Maybe I had a unique experience of the film, e.g. an errant projectionist left the closed-captioning on. I am simply at a loss to otherwise understand why the music cues were spelled out along with all of the dialogue.

I can imagine Cameron's rationale for titling the music as a correlate to the "whale" characters notability for making songs (i.e. when the Na'vi lady leader of the water tribe grieves the death of her spirit sister). In this way, the songs and the score score are considered "dialogue."

Titling all of the dialogue seemed excessive. Like, I get having stylized audience-specific text for when the characters speak Na'vi, but for every utterance including all the yips, yelps, ululations, and such?

I haven't found any online reviews or analysis addressing the text throughout the film and wonder if the projection was indeed errant? Given the very shot specific layout, though, the titling did not appear like any CC I've seen before, i.e. it felt very intentional.

Was perhaps Cameron using text even when characters were speaking the audiences language in order to keep the viewer's attention engaged at an intellectual level requiring literacy? To make some kind of point to keep the audience from getting lulled into a consumption hypnosis from the all lush imagery? Like, "the only way we can get along across soecies is to like, use our words, maaaan"? 😂🤷‍♂️

Given it wasn't a unique projection, has anyone read anything which addresses these creative decisions?

1 Answer 1


You seem to be referring to SDH subtitles - for the deaf or hearing-impaired. These tend to also indicate things like voice stresses, significant background sounds, music indicators, etc. They're like CC but with additional notes. Depending on the specific system used to carry the text, they can be stylised, coloured, placed in different areas of the screen to not cover significant action, or indicate which character is speaking, if it's not obvious from lip movement etc.
By the time a movie hits streaming, you can see there's a whole list of subtitle tracks, one for each language, & up to three for English - forced [foreign translation only], English [all dialog] and SDH [plus cues for audio events].

I can't comment on why any specific cinema would be doing this, but perhaps they run one or two shows a day specifically with the subtitles on, for the hearing-impaired. Check their programming schedule.

I found a movie with the 'full monty' of subtitle tracks, just as an example…
Most playback structures will default to switching 'Forced' on, so you don't get halfway through before you realise you ought to be able to understand all the dialog in 'foreign'.

enter image description here

  • Projectionist it is then - thanks for the reality check! Sure did take me the heck out of the film. Heh.
    – MmmHmm
    Dec 20, 2022 at 20:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .