Saturday, December 20, 2008

Making it new

I always enjoyed the Narnia books when I was a kid and still like to pick them up now; even though I know they're not by any stretch of the imagination Literature with a capital L like you can claim for Tolkien, they have a lot of great description and imaginative characters and places.

I finally got to see Prince Caspian, which I missed in the movie theaters. Fun, though definitely could have used some editing. An entire battle was added, and the themes of teenage frustration with not growing up fast enough were pretty heavily emphasized. Makes sense; I never thought too much about how jarring it would be for these kids to travel back and forth from WWII and post-WWII England to a lovely fantasy world at the drop of a hat. For the religious parable audience, the frustration with a seemingly uncaring and unhearing deity was also a key theme.

As I may have said somewhere before, clearly the children of England all were inspired to take up drama training after Harry Potter and just in time for the Narnia films, because any one of these four could out-act the whole Harry Potter trio at, well, the drop of a hat. The youngest actress (Lucy), who was so delightful and natural in the first film, was straining a bit hard here, but still quite good; ditto for Peter, but Susan and Edmund made the most of their rather un-emphasized characters.

I still want to know what's going to happen if they go on and make this whole franchise, because Narnia's enemies in two time periods are, essentially, Arabs. They're called "Calormenes," but they wear turbans, they're dark, they talk like the Arabian Nights about gardens of delights and so forth, they trade in slaves, they're courteous but cruel, they're treacherous, their women are veiled... you get the idea. They appear briefly in the film under production now, so their appearance or lack thereof might give us a hint as to how it'll be done. I sincerely hope it'll be superior to Peter Jackson's handling of the enemies in Lord of the Rings, who might as well have been bearing flashing signs saying "Dangerous Eastern Peoples."

And finally, what will happen to Susan? Bowing to modern sensibilities and the demand for Girl Power, Susan takes heavy part in the battles here, and Lucy is of course more active in the next film. But in the books, Susan, out of the four, turns her back on Narnia for silk stockings and parties and lipsticks. Will it be blamed on her anger at being shoved around and taken away from her incipient romance with Prince Caspian (in the film, not the books)? Or will they bow to happy endings and include her in the last film? I don't even know what I would like best -- perhaps leaving her out but showing her repenting and thinking of Narnia in England as a closing scene. Lewis was not exactly comfortable with women in his own life, certainly not femininity as such, and it shows badly. I hope it can be improved.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Hi Heidi!

Happy holidays! Really interesting stuff as always, but it looks like it might be a moot point:

Good luck with the interviews--I want full details!