Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Narnia

So, I think I forgot to mention it, but (embarrassed cough) I actually interviewed C.S. Lewis' stepson recently. Douglas Gresham is portrayed in the film "Shadowlands," starring one of my favorite actors, Anthony Hopkins. It beautifully tells the story of bachelor C.S. Lewis meeting and falling in love with a loud American woman, Joy Davidman. Joy had two sons, and when she died of cancer, C.S. Lewis (known to his friends as "Jack") looked after the boys.

You can read the entire, full-length interview here, or read an abbreviated version in print in the May/June issue of Good News magazine, which you can order here.

Now, a friend recently said, "Whaaaat? You liked Prince Caspian? But it was so different from the book." And I have heard this critique from several people. But Douglas Gresham actually was a producer for this movie, closely overseeing the script and the way in which Prince Caspian was communicated onscreen. That in itself, of course, is an incomplete argument. But I thought my responses were pretty good, so here they are.

HOWEVER: if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know anything going into it, stop reading this entry and check out some of the headlines I list on the right side of The Couch, or browse a few of my recipes, or play typeracer or something. Otherwise, you may enter. At your own risk, that is - bwahahahaha.

Caspian director Andrew Adamson observed ahead of time that it would be a challenge to adapt "Prince Caspian" because the book is, essentially, a long walk and a battle. Which, if you read it via a filmmaker’s eyes, quite frankly, it is. So what’s the main gist of the book? A) time has passed in Narnia since the Wardrobe B) the kids are called back to help in the current battle C) there's a big faith challenge when Lucy sees Aslan and no one believes her D) battle.

Were all those things present in the book? Yes. Were all those things present in the movie? Yes.

What, then, did the movie add? Well, an attack on the castle, and the appearance of the white witch when the hag and creature show up in the cave, and Susan getting a crush and kissing Caspian.

Now, in my opinion, the attack on the castle A) amplifies the battle situation, B) shows Peter’s lack of faith in Aslan’s appearance, and C) builds Reepicheep’s role to prepare you for “Dawn Treader.” The appearance of the white witch A) shows you what is at stake, good or evil, B) connects film two to film one, and C) gives characters a chance to show their mettle, especially Edmund. Susan's crush A) shows that the children are growing older, thus preparing for Peter and Susan’s exit from Narnian experiences, B) alludes to the fact that Susan later loses interest in Narnia in favor of boys and makeup, and C) appeals to the 12 and 13 year old girl audience shamelessly.

Do the apocryphal* additions in the movie do a disservice to the book? I don't think so, because it only builds on the existing themes and characters (there are no “Jar Jar Binks” fiascos). Are the main themes of the book properly emphasized on screen? Yes, because despite the masterful use of battle special effects, what does one come away from the movie thinking of? A) the walk, Lucy’s sighting, and faith in Aslan, and B) the battle for Narnia. Which is precisely what the book is about.

The question really is, is Douglas Gresham a money-grubbing sellout stepson of Lewis, or did he actually care about maintaining the integrity of the story? Because he worked very closely on this project, and is the best person to represent Lewis that there is. And of course per my interview with him, I am very much of the impression that he actually did work to maintain the integrity of the story. Cf. Good News magazine, May/June 2008 issue!

So there.

4 comments:

Becky C said...

I agree wholeheartedly! I am so tired of hearing how it wasn't like the book. I read the book, and now I wanted to see the movie, which i enjoyed!

Carrie said...

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie, though it was Brennan who muttered about the inaccuracies.

I imagine it was quite the honor to be able to conduct that interview!

Bob said...

haven't seen it, but maybe tomorrow night.--dad

Emily said...

I maintain my original stance; the movie was appalling. I just don't understand how you can take an excellent story and dumb it down into mediocrity. It took special effort to destroy my second favorite Narnia book, but they spared no expense in doing so.

"But...but...without the huge battle scenes the movie wouldn't sell. And we couldn't possibly send something out of Hollywood without a romance sub-plot. That's blasphemy, it is!"

The story was old hat, and the characters were about as deep as my bathtub. It was entertaining, sure, and if I'd never read the book I probably would have stamped it with an "OK." As it is, I think they missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show a great story. Rich themes, interesting plot, and complex characters were already there; all they had to do was leave it alone.