Sunday, December 12, 2004

War of the Words

This is the teaser trailer for the Spielberg/Cruise extravaganza War of the Worlds. It looks okay. Creepy in that slick Spielberg kind of way.

And this is my transcript of the voice-over from the trailer:

No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world. Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? Who the hell is responsible for this mangled train wreck of prose, this random assortment of words the writer barely seems to understand? Did a foreigner write it and run it through a computerized translator?

Where to even begin? How about the first sentence?

“No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own.”
First of all, what does this mean? Does this mean that we’ve always been watched, but in the early years of the 21st century no one would have believed this, or does it mean that it was only in the early years of the 21st century that we were being watched? If it’s the latter, then moving the word “that” from after “century” to after “believed” would clarify it a lot. If it’s the former, rewrite the sentence. Furthermore, “intelligences”? Ugh.

“That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied.”
“They” observed and studied? Who, the men? I know what they’re referring to, but this is sloppy and confusing use of a pronoun, which forces you to spend more effort parsing than you should have to. “Busied themselves about … their concerns”? How about “thought about” or “busied themselves with”? “Busied about” sounds bizarre.

“With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world.”
“Infinite complacency”? Shut the fuck up. Just shut the fuck up and stop using big words to sound smart. With infinite complacency. La dee da. We must be awfully fucking complacent. Like, complacent to infinity! “To and fro”? Is that necessary? Oh, and we mustn’t say “around” the globe. “About” sounds like how a smart guy would say it. Look at me, going to and fro about the globe! This wouldn’t be so glaring if they hadn’t just misused the word “about.” “Their empire over this world”? Only by the most generous standard is this clumsy use of the word “empire” remotely acceptable. And that’s infinite generosity.

“Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
“Envious eyes”? Was “envy” not good enough on its own? “Slowly and surely” oddly deviates from the usual pairing of these words, “slowly but surely,” but here they’re just used to slow down the voice over guy so he can sound more ominous. As for the rest of the sentence, there’s nothing really wrong with it except that I hate it.

I know, I know, it’s just a movie trailer voice-over, and I’m being overly nit-picky. And if it were a trailer for Seriously, Dude, Where’s My Car? and they didn’t use complete sentences, I wouldn’t give a shit. But when they’re trying so hard to sound smart, laying on the pretension with meaningless phrases like “infinite complacency” and then they write sentences with backward syntax that make no sense at all, that’s when people get hurt.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was also annoyed by self-conscious yet shitty dissolves in the preview. "Hey look - that red planet became a red traffic light! Isn't that awesome?" (Answer: No.)

- Steve

Kevin said...

http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/warworlds/b1c1.html

Familiar?

The Cunning Linguist said...

GREAT post! It made me laugh a few times. It reminds me of the commercial I saw for a small computer store that specialized in selling "electronical accessories." No wonder foreigners have trouble learning english. Even we can't get it right.

http://ekupes.blogspot.com/2004/10/speling-rong-is-kewl.html

Kenny said...

H.G. Wells! What a hack. Who told him he knew how to write?! He should stick to what he's good at: building actual, functioning time machines.

Anonymous said...

First of all you A.R. - CRY baby!! When you have the kind of money that Spielberg has, and makes, then you can comment, until then - blow it out your ASS!!

I mean really, what kind of fucking idiot even gives serious consideration to the way a film is marketed - especially a stinking, rip - off, remake. Guess what professor, it is there to grab your attention, not take you to SCHOOL.

You need to get laid or better yet - learn to masterbate, it is everything they say it is - you can have sex with anyone - or in your case, anything, and no one ever need know. The side benefit for the rest of us in there is no danger of you having any children this way, thereby protecting our already poluted gene pool - I say already poluted because presumably you are a member of the human species.

Why can't guys / Gals like yourself just join a cult where they casterate you. I have to ask myself why didn't your parents join instead of kicking the rest of us in the shorts by producing you.