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[personal profile] laleia
On Monday, I had the opportunity to pay an outrageous sum of money (back home the movies are $5 matinee; here, they're $13.50) to watch Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame, and I had a lovely time! I put this on my to-watch list a long time ago and when I saw a poster in the subway, I knew that I needed to go see it as a last hurrah before law school swamped me.



Overall, I vastly enjoyed myself. I mean, it's basically wuxia with a few fantasy elements (-ish) that I could watch in an actual theater environment, which always improves the experience. I liked almost all of the characters (and was subsequently crushed when nearly all of them died, but wasn't exactly surprised), and I can very honestly and earnestly say that I suspected the main villain all along. (Of course, I also suspected many of the good guys as well, but we don't need to mention that.)

I was a bit miffed at the end, however, when Di Renjie makes Wu Zetian promise to give up her emperor-ness (her ... throne, I guess?) eventually. I know my Chinese is not great, but between what I could understand of the Chinese plus the subtitles, I rather inferred that he was claiming that a woman on the throne would blur the line between right and wrong --> thus leading to chaos and anarchy. I was NOT a fan of this reasoning.

And of course, he was prejudiced throughout against Wu Zetian taking power, but some of the things he said ... I mean, claiming that torture is what sets the Empress aside from normal folk, and why he opposed her, and why he thinks the Empress is horrible and ruthless? Not such a great argument since I gather torture was the common method of obtaining methods in practically every dynasty, by practically every Emperor. And yet, you're going to complain about this one doing it because she happens to be a woman? You didn't seem to be throwing a fit when it was her husband oppressing the commonfolk!

I also take issue with a few of the translations. All of the flowery Chinese is stuff I can infer meaning from but would never be capable of translating, so I took the subtitles at their face value. A few things, though ...

For example, the subtitles were very inconsistent about translating 皇上 as both "Emperor" and "Empress." But it doesn't mean both; it only means "Emperor."

The whole point of the final scene is that Detective Dee finally calls her 皇上 and acknowledges her as the Emperor ... subtitling it as "Empress" takes away some of the power. I'm pretty sure he's called her Empress a million times since that is her title. She was always Empress; she's changing things up because she wants to be Emperor.

Also, I feel like the subtitles over-used the word "bitch." I'm not super up-to-date with Chinese swear words but on a few occasions, the original Chinese definitely used "dog" and not "bitch" -- in that they intended the word "dog" as an insult, but as a gender-neutral insult. I feel like "bitch" is a loaded term with lots of sexist context behind it, whereas those specific translations could have used "the Empress's dog" for a more accurate context.

Also, seriously? Did whoever was in charge of translations really not think twice before okaying an official name to be translated as "Donkey Wang"? They didn't think that might make the audience laugh when it wasn't supposed to?

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