Monday, July 14, 2014

a quick word on "Apes" and subtitling

I had meant to include this thought in my recent review of the two latest "Planet of the Apes" movies, but I decided, instead, to note it here: in the theater where I watched "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," there was Korean subtitling for the English dialogue, and subtitling for the apes' sign language as well... but no English subtitles for the signage. That was inconvenient, although—if I'm to be positive—it forced me to rely on my shaky Korean-reading ability to follow what the apes were saying silently to each other. I think I caught most of that dialogue, especially when the apes "spoke" in short sentences, but occasionally they would sign in long, drawn-out utterances that translated to two or three lines of subtitling. These subtitles would flash on and off the screen very quickly, and since I'm not at a whole-language state in my Korean-reading ability, I had to cheat to figure out the meaning. In Korean, this often means scanning the end of the sentence first, because that's often where the most important semantic elements of the sentence are. So all in all, I got the gist of the apes' communication.

If you're an expat reading this, you might not have this problem; different versions of the movie are doubtless out there on the peninsula—some dubbed in Korean, some with Korean and English subtitling, some with Korean-only subtitling. Good luck.

It's also interesting to note that the Korean title for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" makes absolutely no mention of apes.* The Korean title is "혹성탈출: 반격의 서막"—Hokseong Talchul: Ban-gyeogae Seomak—literally, "Escape from the Planet: Prelude to [the] Counterattack," which makes no damn sense, since unlike the 2001 Tim Burton reboot of the "Apes" franchise, there's no planet-escaping space travel in these two movies at all.

*In Korean, the word for "monkey" is weonsungi (원숭이); the word for "ape" is yu-in weon (유인원), the in (人) character indicating the apes' closer proximity to humans, as 人 means "person." Generally speaking, apes, unlike monkeys, have no tails.


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