Subtitles, how not to do it

When I bought my FetchTV box at the Gadget Show, it came bundled with 50 pounds credit against films downloaded via Fetch’s service (I actually bought it as a cheap twin channel Freeview hard disk recorder with integral BBC iPlayer, but I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth).

Not suprisingly, most of the films made available each month are relatively old, which is how I came to watch “The Alamo” (2004, with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton). The film was actually much better than I expected, in fact, it was bloomin’ good. But I had one minor problem with it.

When the Mexican characters spoke, it was naturally in Spanish, with English subtitles. These were a trendy yellow, one might even say gold, instead of white or black. Normally, this would make them very visible.

However, these subtitles, of course, were mostly on screen when the Mexican characters were – who were all dressed in uniforms in red and – you’ve guessed it – yellow, tending towards gold. As a result many of the subtitles were completely unreadable without pausing and shuttling the picture back and forth to get a good view.

In spite of this, I really enjoyed the film, particularly Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of Davy (“I prefer David”) Crockett.


  1. May 17, 2010

    Must say that I concur, having seen said film myself; truly a *lot* better than the John Wayne account, which, frankly, I found boring.

    • chris
      May 17, 2010

      One of the things that made the film interesting is that I actually understood the motivations of the characters (which I accept may be different from the real-life people they were based on).

      Without much hullabaloo, the film included just enough back-story to explain why they all were there, rather than them “just being there”.

      In particular, again, the role of Crockett, who was pursuing a peaceful life away from his (legendary) reputation, and in the end became a victim of it, as men looked to him for leadership.

      Oh, and any film that has an opening scene of everybody being dead gains points for style and moxy, even though we all know that is what happened anyway.

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