Would C.S. Lewis Like the Narnia Movies? | Talking Beasts

In a recent opinion piece, Fantasia Kitty (NarniaWeb Forum Administrator) said she felt the essence of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, joy, was largely absent from the first three film adaptations. Glumpuddle and Rilian give their two cents and go into reasons the movies turned out the way they did.

This episode’s Stump question: Which Narnia book is the shortest? Listen to see if Rilian gets it right. If you think you can stump a NarniaWebber, submit questions to podcast[at]narniaweb.com with “Stump” as the subject (please do not include the answer).

The C.S. Lewis Minute is brought to you by William O’Flaherty, author of C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell and creator of EssentialCSLewis.com.

Look for our next episode on Monday, August 7.

33 Responses

  1. Fireberry says:

    Excellent podcast! Much food for thought. I vastly agree with points made about the virtues of "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Blade Runner". Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" was mentioned which made me wish you also mentioned his "Great Gatsby". Gatsby is also a story very much about "Joy" — fleeting, illusory false joy, but joy nonetheless. I think Luhrmann struck that note vividly, in his own way (not that I'd want to see him do Narnia!). Otherwise, thanks so much for saying what needs to be said!

  2. hogglestock says:

    One problem I have with especially Christian movies is that they get too caught up in getting their big message across and forget to tell a story. That's what I'd like to see from the Silver Chair movie–tell a good story (and preferably the same story that's in the book!).

    • Anfinwen says:

      Exactly! We can get so caught up in messaging that the story gets left behind. Morals and values and lessons should just be incidental. Lewis didn't set out with Narnia to write sermons. He just wanted to write good interesting stories with a firm moral foundation. I can see that the good characters aren't lying or cheating or manipulating. I can see if someone is becoming braver or more compassionate. The filmmakers don't need to spell out the morals or message.

      • I didn't even know they were christian books until I was 14. And by then I had read them all at least 7xs.
        And I couldn't figure out why only the churches had them in their library lol.
        The books gave me hope without rules.

      • coracle says:

        Moral foundation? Sounds a bit like a Sunday School book prize for good attendance!
        Lewis talked about presenting children with nobility, honour, adventure, courage etc.

      • Rilian says:

        I read a great piece one time, don't recall where, and in it someone nailed the problem with "Christian movies": They don't trust the art of film making. They don't trust that someone can convey a message through the art without beating you over the head with it. Read about J.S. Bach's motivations for his orchestral pieces. They were truly divine, and his music reflects it. Lewis trusted his art. He talked about God without mentioning God. There are a lot of artists with a variety of styles, from Chris Nolan to Tim Burton, who trust their art.

    • Well said. I agree with it completely!

      • Lord Argoz says:

        I totally agree as well! This is why I so often hate Christian movies and books even while wishing I could love them.

  3. Larry W. says:

    Hopefully, the script for "The Silver Chair" will have at least some of its script taken directly from the dialogue of the books. One of the problems of the new movies is that they don't quote enough of what the characters say in the actors parts. Even if the story has to be shortened it seems that there should be something unchanged from the characters' original spoken words.

    • Glumpuddle says:

      I didn't like how they modernized the dialogue. The occasional “by jove” would have been nice, haha.

      • waggawerewolf27 says:

        Unfortunately that sort of expression is considered as so dated and upper/middle class British, it might not make it into the film, depending on whether or not they choose to keep a WW2 or 1950's historical background for Experiment House. Though Eustace and Jill will no doubt keep addressing each other as Scrubb and Jill.

      • Bardu says:

        The worst is how they sometimes rewrote the dialogue but got the meaning completely wrong, e.g. "Every year you grow, so shall I."

      • Rilian says:

        See, to me adding "by jove" would be such a non-issue. I can't think of a single moviegoer who wouldn't go because the phrase had that. Sadly, I think that maybe you're right it's a calculation made on the part of the film makers that it would date a film too much.

    • waggawerewolf27 says:

      Oops! Scrubb and Pole. They still do that sort of thing in the newspapers when writing articles about people.

  4. HPofNARNIA says:

    I think Lewis would only like the first movie, the 2nd and 3rd, not so much. But I think he would love the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre ones, and for some reason I still prefer them than the movies and I think partly because they managed to do all seven books without any problems. And whenever I listen to them I take some of the stuff from the Walden Movies and recreate and retell them differently in my imagination and that's how I fix the 3rd movie.

    • Anfinwen says:

      I couldn't agree more. Your last sentence is why I prefer a flawed movie to no movie at all. I can take the good parts to feed my imagination. It was mentioned in one of the earlier podcasts how Lewis would re-read things before giving judgment, and I think that's the way He'd approach the movies. I genuinely think He would enjoy seeing his world brought to life, but then would pick apart and censure the negative changes.

  5. Mayor Wilkins says:

    He would like them, but probably have his issues with them. 😉

    I think the first one, LWW, was beyond anything Lewis could have imagined when he was still with us. I'm sure seeing the talking animals and Aslan would blow his mind. 🙂 In the best possible way. LOL

  6. waggawerewolf27 says:

    Currently we are discussing Silver Chair in the Reading Group, and in my answers, to get some idea of what might be useful, I've been also comparing the book as I read it to the BBC TV version. Here you are discussing the Walden films, and yes, cinema is a different medium to an episodic TV production. But I very much fear that whatever the BBC TV version left out of its production might also be left out of the movie. Especially as you have drawn attention to how much atmosphere put into the book goes missing when it is translated into films that are more concerned with pacing than detail.

  7. Rick kuhn says:

    They don't get Aslan right. Welcome back Rillian.

  8. Jillfan says:

    The prince is back!!!! Silver chair spoilers?! Wow that seems like forever away in the future lol

  9. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    So great to have Rilian back on the podcast! 😀

  10. Ted C says:

    Why don't these people use their real names?

    • Glumpuddle says:

      Some NarniaWebbers prefer not to disclose their real names, so we all use aliases on the show for consistency.

      I'm Brian by the way. 😉

  11. Glumpuddle says:

    One thing we need to be careful about: I have noticed that very often when a fan guesses what Lewis's views on the movies would have been, their guess lines up exactly with their own views. So for example, fans that like LWW but dislike PC tend to assume that Lewis would have agreed with them.

    "What would Lewis have thought of the movies?" and “Do you think the movies were good adaptations?” are not the same question.

    • Rilian says:

      Very true. In fact, I am not confident that Lewis would have liked either of the films. I don't really think Tolkien would have liked the LotR films, even though I also love them and think they're probably the best adaptations we will ever see (which is not the same as saying the best adaptations possible).

    • Roger says:

      This is true of everyone. We all think that we sit closer to God, Jesus or Lewis than anyone else. The Third Commandment warns that we do not; we are not allowed to take God's name in vain. We are all too fallible. It is fun expressing an opinion though.

    • Pattertwig's Pal says:

      I wouldn't want to say with any confidence what Lewis (or any author) would like or dislike about an adaptation of their work. I never met Lewis and I still have a lot of his works and essays I have never read. Based on the quote from "On Stories," I suspect he would not be happy with the adaptation of Lone Islands in the Walden Version.

      • Glumpuddle says:

        I agree. And I think that essay indicates he probably would not have loved any of the movies. He disliked The Three Musketeers because "there is no weather." It favored excitement over atmosphere. I think the Narnia movies have generally done the same thing.

  12. Jillfan says:

    Very good point Gpuddle! We're not talking about our opinions on the movies we're speculating on C.S Lewis' opinions. I would think he would have been a little disappointed with the movies because they missed allot of the points that Lewis was trying convey. For example in LWW the emphasis was on the kids being the heros instead of Aslan. Lewis' message was about Aslan and the goodness and innocence of childhood not about the "oh I don't want to be a hero" storyline and stuff like that. He would have been disappointed with PC cause they missed the happiness of the old days returning. And he would have been VERY disappointed in VDT because the wonder and longing was overshadowed by a save the world plot. Of course we can't ask him so we don't know if he'd like them or not However I'd say he'd be rather disappointed in them cause several main themes from the books got lost in the films. Does anyone agree with me?

    • David kelly says:

      I agree with you Jillfan. I think overall Lewis would've been disappointed. He would've been impressed by the technology and ingenuity to bring his world to life, but that's about it. You already mentioned the depiction of Aslan and the themes. But the one thing I think not mentioned but would've likely been mentioned by him would be been the atmosphere of the films:frankly it doesn't have much. I feel that's something the Narnian films struggled with that the LOTR films got right. CS Lewis was great at creating atmosphere to create a disparity between our world and Narnia. It's not enough to see that we are in a different world, it's important to feel we are in a different world. I never get that while watching the films. The best example of making two worlds feel different from one another is The Wizard of Oz film. The contrast of black and white in the Kansas scenes and color in the Oz scenes was brilliant.

  13. Anhun says:

    I don't agree at all that mirth is a central theme of Narnia. It is a theme. But growth is far more central. That growth is what propels the plot and the characters. The mirth is expressed in incidents that are either incidental to the developmental focus, or they are part of the culmination of growth.

  14. You're saying some things that I truly hope for, for The Silver Chair film, but a cynical side of me says there is not much chance. However maybe this reboot is a good opportunity for a fresh take. The film makers need to kickstart the franchise to rebuild the popularity of the series because I don't thing we'll get the remaining four stories on screen if the next film or rwo are as unsuccessful as Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader.

    But as you say… better to make a good movie, even it's not a close adaption.