By Pablo Fernández Moriano
When translating a film like Deadpool 2, several issues come into play that are determined both by the nature of the dubbing process and the very nature of the film.
The dubbing process
Spain is traditionally a dubbing country. Although subtitles are growing in popularity, the main localization process for distributing foreign films in Spain is still dubbing, whether for cinema, television or any mode of home entertainment. Dubbing replaces the original dialogue with a dramatized, translated version, performed by professional voice actors who are managed by a dubbing director. In order to convey a sense of authenticity, the translated dialogue must be adapted to the original dialogue for duration and lip-sync. This adaptation is done through a more literal (but by no means ‘word for word’) first draft translation of the original dialogue. Thus, the creation of the dubbing dialogue is a two-step process that involves first translating and then adapting.
In some countries, like France, this adaptation is always done by the translator. In other countries, it is done either by the translator or the director.
In Spain, although there are exceptions, generally the translator and the adapter are not the same person.
So, the translator is the first link in a chain process — translation, adaptation, voice recording and dialogue mixing.
This process is supervised by someone who, in the case of film releases, works for the distribution company and whose contribution to the translated dialogue is normally marginal. As a translator, being the first link in the chain means that the translation, once you send it, doesn’t ‘come back’ to you, but rather goes through a transformation process. You don’t get to check whether the adapter’s changes are for better (which normally are) or for worse (which can also happen). This was not the case in Deadpool 2, as we will see shortly.
Deadpool 2 is an R-rated, Marvel Comics superhero franchise comedy. Let’s break this down from a translation point of view. There’s ample violence and gore in this movie, but the rating, I fear, is mainly due the extensive use of expletives, which had to be addressed creatively due to Deadpool’s peculiar parlance. Being a ‘part two’ means that I had to watch ‘part one’ for the sake of consistency, because the translation had been done by a different person, although the dubbing director was the same. The person responsible for these decisions was the supervisor, who in the first part was really invested in making the Spanish Deadpool character very special. This helped with consistency, a key concept in this type of project, where one not only must keep in mind part one, but all the comics on which the film is based.
Marvel comics have been officially translated and published in Castilian Spanish by Panini, but also in the Americas by different publishers, so you have to be careful what source to use (in this case, filtering out Latin American versions) when researching character names, catchphrases and so on.
The problem arises when the (Castilian) Spanish publisher uses inconsistent translations throughout the different numbers and series (for instance, ‘Domino’/’Dominó’).
Also, ‘spoken’ character names tend to be translated in comics, whereas, only some get translated on the silver screen.
That’s the case with the character ‘Deadpool’, who was always ‘Masacre’ in Spanish comics but kept his original name in the films.
This decision, like movie titles, is up to the marketing department, whose translation decisions are not always coordinated with those of the postproduction department, who manages the translation of the film.
Working with a comic-based movie franchise also involves pleasing the established base of fans, which is much bigger than either a movie franchise or a comic franchise alone. This is a demanding audience and the producers know it, so they reward them with nuggets in the form of references to not only the original Deadpool comics, but the Marvel universe in general, as well as general pop culture references to connect with non-Marvel geeks; and, of course, leaving some space for the franchise to expand. So, when it comes to translating, another thing to consider is that there might be future titles published in any form imaginable: comics, shows, feature films, video games… Crossovers are to be expected, too.
Additionally, ‘big movie’ logistics require previews as well as numerous teasers and contextless trailers, all distributed months before the film is even finished, so I started working with preliminary versions of the film which changed several times. This is why the workflow was a bit unusual; not only did the text go forth and back again with every revision (two preliminaries and a final), but the supervisor received my translation before passing it to the adapter, and it went through her again before coming back to me for the next revision, with her comments and suggestions. This meant more work, but it also gave me more time and perspective to work on the text and elaborate on the director’s and supervisor’s proposals after my initial translation. It was a very collaborative work, with lots of
Last, but not least, it is a comedy, so I had to deal with the typical challenges of translating any film (lip-sync, transcription errors, intertextuality, cultural references, presence of target language, presence of different English accents), humor (puns, alliterations, rhymes, homophones, spelledout words, alphabetical correspondences), plus
the added difficulty of reflecting Deadpool’s particular style (exaggeration, nonsensical remarks, made-up words and expressions, contradictory terms, double negatives, profanity, sexual innuendos, ‘attempted’ euphemisms). It was hard work, but also quite fun and rewarding.