Friday, May 16, 2008

Narnia: Prince Caspian -- Better Than the Book?

This afternoon I took the kids to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. We don't often see movies on their release date, but we loved the first Narnia film so much that we really couldn't resist. E had a gift card for the theatre, and we went to a 12:30 PM showing (our homeschool schedule comes in quite handy when it comes to matinee shows), and I used my tutoring funds.

My favorite movie reviewer also happens to be one of my favorite contemporary authors: Frederica Mathewes-Green. I so enjoy her books on her conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, and the articles on her website are really cool. I've seen her in person twice at Point Loma Nazarene University's Writers' Symposium by the Sea, and at the last one I had a chance to chat with her a bit. She's very funny yet very devout -- such a lovely mixture. Her humor is very self-effacing, and if she goes on and on about the superiority of Eastern Orthodoxy a bit, I don't mind much.

So I was thrilled when she branched out and started writing movie reviews for The New Republic from a Christian point-of-view. She's been spot-on many times, by which I mean that my opinion and hers have been just about the same regarding most films. I'm also on her e-mail list, and she sent out an interesting question earlier in the week that I responded to: When has a movie been better than its book? I replied with The Scarlet Pimpernel (Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, Ian McKellan), The Princess Bride, and the recent Masterpiece Theatre production of Northanger Abbey. (Can't stand the book; loved the movie.)along with a movie that I thought were AS GOOD AS the book: Pride and Prejudice (A&E, Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle).

Then when her review of the new Narnia film came out, I saw the reason behind her question: she thought that the movie was far better than the book. E, who is rereading Prince Caspian right now, strongly disagrees, and I can't say because I didn't finish reading the series, having gotten hung up in and not finshing The Horse and His Boy. Here's Frederica's thoughts on the movies that are better than the books in which she names the "Top Ten" responses she received from her question; you can read her article right here.

Unfortunately, I can't agree with the hype surrounding the film that claims that it's better than the first. Uh-uh. No way. It's very good. It's worth seeing on a big screen rather than waiting for DVD. But it is in no way pure genius as the first one was. Prince Caspian had its funny moments, its glorious battle scenes, its intriguing storyline, but the sense of wonder is gone. Lucy is grown up now -- no longer the adorable little girl with her jaw dropping open when she first experiences Narnia. The Pevensie children just accept Narnia now, of course, but it's the sense of wonder, of something new and unexplored, that made the first film so magical. And this story line simply couldn't support that sense of wonder; it feel too forced, too familiar. And it's not the fault of the production or screenwriting (although E told us where it differed from the book and how they tried to "beef up" the movie from the book and that was were it felt the most forced); it's just that we know Narnia now, even if it is a different "more savage" Narnia (one of the character's descriptions). So that new sense of the existence of an alternative "magical" world is rather worn-out, like my favorite armchair. And like my armchair, it definitely sags here and there. (Or lags here and there, if you'd like a more professional critical term.)

Back to Frederica's question: can you think of any movies that are better than their printed counterparts? Leave your list in the comments section. (BTW, I do NOT agree that the film version of Gone with the Wind is superior to the book. I read GWTW at age 14 and have reread it several times; it's always been one of my favorite books and definitely trumps the film any day, despite Clark Gable....)

1 comment:

Lona said...

Interesting critique of the 2nd movie. We will get there eventually, but have been extremely busy just now. I've wanted to re-read Prince Caspian before seeing the movie, as I don't seem to remember it at all, but now maybe I won't. Noting worse than being distracted from the enjoyment of a movie by unconsciously comparing it to the book.

Also interesting to see you mention F.Mathewes-Green. I was so impressed with a pro-life book I read by her years ago (though now the title escapes me). Thanks for the link to her site.


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