The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Adaptability

[Screenshot]Narnia is a big, popular franchise. It was one of the two series I read as a child (the other was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series), and generation after generation of young people has undergone the personal journey of exploration and discovery to discover the eternal truth about which C.S. Lewis wrote: namely, that Turkish Delight is actually kind of nasty.

So I’m notr writing about the book here: discussions of C.S. Lewis’s goals, storycraft, and blatant Christian allegory can be gone into later. The question is really, how well did this particular film capture the source material? Actually, pretty well, in my estimation. A great deal of time and money as put into costuming and CG, and it’s to the film’s credit that a lot of it is well-integrated. There are very few effects that feel gratuitous. The acting is generally pretty good too, although there were a couple of things which grated (more below). The cinematography is excellent — really, with money to burn, you’d hardly expect them to fall down on techincal aspects. One weak part of the film experience, though, was the music. We mostly got the stirring and occasionally sad martial scores which typically accompany big battle scenes. I’m sure it was original music crafted especially for the occasion, but it sounds like Big Battle music from pretty much every fantasy epic ever.

So, all in all, good. What didn’t I like? A few tonally off modifications, mostly. The biggest change I saw was the battle on the ice, which IIRC never happened in the book, but it was OK and it fit, so I can’t complain. However, shortly before the battle on the ice we have a lot of fleeing, with Badger being far too quippy. This happens a lot, especially with Disney. You’ve got a tense party being pursued, and one member of the group simply has to be all jovial and witty. It doesn’t fit. A bigger character problem, for me at least, is Susan, whose every movement and dialogue-line is drippnig with scorn and eye-rolling. Guess they’re starting early in setting her up to be the one that only gets a passing mention 6 movies later.

One more bitch, and then I’ll conclude, satisfied that the good outweighs the bad here. There’s a scene, both in the book and the movie, where Peter has to kill Maugrim. It’s a big deal, because having to take life is angstilicious and afterwards he gets all ashamed when Aslan rebukes him for not cleaning his sword. The sword-cleaning is sort of minimally mentioned (guess Disney balked at showing their hero holding a slick, gory blade, trying to keep their PG rating). And Peter doesn’t exactly run Maugrim through. He holds his sword out reluctantly while Maugrim leaps on the blade. It’s awfully weakening of what should be a powerful point evolving a character.

But, as I mentioned, other than a couple of dissonant points, I’m satisfied with the quality and faithfulness of the adaptation.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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