Chinese translations of English words and phrases often appear in memes for their hilariously bad efforts. And this seems to continue with film localisation. The inaccurate script translation of Avengers: Age of Ultron left viewers confused. It was full of mistakes! For example, ‘I am home’ was ‘I am good’ in Chinese and “You get hurt, hurt ’em back. You get killed… walk it off” was translated to “Run fast if someone tries to kill you.”
Some film lines are so compelling that they go down in history. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone with the Wind (1939), “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The Godfather (1972) and “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Casablanca (1942) are just three examples. Sudden Impact’s quote “Go ahead, make my day” is another one. However, when translated into Italian as “Go ahead, make me happy”, its potency was completely lost.
Reviewing films that have been poorly localised, either through low-quality dubbing, inaccurate subtitles or misunderstood scripts, can be amusing. But when it’s a video conveying far more critical information, a poorly localised version can have far-reaching and significantly negative or even life-altering consequences.
At Mission Translate, we only work with in-market, native and professional linguists and voice artists to localise your content. And, with our highly experienced and dedicated project management team carrying out meticulous quality control and testing protocols to make sure everything is just right, you can be confident that your localised videos will make the right impact.