Thursday, December 9, 2010

C.S. Lewis hits the wall

Sometime this weekend or over Christmas vacation I'll go with my son to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When I was a kid, Dawn Treader was my favorite Narnia book -- perhaps because of the map in front, or that I found Eustace (by the way, I knew no-one, and still know no-one, actually named Eustace and can't fathom how to pronounce it.* I guess I'll learn when I see the movie) a compelling character or just the theme of exploration, going beyond the horizon to the edge of the world. I'm crossing my fingers that some of this will still be in the movie.

The story behind the current movie productions of the Narnia books is this: Disney did The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It made money and got good reviews. I thought it was a pretty good movie and much better than some of the earlier Narnia adaptations. Then Disney did Prince Caspian. They spent a lot of money, and though the movie made money, it didn't make enough, and Disney washed their hands of the whole series and walked away. Prince Caspian struck me as an odd movie, and perhaps this is partly why Disney gave up. The one thing I thought when I left the theatre was, "Wow, that was very...macho." The movie was almost one long battle. Yet most of that stuff was also in the book and here's where the disconnect comes in. For C.S. Lewis, battles were something out of King Arthur. They were about chivalry and honor and Up England! Lewis actually fought in the trenches during World War I and probably knew war wasn't really like that, but when he came to write the books he either figured real war didn't belong in them, or he just fell back on the ideals of his Edwardian childhood. But movie battles usually aren't about chivalry and honor...movie battles tend to be violent. So the movie came off as a lot darker and tougher than the book.

Well, now Fox has taken over the series, and if Dawn Treader does well they will likely make the other books. I think Dawn Treader has the material in it to be a spectacular movie, if made right. About the other books, I'm not so sure. A Horse and His Boy has some politically incorrect aspects to it, though it offers a great female role. The Silver Chair mostly takes place underground and the plot is pretty convoluted and doesn't make a lot of sense until you realize it's Lewis' tribute to The Fairie Queen. The Magician's Nephew, on the other hand, could be a fantastic movie. Great settings -- the dead city of Charn, the Wood between the World, Paradise -- great characters -- bring back Tilda Swinton! A great part for someone like Alan Rickman as Uncle Andrew. Enormous guinea pigs! Unlike the previous two books, there's a strong plot and visual element to it.

As for The Last Battle, well, that's the only Narnia book I never really liked.

So I'm hoping Dawn Treader does well, and if it does, I hope the filmmakers make the logical leap to The Magician's Nephew.

What do you think? What remaining Narnia books are most "filmmable?" Who would you like to see in key roles?

1 comment:

Elle Strauss said...

It's obvious that you are a fan of the Narnia Chronicles. Sadly, I never read them as a child, so I don't have those whimsical memories attached to the stories. I did enjoy both movies and will probably go see any others that might be made.