Opinion: The Narnia Movies Are Missing Something
The Essence of Narnia
By Fantasia Kitty
“The only thing that I find a little bit daunting is that I want this film to remain true to the essence of C. S. Lewis’s work.”
– Joe Johnston, The Silver Chair Director
What is it about The Chronicles of Narnia that drives children to go digging through their closets and wardrobes looking for Narnia? I know when I was little and my mom read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us, my dad pointed out in the back of one of our closets that there was a small door looking thing. Of course we were all excited thinking that if we could just get it open, it might lead into Narnia, but come to find out at a much older age, I learned it was nothing more than the access panel to our bathroom plumbing.
But this question popped into my head when Joe Johnston talked about keeping the “essence” of The Silver Chair in the movie. What does that really even mean? Or perhaps, as I thought to myself, what is it that sets Narnia apart from other popular fantasy novels? Why do readers check the backs of their closets and wardrobes, just in case….?
While others may disagree with my opinion (and that’s fine if you do), none of Walden Media’s three Narnia movies refueled that desire in me to go visit Narnia. Even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is arguably the best of the three, didn’t quite capture that feeling for me. Movie Narnia wasn’t a place that I was inclined to visit. Why was that? The movies weren’t any more dark or dangerous than the books. Bad things happened to the characters in the books, bad things happened to the characters in the movies. And there was Aslan! Perhaps there wasn’t as much Aslan as I would have liked, but he was there and I loved the majority of the scenes he was in.
After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion what the movies majorly missed out on was the counter to darkness: joy! C.S. Lewis wrote many, many scenes that were so joyful and happy and fun.
Even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie, which was the closest in terms of adaptation, cut almost everything wondrous that was in the book, with the exception of when Lucy first walks in through the wardrobe. Lewis spends several pages describing the melting snow, but the movie did it in a single cut. Aslan and the girls playing tag and joyfully celebrating his resurrection is not in the movie. And my favorite scene where Aslan brings all of the statues to life, which takes an entire chapter in the book, was cut down to a brief tear-jerking moment to make room for extended battle scenes. I found it so frustrating as I know they filmed scenes like Susan making snow angels and the coronation dance only to leave them out of the final release.
Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hilltop he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs.
– The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Ch. 15
The trend continued in the Prince Caspian movie. The wonder Caspian and the Old Narnians feel when meeting the Pevensies? Gone. The romp with the Greek Gods? Gone. Aslan and the girls freeing the Telmarine villagers? Gone.
At every farm, animals came out to join them. Sad old donkeys who had never known joy grew suddenly young again, chained dogs broke their chains, horses kicked their carts to pieces and came trotting along with them—clop-clop—kicking up the mud and whinnying.
– Prince Caspian, Ch. 14
I understand the concern of the filmmakers that adding a party while other characters are in a battle or not having a solid single storyline was perhaps not something that would work on screen, but the tradeoff of more battles cost the movies their Narnian feel and reduced them to standard Hollywood fantasy fare.
Hope for The Silver Chair
Moving onto my point, I feel like after Aslan and the wonder and joy of Narnia is its essence. Admittedly, The Silver Chair doesn’t have a lot of it, maybe that’s why people consider it one of the darkest books. But there is a scene at the end, do you remember it?
This is called the Great Snow Dance and is done every year in Narnia on the first moonlit night when there is snow on the ground. Of course it is a kind of game as well as a dance, because every now and then some dancer will be the least little bit wrong and get a snowball in the face, and then everyone laughs. But a good team of dancers, Dwarfs, and musicians will keep it up for hours without a single hit. On fine nights when the cold and the drum-taps, and the hooting of the owls, and the moonlight, have got into their wild, woodland blood and made it even wilder, they will dance till daybreak. I wish you could see it for yourselves.
The Silver Chair, Ch. 15
I start grinning just thinking about the possibilities of that scene. No other fantasy movie has a great snow dance, no other fantasy movie will have a great snow dance. The stereotypical Hollywood scenario is to make this a battle scene between the Underworlders and the Narnians as opposed to a happy, joyful, dance with fauns and dryads and dwarfs in the snow.
I’m praying the filmmakers take the risk and keep this scene in the movie! That would feel like a true moment of Narnian essence.
Fantasia Kitty is the Discussion Forum Administrator. She has been with NarniaWeb since 2004.
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