So after Monday evening Colin and I came out of "Pacific Rim" at the SilverCity Gloucester (where there were possibly a dozen people for the Monday night showing), I said, "Neon Genesis Evangelion this is not, but I enjoyed myself."

"This reached entirely new levels of bad," he said.

"Yes, but it was visually BEAUTIFUL," I insisted, with a rather giddy grin.

I think it was Madeleine L'Engle who said that the good thing about getting older is that you are still all the other ages you ever were. And one of the ages I have been was a girl of seven or eight, who did not yet understand English that well, but who adored watching "Batman: The Animated Series", and whose few glimpses of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and the animated "X-Men" set a fire inside her and a longing for more that has not quite died in twenty years.

I didn't _care_ that the dialogue may have been awful; I didn't have the English to care. Yes, there are people who say that this is why Hollywood blockbusters with dumb scripts do so well in overseas markets. I say, "And is that a bad thing?"

The more subtle the script, the more each line of dialogue sings and packs a punch, the more inaccessible it would be to people outside the culture. Even with a good translator. A great script relies on being more than the basic words on the page by picking up the audience's absorbed cultural knowledge; someone from outside the culture would just have the words on the page, and to her some of the ways the characters behave may simply be incomprehensible. I would adore to pieces a work that referenced Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats every third line; someone who had not read Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats would find it as bewildering as you would if you read some brilliant parody of something you’ve never heard of and went, "Why is this listed as a humorous work?"

A skilled translator can do a lot, but it takes a certain kind of genius in its own way to convey genius into another language. I've done enough of this kind of stuff that I know.

What does translate is beautifully-shot SF that does not depend on a particular cultural sphere. The other cultures make their own movies, hopefully, that have the delicately subtle scripts that reference their own poetry and political slogans and advertisers and pop songs and the truth of living there (and subtitled versions of which which people in the Western English-speaking world get dragged to by their arthouse-film-fanatic friends and go "I don't get this at all, and I was bored out of my skull”). What they go to Hollywood for is to do what Hollywood does best: throw a bunch of very beautiful CGI for an easily translatable concept.

You know what else is easily translatable, on a grand scale, with dazzling visuals and music, overblown emotions, and often criticized for dumb plots? Opera. Afterwards, reading about the film on Wikipedia, I encountered the quotation from Del Toro: "Del Toro conceived the film as an operatic work: "That was one of the first words I said to the entire team at ILM. I said, 'This movie needs to be theatrical, operatic, romantic.' We used a lot of words not usually associated with high-tech blockbusters …" This. This is totally it.
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