I expected to be disappointed in any movie based on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe simply because anyone else’s vision wouldn’t match with mine. My parents might be able to tell you when I first entered the magical world of Narnia. I can’t. The Horse and His Boy is the first book I clearly remember reading to myself.
I’ve still got the same set of hard bound books, now long since separated from their dust jackets that mom and dad first read to me from. They’re the only editions that will ever seem right to me. And The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first book, not The Magician’s Nephew!
So that said I was left with a mingled feeling of satisfaction at things done well and disappointment at things changed or left undone. About the same as my reaction to The Lord of the Rings movies. In general I think the movie did a fairly good job, not warping the story completely and not entirely missing the spirit of the book.
Things it did well: I liked the blitz at the beginning, though not Edmund’s attachment to the photo of his father, which provided a red herring to his motivation. Evidenly some reviewers felt this was not well addressed in the books. Not me. Edmund started changing after he was sent to a bad school with progressive ideas—- part of Lewis’ attack on modern education which appears over and over throughout the Chronicles, but most especially with the character of Eustace in Voyage. I can see how that might be harder to translate into film, but nonetheless, I felt the father abandoned us plot to be weak and not in keeping with the spirit of the books.
I liked the emphasis on the feminity of the girls. (Although they did leave out Father Christmas’ great line that war is especially ugly when women fight.) I loved putting them into those lovely dresses. Most of all, as they accompanied Aslan to his death, I was led to reflect upon the women’s role in the passion, which is often overlooked. They suffered with him, comforted him, cared for his body and were the first joyful witnesses of the resurrection. That part felt right. Though again I regretted the omission of the great romp scene when Aslan plays with the girls before goi.ng off to empty the witch’s castle.
I thought they did Edmund’s return to decency rather well even if they watered down his betrayal. (In the books he spills all the info about the beavers, Aslan, the stone table as soon as he arrives at the witch’s castle. In the film he lets it out in little bits and later seems to do it to save the fox from the witch, making it a little less selfish.) His encouragement of Peter was great and I was very glad they kept in the bit that it was Edmund who destroyed her wand.
So much of the sting of Edmund’s betrayal in the book is in his interior monologue as he trudges to the witch’s house when he contemplates how much he hates Peter. He seems very petty and spiteful and that is a great contrast with the nobility of the other children and of Aslan.
I loved that they let the kids grow old so they were adults and had forgotten the lamp post when they found it again. I was so terribly afraid they would change that part.
I understand many of the changes they made, even if I don’t like them. I think they were trying too hard to cater to contemporary audience’s tastes and did some damage to the spirit of the books in doing so. The thing that bugged me most was the thinning down of the buildup to Aslan. As if they were afraid their creation might disappoint if they excited too much anticipation.
But the children’s relationship with him does not have room to grow in the film. In the books it doesn’t feel as slim because there is a good buildup in the way the beaver’s talk him up. He is a creature of prophecy and so the book taps into all our expectations of a king who is to return. The movie lost much of that momentum.
Also the movie made both Peter and Susan much more doubtful and cautious. More of a contrast with Lucy. They seem more like that in Prince Caspian than they do in Lion where Susan only expresses her doubts once at the beginning and Peter seems like a natural leader.
But like I said, I expected to be disappointed. I came home and re-read the book. At least it is still there. I hop the movies lead to more people discovering the books and falling in love with them.
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