A Fireside Chat

By

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.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


24 Comments

  1. Cynthia Osborn

    I just want to say that I appreciate your ranting….most of my friends hate going to see movies with me(when the movies are based off of books) because I always expect the quality I recieved from the book, yet rarely get it. I can’t stand the fact that film makers change the story, even when, in changing the story the nearly destroy everything the book really was. I will admitt that I enjoyed this movie, however, I was very frustrated with these same areas that you mentioned above….especially Caspians nurse, and Peter not seeing Aslan.

    Thanks again for your ranting!!!

  2. Nate

    I appreciate your synopsis of the film. I can’t wait to see it (after I read the book). I’m done ruining books with movies. I appreciate your pointing out the things like the nurse being healed by Aslan and weeping for joy, but in general, I want to throw out something to think about concerning film.

    I just want to say (while having yet to see the movie because I haven’t yet read this particular Chronicle of Narnia – my brother lost my book and, hey, I’m on a budget)…

    Anyway, I just want to say that I think the media of print is far and away better than film. I personally think that the world was created to be that way. I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with every Steven King based film that I’ve ever seen. And I think it all just boils down to the fact that books are better than film.

    I mean, what do we have from God? What revelation did he give us? A movie? No. A screenplay? No, it was a book. And I think further that God reveals words to his people and not an image of himself that could be seen. In fact, he forbade image-making way back when, and instead left simply… words.

    I just think words are better.

  3. Travis Prinzi

    Andrew, definitely not mountains out of molehills. I know this is a big statement to make, but based on what Lewis wrote about the problems with film adaptations in “On Stories,” I think he’d have hated this movie.

    I’m not as against film adaptations as Lewis was back in the day (there’s a great essay on the possibility of great film adaptations in “Past Watchful Dragons” – ed. Amy Sturgis), but I am definitely not a fan of this adaptation, for all the reasons you mention and more.

  4. lyndsay

    *GAH!* i seriously might not see the movie. i can’t believe they would cut the healing of the nurse. that’s my favorite part of the entire story. (i have many favorite parts) i have many more rants, but i will refrain this monday morning. i’m still a little sleepy…

  5. Lynn Holloway

    My wife and I sat in the Theater as the credits rolled feeling…. well, not feeling much at all. Sure there were some stunning special effects and well executed battle scenes (which we’ve seen easily in a dozen other movies), but all in all it was a movie without a heart. Unlike the first film, this Narnia held little wonder. We didn’t find ourselves longing to see things “set right” in Narania as no one on screen seemed to deeply care about the outcome. Not even the great Aslan. We love the Narnia stories but sadly this adaptation made us wish we’d spent our Sunday afternoon seeing “The Visitor” instead. Sigh….

  6. Justin Nale

    I wholeheartedly agree with the rants. It seemed to me like many of the most important themes in the book were either omitted or distorted in the film. My favorite part of the book has always been the end, when Aslan and Lucy are going through the town and Bacchus is running wild and there just seems to be a huge amount of joy for all who leave what they’ve known behind and follow Aslan. I didn’t like the plot changes, the way Peter and Caspain act like rivals, the way Susan and Caspian have “chemistry”, how Susan became ‘Warrior Princess’, and many other things, but I maybe could have forgiven all had the ending lived up to the book. It most certainly did not, and I left the theater disappointed in the movie (but appreciating the book all the more).

  7. Marcus hong

    I find myself sadly agreeing with what you’ve written. Although I did enjoy the movie for what it was, I think that they did completely miss the point. And one of the points that you sort of alluded to, but I think is the crux of what is wrong with the filmmaker’s point of view is that Lewis, AND his characters, had a major life change! Major. Lewis writes in surprised by Joy that this joy captured him, he was the most unwilling convert, but it captured him. In all of their interviews, the filmmakers talk about trying to make the characters more real by reading between the lines and adding things in. So they add in Peter’s brashness and fighting and will to dominate Narnia over Caspian, because, as they think, that’s how a NORMAL teenage boy will act. And they have Susan kiss Caspian, because that’s how a NORMAL teenage girl would act when encountering an attractive prince. But these kids are NOT normal. They’ve been seized by the power of a great affection (I can’t remember where that’s from, but it’s not mine). The conflict of the book does not come from them being kings and queens and suddenly being children again, but from the way that Narnia has changed, how the place where they first were discovered by grace and love is now different. It’s the conflict of going back to the church where you were baptized and made your confession of Christ, only to find out that the pastor had changed and was no longer preaching about God, the youth group was all about bowling and swimming parties and nothing about scripture, and there were a few, huddled masses of Christians who believed that God used to be real, but don’t know now. Their faith is shaken because the place where their faith had begun had changed, and they wondered why Aslan (God) allowed it to change. Just like Trumpkin, they couldn’t imagine how God could let this happen. And, just as Lucy notes, because they are “growing up,” they are having a more difficult time looking through the eyes of faith. Not because they have some high king complex, but because they are realizing that the realities of the world are harsh. And so those realities seem insurmountable. But the point in the book is that they quickly get over those fears, that, through Lucy, they remember that it is not necessarily the place, but the one who created that place, that their trust is in. The true reality is not Narnia, but Aslan. Trumpkin is the realization of that great theme. He is a practical realist, believing nothing until he can see it. And so he only believes in the children after they prove their physical abilities to him.

    In certain ways they retained this in the film. But I think that you are right in writing that some of the main scenes, and the most touching scenes, that bolster this theme (the nurse who sees the one she has been hoping for all her life, caspian’s motivation for saving Narnia being the stories he’s heard, and those stories being confirmed by meeting the Narnians and coming to love them) were largely left out in favor of “action” and “romance” and “conflict.” Instead of adding a conflict about Peter vs. Caspian, they could have highlighted more the conflict of Peter doubting. And the character growth for Caspian was not that he went from being revengeful about his father (as they seemed to highlight) to being able to not kill Miraz, but that he went from a person who had only heard the stories and desired them to be true, to a person who loved the people upon which the stories were based. They became real to him, and he loved them.

    Anyway, enough of my long rant. I do think that the movie was entertaining for what it was. I agree that Lewis is rolling in his grave. But I also hope that what you wrote is true, that perhaps some will see this movie, then read the books, and through them be found by God.

  8. Julie

    I defintely agree with your objections Andrew, though I still did love the movie. I had alot of problems with it and I think Lewis would be quite upset, but it’ll still go in my movie library when it come out on DVD.
    Hopefully Micheal Apted will do a better job with The Voyage that Mr. Shrek has. He did a great job with Amazing Grace, so my hopes are a little higher.

  9. Peter B

    I’ve really appreciated reading all of this. We’ll still see the film, and I think we’ll enjoy it, but seeing the book through so many different eyes has made me love the story even more.

  10. Kirsten Jensen

    I thought I might pose a question to those who have seen the movie (I haven’t yet): Do you think another 30 years or so will merit a remake of the series onto film? My basis for this curiosity is whether people found that it captured generationally transcendant themes or not, or if that’s even something we can speculate. What do you all think?

  11. Nathaniel Miller

    AP brings up good points. I’d love to hear his brother’s take on it as well. My take on it is this:

    The movie misses some major themes as AP and others have stated. That doesn’t mean that all the themes are gone. Lucy believes, sees, and seeks out Aslan, even when the others don’t. She is scolded by Aslan ever so slightly when she doesn’t follow him. That I do remember being in the book and it reminded me that it is important to act on your faith in God, even when no one else does. I also left the film feeling that child like feeling again that I am not home. I was made for somewhere else (Switchfoot’s song in the soundtrack helped that, but I had the feeling anyway). So there are themes there.

    I wish the people who made this movie would have included more of the themes. I wish Douglas Gresham had either pushed more for them or had more of a say, whichever the case may be. But while we may rant on what the movie got wrong, it would be absolutely wrong to not point out what they got right. This movie is far better than the trash Hollywood normally pours out. For example, I loved Transformers as a kid, only to see them put filth in the movie version that I still have not watched it as a result of hearing of it. This movie was the kind of movie I want to see come out Hollywood – a great story, amazing special effects, good acting (romantic interest aside, I found all characters believable), good morals, and no filth. The violence was heavy, but necessary and it was clean. If we can’t support a film like that, what kind of message are we sending to Hollywood? The message sent is that their standard poor moral, poor story filth is what sells, not quality.

    So my take is while they should not have left so many themes out, it is a great film and it would be a travesty if people didn’t go see it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves wishing for these kinds of movies instead of watching and ranting on them.

  12. Julie

    I think if I had never read the book, I would absoluelty love the movie! Its just when I see how much better the story could be (and is) that my love for it decreases a bit.

  13. josh

    I just hope they make Voyage of the Dawntreader next. That one would make a GREAT movie and it seems they alluded to it at the end of Caspian when Peter tells Lucy and Edmond that he and Susan won’t be coming back, but “you two will”.

    The thing about Dawn Treader is that the story is almost idiot proof. The story revolves around Eustace turning into a dragon and learning a great lesson through it and you can’t possibly throw away too terribly much of that without having absolutely nothing left. So I have an optimistic feeling about that one.

    And that is precisely why I am encouraging all of you to rave about this movie like it was the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of cinema. If this one does well enough then they’ll go ahead with Dawn Treader and that can’t help but be a mostly good thing.

  14. Trevor

    I totally disagree with you Andrew.
    Mainly because everyone else seems to and at least one response should completely object to your rant.
    All facetiousness aside:
    I rather enjoyed the movie.
    It was a little violent for a children’s movie, but [probably because I don’t have children of my own] I think children need to be exposed to some [and for the sake of dialogue I’ll let you interpret “some” however you want] violence…but that’s another discussion.
    Some things did make me go “huh?” though. Much like you the whole conversation between Lucy and Peter where she suggest that “maybe he is waiting for us to prove ourselves” left me perplexed.
    But then I considered that maybe we were supposed to go “huh?”. That maybe this was just a response that many of us consider during those moments we are expecting Aslan to show up.
    But then I considered that maybe Aslan is waiting for us to prove ourselves.
    But then I considered that that was a dumb consideration.
    But then I considered that maybe it’s not a dumb consideration, many teenagers wrestle with these thoughts and perhaps that’s exactly what these characters were feeling and thinking.
    But then I considered that again that doesn’t make sense because, as Susan often reminded us, they were actually much older than they appeared.
    And by then I missed quite a bit of the movie, so I just quit thinking about it and instead began to think how good it is that we don’t have centuars around because it would be really hard for them to duck through our typical doorways. Those dudes were tall.
    I have heard [and maybe somebody out there can confirm this] that not all Naria books were going to be made into a movie. If that’s true then I am surprised that they choose to make this book into a movie, because while a great book, I wouldn’t imagine it had enough material to warrent a whole movie [compared to all the titles].

    those are my two cents…

  15. josh

    Oh Ok… well then nevermind about the raving about this one…

    It wasn’t as good as I expected. After they stayed as close as can be expected to the book in the first one I really hoped they would do the same with Caspian but they didn’t… However, like i’ve told all my friends, if you haven’t read the book yet you can really enjoy the movie a lot. It’s well-made and pretty exciting. But the story did get watered down a great deal.

    But there’s still hope for Dawn Treader… It’s always been my favorite Narnia book anyway…

  16. Adam

    I’m don’t think anyone mentioned this but I thought that the part where Lucy sees Aslan for the first time in the movie didn’t communicate what C.S Lewis meant for that moment. In the film, Lucy says to Aslan “You’re bigger” to which he replies “for every year you grow, I grow” or something essentially like that. In the book he replies by saying:
    “That is because you are older, little one”
    “Not because you are?”
    “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”
    My brother and I had a talk about this (a recurring theme in this discussion, it seems) and he mentioned that Aslan doesn’t change like the film implies, but our capacity to understand him grows as we grow and learn.
    Oh well, the fighting and costume design was more than awesome. I enjoyed it.

  17. becky

    The discussion about this movie reminded me of Jason Gray’s post a couple of weeks ago about spotting pheasants. One of the points of that post (or at least one of the things I got out of it) was that what we see depends on what we are looking for. Our expectations color our vision.

    If you go to Prince Caspian expecting a very faithful adaptation of the book, then you will probably be disappointed. Your points about what was left out were good ones. A couple of my friends mentioned that they were upset that Peter’s fundamental character was changed, and I would agree with that. I don’t think the fight scene in the beginning added anything at all to the plot, and it was totally against everything that Peter was about in the books. I also think it was a mistake to leave out the nurse.

    But I have to say that I really loved the movie anyway. I particularly liked the clear idea that they could not fight their enemies alone, and when they tried to go their own way it led to disaster. Like Moses killing the Egyptian, or the Israelites belatedly trying to go into Canaan after the ten spies gave bad reports of the dangers they would have to face. Racing ahead with our own plan, without waiting for God, leads to inevitable failure. I really liked when (I think) Lucy said that Peter was forgetting who defeated the White Witch in the first place. God is the one who has defeated sin and death, not me. So why do I work so hard at proving I can fight them on my own?

    Another thing I loved was how everything in that world responded to the voice of Aslan. The trees and the river knew their master’s voice, and responded to his call. And the way they were done in the movie was just awesome.

    I think that if you had not read the book, and gone to the movie looking for the your favorite parts of it, you would be raving about this movie instead of ranting about it. Like Jason’s pheasants, God can be spotted all over this movie if you are looking for him. Were there flaws in it? Yes. Did they stick closely to the book? No. But was it a great film, that can teach us some things about who God is? I think so.

  18. Boyd

    I managed to see Prince Caspian last night. Its been a long time since I read the book. I could feel that the film wasn’t quite the same as the book, but couldn’t remember in what ways in particular. So I wasn’t worried about adaptation issues. This of course left me free to watch the film with a somewhat fresh perspective, and as much as it pains me to ever disagree with the proprietor himself (love your music), I thought the film had some strong moving themes, especially if you follow Peter’s arc. While the film is titled Prince Caspian, the through-line in my opinion occurs largely through Peter’s character. It is the story of Peter, back in a boys body, having once grown into a man, striving to reclaim his authority, and establish his own Lordship rather than come under the Lordship of the creator /saviour figure of Aslan (established in the first film). The payoff is that when he does humble himself and acknowledges his inability and failings in trying to go it alone, Aslan comes through and there is restoration and redemption. It is the strongest theme from first to last. Who is Lord? or in who or what does one put his hope. I also think Aslan is a strong presence throughout the film (through symbols like the stone table, and emblems of himself) and is far from a distant figure. But I will refrain from putting forward an essay of evidence for my points, and refer instead to previous responses that concur.

    As an aside I was wondering how you would feel Andrew if Disney/Walden Media (or anyone for that matter) approached you about developing ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS. An interesting exercise for you would be to draw up a synopsis (if you haven’t already) that could be adapted into a feature length film (approx 120 pages/90 min – 2 hours) and see what you came up with in terms of what would make a good film, while retaining your themes.

  19. James Glass

    I liked the movie a lot. I think that it was great, but I must say that I too am disapointed in the cats

  20. Paul Holderman

    Well I just saw the new Disney installment and I cannot beleive how they butchered the story, in alot of cases with no sense to it at all.
    – The nurse aspect removed
    – Miraz was already king and they have him as aspiring to be king
    – The witch was incased with Ice??? why?
    – Peter seemed to be holding a huge chip on his shoulder the whole movie.. it starts out with him figthing other kids too? Why? In the book he dispayed along with Edmond, kingly qualities.
    – Susan kisses Caspian romanticly?!? WHY?

    Oh there are so many more things I could list, but to save my wrists, you measure it up to what is a great story showing us our indivdual relationships with God. Disney would have sold this one out if they had stuck to the original story, which was great already. They have made a lame attempt or a classic and a 1 and a half star money-maker.

    Mr. Lewis I am sure is turning over. Also, why did the Lewis estate allow Disney to do all the changes and rearranging of the story?

  21. Paul Holderman

    Well I just saw the new Disney installment and I cannot beleive how they butchered the story, in alot of cases with no sense to it at all.
    – The nurse aspect removed
    – Miraz was already king and they have him as aspiring to be king
    – The witch was incased with Ice??? why?
    – Peter seemed to be holding a huge chip on his shoulder the whole movie.. it starts out with him figthing other kids too? Why? In the book he dispayed along with Edmond, kingly qualities.
    – Susan kisses Caspian romanticly?!? WHY?

    Oh there are so many more things I could list, but to save my wrists, you measure it up to what is a great story showing us our indivdual relationships with God. Disney would have sold this one out if they had stuck to the original story, which was great already. They have made a lame attempt of a classic and a 1 and a half star money-maker.

    Mr. Lewis I am sure is turning over. Also, why did the Lewis estate allow Disney to do all the changes and rearranging of the story?

  22. Amy

    I read these books as a child and really don’t remember them. I just saw the movie, and thought it was ok.

    Re: books vs. movies, I find I always like the books better. I do find that it helps to have some distance between the time of reading the book and watching the movie, though, if I’m to like the movie.

    Also, if I see a movie before I read the book, I usually can’t read the book. One exception was Big Fish. And I ended up liking the book better than the movie and I had really loved the movie and now I like the movie less since I read the book. sigh.

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