Thursday, January 05, 2006

Narnia Movie Review

Click here to read.


Graham Weeks said...

I clicked to read but only saw this message :-(
"You are not a member of the group narniamovies."

Celal Birader said...

oopsey ! it looks like one has to join the list which is easy
but i will reproduce the review here in this email for your benefit :
Someone asked why I didn't like the new movie, and especially because my response to the new movie is extremely intertwined with the way I feel about the BBC, I'm just going to repost my review, from a few days after I saw it, of it here:

I saw the Narnia movie last week, and I've been mulling it ever since.

I didn't like it. Flat on the table, I didn't like it, and I'll tell you why. But before I do, you have to understand what The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe means to me.

The problem, for me, when it comes to the Narnia movie, is that in my head, the original isn't the book - it's the BBC movie. This, naturally, should go strongly against my crede to always read the book first, etc etc - but I can't help it. When I was five years old I saw the BBC edition, and I watched it every week and I loved it and I still know it all by heart, inflections and theme music and everything, and it's what made me fall in love with fantasy. I think I was ten years old before I found out that (a)it was based on a book, and (b)there were other Narnia stories!

So for me, LLW is a BBC movie, that I love, and so I came to this movie with a bias. But I don't think that it was entirely that bias that made me unhappy with it.

My main fault with the movie is that it felt like it was rushing. Yes, it waw two and a half hours long, but it still felt like it was Narnia on speed, chop chop, lets get to the next point, the next encounter, the next adventure, quick quick quick, without giving us any time to mull, to appreciate, to care.

Bam! we're at Digory's house. Bam! Lucy found the wardrobe, and oh, now Edmund too, but we don't believe Lucy, and now, bam! we all found Narnia, impossible, huzzah.

I reflect back to the BBC edition (and I apologize, but I cannot talk about LWW without bringing the BBC into play) that was produced and aired in three parts, and the first part ended with the four children entering Narnia and discovering that Tumnus's house had been sacked. A whole hour, dedicated to Peter and Susan disbelieving Lucy, and Edmund being snide, but knowing definitly that he's wrong and he's in too deep and doesn't know how to get out, and knowing that he's allied himself with the wrong side, but being too stubborn and too much in his rotten kid stage to be able to pull himself out. A whole hour of tension and worry, in which Digory talks to them and then the Macready comes with guests, and run! and then they find Narnia, and it is amazing. There is such an amazing feeling of relief, of wonder and joy and satisfaction, after the whole buildup.

Disney's Narnia just runs from scene to scene to scene, without making me hate Edmund or want to shake Peter and Susan, or cry. It doesn't make me breath the name "Aslan" along with Lucy the first time we see him, and it doesn't bring tears to my eyes when we finally, finally meet Aslan, after running and escaping Jadis, and spring! glorious spring, that is barely mentioned or remarked on except as an inconvenience, something that nearly drowns them.

The moment of Aslan's rebirth, when I watch the BBC movie, or even when I listen to the RSC production musical, always, always makes me cry, and when Lucy and Susan ride Aslan to the Witch's castle, I weep buckets. This movie didn't make me shed a tear. It all happened too fast. They leave; Aslan comes back; climb on, kids! And we're running, we're in the statue garden, hey, it's Mr. Tumnus, and he's alive, and isn't this cool?

The BBC has this wonderful scene where Aslan and the girls enter the Witch's lifeless, dead garden, and slowly, it becomes and lively, happy place, brimming with people and creatures and life. Not to mention Rumblebuffin, who cameoed, but didn't get named. Oh, my Rumblebuffin. It's just a moment, a lingering scene, to show the difference between Jadis and Aslan isn't only that his creatures are pretty and hers are ugly - it's that she is death and he is life, she is winter and he is spring. And he is returning life to Narnia, now even in her home - and it's marvellous. I can never watch that scene without smiling so wide I think my face will crack - and here? Aslan fixes Tumnus, and then we move on.

One other thing bothered me immensly - and that was that the girls sent back word of Aslan's death. I can't say anything for sure, because I don't remember the book clear enough to say which is canon, but in the BBC, after everything, the three of them see Aslan talking to Edmund, and Lucy wonders if Edmund knows what Aslan has done for him - and Susan or Peter basically says that he doesn't and they shouldn't tell him, because it is too much, too much to know that Aslan had to sacrifice himself for you, to make up for your mistakes. I always liked that, always thought that there was wisdom in that. But in this movie, they send word, and how is Edmund to avoid understanding what had happened? If there had been no word, after Aslan returned, there would be no need to say anything.

And then the battle. The battle is the one thing I loved. Jadis was hardcore - that chainmail dress was awesome, and the way she was fighting, with those two swords? I was almost, almost rooting for her. The BBC, with their trademark laughable budget, have nothing comparable, and even at age five, loving the movie, I knew that I had gotten shafted with that battle scene. I have been waiting over fifteen years for that battle scene, and it was lovely, and it was worth waiting for.

But - the aftermath. The BBC has lingering shots of the wounded, of Aslan telling Lucy to go tend to the others, of limping dryads leaning on each other's shoulders for support, and it brings home the message, the dangers of war, that there are casualties and there are deaths and there are consequences, and it hurts, and it's supposed to. In this movie, there was barely any aftermath - we fought a war, we won, now we're breing crowned, huzzah!

It has to hurt. Narnia is not a tame country, any more than Aslan is a tame lion. In Narnia, even if you are a small boy going through a rotten stage, the mistakes you make can kill. In Narnia, when you're sixteen and leading a battle, there are going to be people who die, and it might have been your fault.

For it to be important and meaningful, for me to be able to sob uncontrollably when Aslan comes back to life, even though I always know that it's coming, it has to hurt. There has to be pain - not uneccesary pain, mind, but there is always pain in these stories, and we have to be able to feel it, or the good parts won't be as powerful.

Maybe it's because this was a Disney movie, so they had to be tame, but this movie barely lingered. It rushed, on and on and on as fast as possible, and so it felt flat. It felt shiny and bright and slick, but it didn't feel deep, and it didn't move me.

My husband, who had made fun of the BBC's laughably low budget, after seeing this movie admitted that even with their low budget, the BBC had made a better movie than Disney with their high budget. That's a low blow, but it's true. The BBC can still make me cry. The Disney could barely make me sad.

Celal Birader said...

Hello Graham,

My wife and i also watched the BBC programme last night.

As you say, if it was an accurate depiction of what C.S. Lewis was going through, it seems strange, doesn't it, that he would have had *those kinds of* doubts and struggles.

My own view is that Lewis was trained in all the pagan and hellenistic philosophies (and proud of it,as Tolkien also seems to have been) and really his whole Christian life merely consisted of him trying to wean himself off that stuff.

His wife's death only revealed some such chinks in his mental armour.

This is why i'm a BIG fan of of the Hebraic roots of our Christian faith.