If given the chance, I always watch movies with the subtitles turned on. Yes, even if the movie is already in American English. It’s not that my hearing is bad, it’s just that I’m a super-fast reader and I hate the sensation of missing dialogue. I feel like if I watch a movie and read it at the same time I’m getting a better sense of what the movie is and what it’s about.
(And yes, I am salivating as I count the days to when I can re-watch Inception with the subtitles on.)
Having seen hundreds of movies with the subtitles turned on, I’ve developed a sense for “good” subtitles versus “bad” ones. Not all subs are created equal, after all, and sometimes you can tell the guys who were just going through the motions from the guys who really care about the movies they’re working with.
I mention all of this because, having seen Rock’n Rolla a few weeks ago, I felt the urge to go back and revisit Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Lock, Stock has a pretty interesting soundtrack, for starters. It’s a good mix of old tunes that perfectly paints you a picture of London’s seemy underbelly. Music almost never gets subtitled, though; if you’re lucky, you get a pair of music notes. Guy Ritchie’s subtitle guy, though? He not only lovingly subtitled all the lyrics, but also identifies the artists.
I’ve seen this convention used before, and sometimes it’s done to the movie’s detriment. Sometimes the guy is so dedicated to getting down every line and lyric that the music ends up fighting the dialogue for subtitle real estate. (Hmm… what movie did I see recently that did that? Pulp Fiction? I don’t remember exactly.) In Lock, Stock the lyrics are considerate enough to get out of your way when the characters are talking over them. After all, it’s not like you can hear the lyrics through the conversation anyway, even if you’re not hearing impaired.
We even get our sound effects subtitled! Now that’s service. The movie is a little inconsistent about this, most likely because (again) you don’t want the sound effects overwhelming the dialogue. The important ones are all captured, though; this adorable “Pop!” is there because the gun being fired is an air rifle, not a regular rifle, and therefore doesn’t make a regular gunshot sound. The distinction is important, and someone watching the movie without the soundtrack might not be able to make it simply by watching.
Anyway, the movie itself is really good too. I recommend watching it. Subtitles on, of course.