"Jack's problem with cinema was that he could see this wonderful technology emerging and developing, and he was worried about the uses to which it was being put. Until recently, cinema has been used almost exclusively to corrupt man rather than to develop man. Some of the great movies have been terrific, but by and large most movies are just to titillate, to excite—stuff to entertain. Basically, I think the Enemy has been running the cinema. It's time we took it back from him." (Christianity Today Interview, October 2005).
I wonder if Lewis would have minded this screen adaptation. It certainly takes away -and adds to - the story in a way that would make any true Narnia fan bristle in annoyance. Liberties that are always taken in Hollywood adaptations were taken. However, the argument that some creative license is necessary with the film in order to attract and hold the attention of a movie audience is somewhat valid. There is a difference between the way stories are told on film as opposed to the way that they are told in book. I'm willing to admit that some liberties need to be taken. Just not all.
So what changes were made in the book as opposed to the movie? Jonathan and I re watched this film over the past weekend. The first half of it annoyed us to some degree but we both agreed that the last 40 minutes of the film is quite excellent. Given the fact that the movie ends on a good note (in our minds) we find this movie is an asset to telling Lewis' story, on the whole.
The difference between the book and the movie is in the character of the Pevensie children. By that I mean their internal character traits are developed quite differently. In the book they are all committed to a.) being in Narnia and b.) rising to the challenges that they are called to with grace and dignity. In the movie Susan is almost a pacifist when it comes to war or defense of truth. (Really my problem lies mostly with Susan in this area.) Peter and Susan seem obsessed with going back home throughout the majority of the movie and that is simply not the case in the book. Lewis portrays them as heroic and noble and in the movie version you want to just lecture the socks off of them and tell them to quit thinking only of themselves. In the book they seem to understand their higher calling in defeating evil; in the movie they don't care and/or don't have a clue. This is a big problem with the movie. Lewis was a big proponent of honor and dedication to a just cause and that feeling is lost in Susan's desire to drop everything and run.
However, the last part of the movie is all about bravery in the face of sure defeat. Peter plays his role responsibly and admirably in leading the Narnian army against the White Witch and her evil minions. The scene is set up so that the Narnian army is watching from a hillside as the White Witch's army advances. It is noted that there are more soldiers on the side of evil. Basically, the possibility of a victorious outcoming doesn't look likely at this point in the story. As Peter yells out, "FOR NARNIA! AND FOR ASLAN!" and leads the charge into evil for the sake of righteousness my heart swelled. I was reminded that in the Bible kings would go out to war - to represent and defend their people. It was when King David decided not to go out with his army and to stay at home instead that he got into a mess of trouble. It was dishonorable for David not to go to war. Contrast David with Peter and we see a picture of true nobility and honor. (Are you counting how many times I use the word "honor"? Don't. Please.) Peter, who becomes High King of Narnia, deserves the title "King Peter the Magnificent" because he truly became so. He rose to the occasion, looked death in the face and, in essence said, "I will fear no evil." He proved he could be trusted although the odds were stacked against him. (I wouldn't mind naming my next son Peter after such a literary character. -ha)
I also thought the movie nicely handled Lewis's design for both his female and his male characters. When I read the books this past week and rewatched the movie(s) I noticed Lewis's design in placing the males on the forefront of battles. The boys lead the charge and dealt the physical blows, all for the sake of protecting their family and truth. The girls, on the other hand, tended for the hearts of those who went to war. Lucy administers drops of the healing liquid that she had been gifted with by Father Christmas, in restoring the wounded Narnian army. She rushes about to care for the weak and wounded. She is the one who expresses the heart and emotion of Aslan by being a nurturer. For that I greatly admire both Lewis and his creation of Lucy -- and I thank Disney for not trying to manipulate the gender roles. That much was very true to the books.
The battle scene really did it for me, in securing my love and affection for this film. I think it is a good illustration of the book. Yes, it has its drawbacks but on the whole it's more of a help than a hindrance in communicating truth and safeguarding the core spirit of the books - which is to capture children's imagination for the good. The movie does that very well. Therefore I think it's worth adding this film to your home collection - so long as you add the books to your shelf as well!
I also reviewed Prince Caspian over at 5 Minutes for Books if you'd like to check that review out. Just spreading the Narnia love everywhere I can this week. ;)