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A Fireside Chat

I just got off the phone with my brother, who really liked the movie. He challenged my opinion (see the comments from the previous post), but ended up solidifying it. The conversation also reminded me of a few more issues I had with the changes the producers /director /screenwriters made. (I’m almost finished waxing opinionated, so don’t worry that you’ll have to read Caspian rants all week.)

The thing that made Caspian worthy to be king was his deep love for Narnia. His nurse filled his head and heart with stories of Old Narnia, and he longed for it to be true. When Caspian finally meets Trufflehunter and the dwarfs, his wildest dreams come to life before his eyes. This sense of wonder and ache for a truer, better world seems to be one of Lewis’s themes, not just in this book but in much of his writing. Where was that in the film?

And about the nurse. Remember the scene at the end of the book when Aslan heals her? She sees his great lion-head and weeps with joy because she’s beholding the One she dreamed of all her life. Aslan carries her to Caspian and they’re reunited at last. How, oh how, could the filmmakers have cut this? It was one of the few things in the book that would’ve translated to film quite easily, it would seem.

And what was the deal with the conversation in the film between Lucy and Peter about seeing Aslan? “I wish he’d just given me a little proof,” Peter says, to which Lucy replies, “Maybe he was waiting for us to prove ourselves to him.” Huh? Jesus isn’t hiding from us, waiting for us to prove ourselves worthy of the beatific vision. As Paul says in Romans, evidence of his existence surrounds us. Yes, our faith gives us new eyes, but we are often faithless and yet are confronted with Christ at every turn. Aslan wasn’t concealing himself from Peter–Peter was unwilling to see him. The reason Lucy could see him was the disposition of her heart. She walked through Narnia with a child’s wonder that allowed her to see things with greater clarity–it wasn’t Aslan that changed and made himself visible, it was Peter who looked with humility and faith and could finally recognize him. It’s a subtle difference, but a significant one.

Then Lucy for some reason races to the forest where she finds Aslan standing around, apparently waiting on someone to come and get him. Again I say, “Huh?”

Now, I realize that this is only a movie. Some of you may think I’m making mountains out of molehills. My brother told me that my expectations were too high. But why shouldn’t my expectations be high? They spent millions–millions of dollars on this film, and they’re working with material that is beloved by millions of people. Why shouldn’t these storytellers be held to a high standard? I got the feeling when watching the Lord of the Rings films that, while they weren’t perfect, the filmmakers did a better job than anyone could’ve hoped. I had the feeling today that the filmmakers of Prince Caspian cared more for their film than they did the story itself, or for the fans of the story, or even for Lewis. Do they really think he would’ve approved of the changes? Really?

Years ago when I heard they were adapting John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany for the screen, I groaned. I love film as a medium, but some books should be left alone, for goodness sakes. A great book does not always a great movie make. Sometimes the very things that make a book worth reading are the things that only work on the written page. The changes necessary for Owen Meany‘s translation to film so bothered the author that he demanded the name be changed. They came up with Simon Birch, and whatever you think of that movie, you must trust me: compared to the book it’s a waste of time. I have a feeling that Lewis would’ve had a few alternate titles to suggest.

Rant complete. Moving on.

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