Prince Caspian (2008) Part 2: I Don’t Remember Any Ruins in Narnia

In a nice transition, we cut from the sound of Caspian blowing the horn to the sound of an automobile horn in our world as our old friend, Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), runs across a London street, wearing a school uniform and carrying suitcases. The car’s (uncredited) driver yells at her to watch where she’s going, and she apologizes as she hurries off. For the first time in this movie, we hear a musical theme from the last film’s the soundtrack. The movie reuses a lot of musical themes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe actually, sometimes without even remixing them. The first time I watched it, I found this something of an annoying distraction, but repeated viewings have given me an appreciation for it. The movie never musically hearkens back to the last movie without there being a good thematic reason for doing so. Even on my first viewing, I liked that we first hear an old theme in the scene where, after a scene entirely about new characters, we’re reintroduced to ones we already know.

We find Anna Popplewell’s Susan before her sister does. She’s wearing a uniform for the same school and browsing a magazine rack. (The movie doesn’t make a big deal of it but there’s a newspaper being sold there announcing the raid is over.) A rather geeky looking boy (Ash Jones) tries to strike up a conversation with her.

Geeky Boy: You go to St. Finbarr’s?
Susan: That’s right.
Geeky Boy: I go to Hendon House. Across the road. I’ve seen you. Sitting by yourself.
Susan: Yes, well…I prefer to be left alone.
Pause
Geeky Boy: Me too! What’s your name?
Susan: Phyllis.

This dialogue is pretty hilarious though I feel like Susan is being kind of mean. (Her counterpart in the books always tried to avoid hurting people physically or emotionally.) Of course, other viewers might feel that this guy is being a clueless stalker and Susan (and the movie) should be harder on him. But there’s something I really appreciate about this little bit of comic filler. The Narnia books describe Susan, both in Narnia and her own world, as the most physically attractive of the Pevensies. And the idea persists among both lovers and haters of the series that she’s really into boys. But I’d argue that they’re the ones who are into her. She’s not particularly into them.[1]A major part of one book’s plot is actually Susan rejecting a suitor and him not responding well. The common perception of Susan being boy crazy comes from the final Narnia book, The Last … Continue reading So it gratifies me greatly that this movie is portraying a guy as being attracted to Susan and her being uninterested. Now if only the film could keep that up for its entire runtime!

Anyway, Susan’s alias (Phyllis) is blown when Lucy runs up and tells her she’d better come quickly. The girls run into an underground railway station. (In the book, this station was above ground and rural by the way.) They find a crowd of other school children gathered to watch a fight between three boys. Two of them are handing the third his posterior. That third is Peter (William Moseley.) He and Susan lock eyes and she looks at him with reproach and disgust.

Just as Peter is getting his face pressed against the wall, another boy comes to his aid. It’s Edmund (Skandar Keynes.) He does his best, but Peter still takes quite a beating. Fortunately, two soldiers (John Bach and Jack Walley) come along and break up the fight. “Act your age,” one of them tells Peter. We then cut to the four Pevensies glumly seated on a bench with their luggage.

Edmund: You’re welcome.
Peter: I had it sorted.
Susan: What was it this time?
Peter: He bumped me.
Lucy: So you hit him?
Peter: No, after he bumped me, they tried to make me apologize. That’s when I hit him.

Um…yikes! In the literary Prince Caspian, Peter is a completely noble hero albeit one that makes a major mistake. He’s also a very humble hero and arguably as great a diplomat as he is a warrior. And here the adaptation has him brawling in public like a common hooligan. And it’s implied that this is something he’s been doing regularly for a while. Even if the movie really wanted to include this fight for the sake of more action, it would have been so easy to give Peter a more sympathetic reason for getting into it. He could have been defending a smaller boy against bullies.[2]That would have actually tied into his larger character arc in the movie anyway. We could have at least seen the two boys being really rude to Peter when they bumped into him, so that we’d be more likely to sympathize with him lashing out at them. Either of those ways to make Peter more sympathetic are so obvious that I’m not sure if I’m angry with the movie for not using them or impressed by it avoiding the obvious route.

I feel like his siblings’ reactions to Peter’s petty excuse in this shot pretty much sum it up.

Perhaps most troublingly for fans of the book, we’ll learn in a matter of seconds that his issues stem from a sense of wounded pride and entitlement. For many fans, this one change to this one character is enough to ruin the adaptation for them. I can understand that if King Peter was a huge role model for you growing up. But while I consider Peter in the book to be admirable and well written, he’s not a particular favorite of mine and while there’s a lot I dislike about the execution of this character arc for him, as well as with William Moseley’s performance, which feels like he’s playing a different character from the likeable one in the last film, there’s also a lot that appeals to me about it conceptually. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter’s journey was all about him learning to have more confidence. I like that this sequel gives him the opposite arc rather than rehashing what we’ve already seen. Also, I don’t really get why so many kids’ movies, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, feel that the main thing they need to teach their young viewers is to be more confident. Doubtless, there are some children who need to learn that but aren’t there also many-possibly even more-who suffer from overconfidence? Having the protagonist in a mainstream kids’ movie[3]I know I described this as being the Narnia movie most geared toward teenagers, but I also mentioned that I was speaking relatively. learn to be humble is an interesting and refreshing move if you ask me and one more in line with the broad themes of the Narnia books.[4]To be fair, while I’m not much interested in superheroes and haven’t kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m informed that many of its heroes start out as prideful and end … Continue reading

Back to the conversation.

Susan: Really! Is it that hard to just walk away?
Peter: I shouldn’t have to! I mean, don’t you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?
Edmund: Um, we are kids.
Peter: Well, I wasn’t always![5]Some fans have argued that English children in this time period were expected to mature as soon as possible what with World War II going on, making this angst on Peter’s part anachronistic. The … Continue reading It’s been a year. How long does he (Aslan) expect us to wait?
Susan: I think it’s time to accept that we live here. There’s no use pretending any different.

That last line is interesting in that it foreshadows events in the final Narnia story, The Last Battle. (If you haven’t read that one and don’t want anything spoiled for you, skip the rest of this paragraph.) They’re we’re informed that the older Susan has reached a point where if her siblings bring up Narnia, she says, “What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.” Many readers find this development for the character random and it’s not a bad idea for an adaptation to foreshadow it though I feel like this one may be trying too hard to make Susan sympathetic. Still, that’s better than just dropping the plot point entirely. That would be both the easiest and the most cowardly route to take if you ask me.

Susan notices her unwanted admirer from the magazine rack heading her way. (Don’t worry. He’s not stalking her. He’s just going to take the same train.) Quickly, she instructs her brothers to pretend they’re talking to her. “We are talking to you,” Edmund points out. Suddenly, Lucy yells, “ow!” and jumps to her feet. Even though I’d read the book, I assumed at first, she was trying to create a distraction to help Susan. But no. “Something pinched me,” says Lucy. “Hey! Stop pulling,” says Peter, rising to his feet. “I’m not touching you,” Edmund replies. As a train rattles past them, he and Susan feel the pull too and get to their feet. As a book fan, I’m tickled to report that the order in which the characters feel the mysterious sensation is the same as in the text.

Susan: What is that?!
Lucy: It feels like magic.
Susan: Quick, everyone holds hands.
Edmund: I’m not holding your hand!

Nevertheless, the Pevensies’ do grab each other’s hands.[6]Ironically, in the book, Edmund got the line about the experience having the feel of magic and the suggestion that everyone hold hands. The walls of the railway station appear to be sucked away bit by bit while everyone besides our heroes is oblivious to it. Suddenly, they’re standing in an empty cave. The train disappears down the railway tunnel which transforms into the cave’s mouth, leading out onto a beautiful beach. This is a great magical transition though regrettably it conveys more of the impression that the world around the characters is being pulled away when it should be they who are being pulled out of the world.

Lucy gives Susan a you-were-saying look. To her credit, Susan grins back and all four Pevensies run into the water, shedding their shoes and less comfortable school clothes, splashing each other and having a good time. In the book, they arrive in an uncomfortable thicket rather than a cave and are initially more shocked than delighted. They only happily rush into the water after they’ve picked their way out. I feel like that’s a little more believable, but I don’t mind the way the movie does the scene. I’ve described it earlier as being darker than the book or trying to be so anyway. This moment of joy is welcome, especially since it’s aided by a lovely location. We hear another old theme on the soundtrack, the one that played when all four Pevensies were in Narnia together for the first time in the last movie.

As the music fades, so does Edmund’s smile. That’s not to say he frowns; he just looks thoughtful. “Where do you suppose we are?” he asks. “Well, where do you think?” says Peter. “Well, I don’t remember any ruins in Narnia,” Edmund says. All four children grow silent as they stare up at the ancient remains of a castle on the cliffs above them. Then we see them exploring the site. Lucy eats an apple from an overgrown orchard. In the book, it takes the characters a long time to find this ruin and it’s stressed how grateful they are to find a source of food in the orchard as well as how sick they get before long of having nothing to eat but apples. I think I’m glad the movie trimmed all of that and also glad it still included the apples so that viewers would still get an idea of how the Pevensies avoid starvation.

“I wonder who lived here,” Lucy says. Susan’s foot bumps against a tiny golden figurine of a centaur studded with ruby fragments. “I think we did,” she says, picking it up. “Hey, that’s mine,” says Edmund, “from my chess set.” Peter asks him which chess set. “I didn’t exactly have a solid gold chess in Finchley, did I?” says Edmund. As we’ll see, this adaptation generally tries to be more emotionally intense than its source material, so it’s interesting that this moment was actually more emotional in the book. There the chess piece belonged to Susan herself and the memories it raised nearly reduced her to tears. If the movie weren’t going to try to be more tearjerking than the book later, I would object to toning down the emotions in this scene. But since the movie does try that, I think it makes for better pacing not to get too sad too soon.

Lucy realizes something. “It can’t be,” she whispers. Then she grabs Peter by the hand and drags him to an open area that was once an interior. Susan and Edmund follow. “Don’t you see?” says Lucy. “Imagine walls and columns there and a glass roof.” The Pevensies realize that they’re standing exactly where their thrones once were. “Cair Paravel,” murmurs Peter. In the book, he was the one who figured out that the ruins were their old castle centuries after they’d left.[7]And incidentally he did so after evening had fallen. Giving that role to Lucy is typical of how the movie makes its version of Peter less heroic than C. S. Lewis’s but, to be fair, it’s one of the less annoying instances of it.

Next Week: What About All Those New Characters from the First Scene?

References

References
1 A major part of one book’s plot is actually Susan rejecting a suitor and him not responding well. The common perception of Susan being boy crazy comes from the final Narnia book, The Last Battle, in which a character dismissively describes as being only interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations.” But, as one fan has pointed out online (in a forum that is no longer available to read) clothes and makeup are often a way for girls to impress each other.
2 That would have actually tied into his larger character arc in the movie anyway.
3 I know I described this as being the Narnia movie most geared toward teenagers, but I also mentioned that I was speaking relatively.
4 To be fair, while I’m not much interested in superheroes and haven’t kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m informed that many of its heroes start out as prideful and end up being humbled, so maybe I’m exaggerating the cinematic Prince Caspian‘s uniqueness. It should be noted though that it was released the same summer as Iron Man, the first movie in the MCU. Maybe Narnia was just ahead of the trend.
5 Some fans have argued that English children in this time period were expected to mature as soon as possible what with World War II going on, making this angst on Peter’s part anachronistic. The undertones of get-off-my-lawn in these critiques make me unsure how seriously to take them but they sound legitimate enough, so I’m including them in this footnote.
6 Ironically, in the book, Edmund got the line about the experience having the feel of magic and the suggestion that everyone hold hands.
7 And incidentally he did so after evening had fallen.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 1: You Won’t Be Watching the Stars Tonight, My Prince

This blog series is going to follow the same format as the one I did for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) so you might want to go back and read the introduction to that one since it explains why I’m going to give away my overall feelings about the adaptation before I describe the first scene.

After The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a huge financial hit, the Walt Disney Company had high hopes for its sequel, Prince Caspian, and gave it a corresponding budget. They were disappointed. One of the reasons for that may have been the decision to make that sequel a summer action movie rather than marketing it as a film for families to watch together over the holiday season as they’d done with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Another reason may have been returning director Andrew Adamson’s goal of making the sequel (relatively) darker and edgier and aimed more at teenagers, the age group least likely to gravitate toward Narnia. (The books are more for children and nostalgic adults.) But the main reason for the studio’s disappointment was probably that they forget that while the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a well-known and beloved classic of children’s literature, this is less true of the other books in the Narnia series. They’re beloved by people too, but not by the public in general and even among the fandom, Prince Caspian is widely considered the weakest installment.

Because they were adapting the least beloved Narnia book, Adamson and his returning collaborators, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely[1]Ann Peacock did not return, leading me to imagine her contributions to the first movie were minimal., probably felt that they had some leeway in adapting the book. This sequel takes far more artistic license with its source material than its predecessor and it should be noted that many critics praised it as the better of the two movies. Some would even call it better than the original book. But many Narnia fans were angered and disappointed by the liberties taken with the text, which I think is a heartwarming tribute to the book, showing how much fans love even the least favorite Narnia book. Or maybe the movie made people realize the book’s greatness.

Where do I stand? Well, I don’t consider the 2008 Prince Caspian movie better than the first Narnia movie on the whole. But neither do I consider it worse than it on the whole. They each have their pros and cons and for me, if no one else, it all balances out in the end. Now do I think the movie is better than the book? Well, I can understand that opinion-at a first glance. The adaptation removes some of its source material’s structural issues. It brings the title character into contact with the other four protagonists much sooner, allowing it to develop relationships between them, and trims the lengthy central section of the characters being lost in the wood.[2]Theoretically, there’s no reason why stories about people trying to find their way out of woods can’t be great. After all, the first really popular novel was Robinson Crusoe, which was … Continue reading But unfortunately, this adaptation also cuts some of the most emotionally potent themes and interesting ideas from the book, making for a movie that feels less specifically Narnian and much more like a generic fantasy action movie.

But, hey, sometimes a generic fantasy action movie, assuming it’s well made, is exactly what I feel like watching. Actually, it’s kind of amazing how much I enjoy the Prince Caspian movie considering how many strikes it has against it from my point of view. As I mentioned before, of the three Narnia movies, this is the one most trying to appeal to teenagers, and I think that’s a mistake if fidelity to the books’ spirit is a goal. And while I don’t necessarily mind the idea of a Narnia movie being dark per se, there being plenty of dark material in the books, to suggest that Prince Caspian is an edgier story than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is ridiculous. If anything, you could argue it’s the least intense Narnia story.[3]Well, literary critic Doris T. Meyers made a good argument that Prince Caspian is a more mature and adult book than its predecessor but in a comparatively subtle way. I feel like the filmmakers just went that direction because it’s Hollywood convention to make the second movie in a series be darker than the first one. C. S. Lewis, by contrast, made the seventh and last Narnia book, The Last Battle, the darkest by a long shot. Making Prince Caspian edgier arguably would have undermined that if Walden Media had been able to adapt the whole series. (It really should be noted though that this movie is dark compared to the 2005 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but hardly the darkest movie ever. Likewise, it’s aimed more at teenagers but can still be enjoyed by kids. Not every kid maybe but some.) Also, this is the Narnia movies that’s an action movie the most and, truth be told, while I enjoy a good action scene, modern action movies tend to give me headaches.

Yet, for all that, I get a big kick out of this movie. Why? Well, let’s start the deep dive.

Remember what I wrote in my analysis of the first Narnia movie about how this more recent Disney logo makes for a rough transition to dark, ominous opening scenes? Yep.

We open with a nifty transition from the Walden Media logo to two planets crossing each other in the Narnian night sky.

Those familiar with the book will realize that these are Tarva and Alambil.[4]Which were described as stars there, not planets, but never mind. They will also recognize that the adaptation is playing around with the original story’s chronology. The camera pans down to reveal a clifftop castle. It’s a great set-too great even. You see, it’s the castle of the Telmarines, this story’s villains and C. S. Lewis deliberately made them boring compared to the more colorful Narnians. This castle is just a little too cool in its creepy looking way to be boring. But in the movie’s defense, it can be tricky to make something look boring in a movie without the viewers just getting the impression the designers were simply untalented.

Fans of the book instantly learn that the adaptation is taking even more liberties with the chronology than they originally supposed[5]That is if they didn’t do any research before watching the thing. as a woman’s scream is heard and the camera zooms in on one particular room in the castle where a noblewoman (Alicia Borrachero), surrounded by midwives, is giving birth to a son.

The only midwife with a speaking part is played by Hana Frejkova who does a great job. When she asks for towels, I really believe she needs them.

In another room-it’s a great set by the way-a burly, grizzled soldier (Pierfrancesco Favino) enters to find a nobleman (Sergio Castellitto) staring up at the sky through a window. These two are the only ones there.

“Lord Miraz,” says the soldier, “you have a son.” In the book at this point, Miraz is already a king. The movie is going to show his rise to the throne which was summarized in one speech by a character in the book. “The heavens have blessed us,” Miraz says, still looking at the planetary phenomenon. “You know your orders.” The soldier hesitates, evidently not completely comfortable with these orders. Miraz turns his head slightly. “General Glozelle?” he says. “Yes, my lord,” the man replies. In the book, Glozelle is only really introduced before the climax of the story[6]The aforementioned speech summarizing Miraz’s political career mentions that “his flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become king” and it’s eventually implied … Continue reading and incidentally is a lord, not a general. He’s also completely a villain in the book with no apparent conscience. I think it makes sense to give him more screentime since he’s something of a deus ex machina in the source material. I generally dislike the idea of redeeming characters from the books who weren’t redeemed there but adding some sympathetic aspects to Glozelle’s character is going to allow this movie to keep an interesting little moment from the book that would otherwise have probably been cut. Anyway, on its own terms, this scene is great, especially the tension between Castellitto and Favino.

Meanwhile, a cloaked and hooded figure sneaks through the moonlit castle hallway, avoiding a sentry. He slips inside a royal bedchamber, draws open the bedcurtains and places a hand over the mouth of our hero, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes.) I should say a word hear about the casting here. Many fans object to Barnes, who was in his early twenties at the time, playing this character who is a boy in the book. However, the only thing the book specifically says about Caspian’s age is that he was about as old as Peter and the previous movie had already cast a teenager as that character, a teenager who was even older when this sequel was filmed and yet nobody complained then. To me, the important thing is that Caspian looks like he could be Peter’s peer and Barnes does a great job making the character seem youthful and naive. I think the reason fans insist on seeing Caspian as really young in the book is that C. S. Lewis stresses that he was a very little boy in the first chapter depicting him and fans forget that years take place between that chapter and the main body of the story. The movie entirely cuts the section of the story about Caspian’s childhood, and I have strong opinions about that but let’s put the subject on the back burner for now, shall we? Caspian’s eyes pop open in fear but he relaxes when he sees that he’s being awakened by his twinkly eyed gray bearded tutor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass who’s great in the role.) Actually, they never say Cornelius’s name in the movie; everyone just addresses him as “doctor” or “professor.” It’s in the credits though and I’m going to use it on this blog.

“Five more minutes,” Caspian says, rolling over. “You won’t be watching the stars tonight, my prince,” says Cornelius. This is a reference to the book in which he sometimes takes Caspian up on the castle battlements at night for astronomy lessons. In fact, during one such lesson, he revealed to Caspian the true history of Narnia about which everybody is forbidden to speak. It was a wonderfully atmospheric scene in the book that has been barbarically scrapped by this movie. (Remember what I mentioned about Caspian’s childhood?) “Come,” says Cornelius, “we must hurry.” He drags Caspian over to his wardrobe. “Professor, what’s going on?” he asks. “Your aunt has given birth to a son,” says Cornelius. There’s a great moment of silence as the implications of this, not yet clear to the viewers, sink in for Caspian. Cornelius reveals a secret passage in the back of the wardrobe and bustles the prince inside. They close the door behind them, but Caspian lingers to peer through the crack and see what happens in his absence. Glozelle leads a group of bowmen into the room. They surround Caspian’s bed and fire arrows at it, only to find the bed empty.

Did I mention I love this film’s sets?

Cornelius hastily helps Caspian dress and arm himself. “You must make for the woods,” he instructs the prince as he mounts a horse in the stables, “they won’t follow you there.” In the book, Dr. Cornelius[7]Lewis always calls him Doctor Cornelius but I’m going to call him Dr. to save typing. also tells Caspian to seek sanctuary in the court of King Nain of Archenland. That is a much more intelligent plan than just hiding in the woods, but I don’t blame the movie for cutting it since neither King Nain nor Archenland are ever going to appear in this story. Then Cornelius hands Caspian an object wrapped in cloth. “It has taken me many years to find this,” he says. “Do not use it except at your greatest need.” “Will I ever see you again?” asks Caspian. Don’t ask me why he would ask that instead of “what is this mysterious object and why must I use it at my greatest need?” Well, because this movie wants to retain a mystery in the book’s plot while avoiding the nonlinear storytelling that allowed it to be a mystery. “I dearly hope so, my prince,” says Cornelius. “There is so much more I meant to tell you. Everything you know is about to change.” They hear a voice outside calling for the drawbridge to be closed so naturally Caspian has to hightail it out of there, leaving Cornelius feeling like a fool for saying, “everything you know is about to change,” a line obviously written so it could be used in the movie’s trailer, instead of taking the time to tell Caspian just what the mysterious artifact is to be used as a last resort.

Caspian rides across the courtyard. Two sentries try to stop him, but he knocks aside their pikes, taking one of them. He gallops across the stone drawbridge on his horse as celebratory fireworks go off in the background. (In case that sentence was confusing, they’re celebrating the baby’s birth, not Caspian’s escape.) A town crier (Douglas Gresham, one of the movie’s producers and the head of C. S. Lewis’s literary estate) is heard proclaiming that “Lady Prunaprismia has this night given Lord Miraz a son.” Glozelle and his soldiers chase Caspian on horseback through the town and into the countryside. I may be alone here, but this is an iconic opening for me.

Like the last movie, this has a great opening credits scene albeit one with a very different feel. Caspian enters the woods, and his pursuers initially hang back in fear with the exception of Glozelle. “Which of you superstitious old women wants to spend the night in a cell?” he demands. Reluctantly, they follow him. In the book, the Telmarines fear the woods because of their people’s past inhumanity to trees and imagine them to be full of ghosts. As a fan, I’m glad that this was kept but it’s unfortunate that the movie never explains it. We can deduce that they believe these particular woods are haunted but not necessarily why. Oh well. We do get to see some lovely scenery in this chase scene and listen to some great tense chase music by composer Harry Gregson-Williams.

At one point, Caspian has to ride across a ford. (This is the ford of Beruna which was supposed to be the location of the battle in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.) The obstacle relieves him of some of his pursuers but not all of them. He does put enough space between himself and them to give him hope. Hilariously (and intentionally), the dramatic mood is shattered when he looks behind him, then turns back only to get hit in the head by a low hanging branch, knocked off his horse and dragged around for a while before finally managing to get his foot out of the stirrup. Caspian lies there on the ground while his steed runs off. (In the book, by the way, something like this didn’t happen until he’d been riding for a whole day and into another night. The Telmarine castle is much closer to the woods in the movie.) The silence grows ominous.

Caspian painfully raises himself and is shocked to see two dwarfs, one with a red beard (Peter Dinklage) and one with a black beard (Warwick Davis who also played a couple of roles in the BBC’s Narnia miniseries from the late 80s and early 90s), emerge from under the roots of a tree. There’s also light coming from under the roots and if you have sharp eyes you can see a talking badger behind them.

“He’s seen us,” says the black bearded dwarf. Both of them carry swords. Caspian’s lies out of reach. The red bearded dwarf, blade drawn, runs up to Caspian but stops when he sees that the bundle Dr. Cornelius gave the prince has unfurled, revealing an ivory horn that should look familiar to viewers though the camera probably doesn’t linger on it long enough for it be recognizable. The dwarf recognizes it though. Apparently, so do the other one and the badger though they should be standing too far away to see it in the dark. One of the Telmarine soldiers appears on the horizon. “Take care of him” the red dwarf tells the other and runs to distract the newcomer. It eventually becomes clear that the sight of the horn has earned Caspian these dwarfs’ loyalty and that he means “take care of him” in a friendly sense. Why this is so won’t be abundantly clear, I’m sorry to say, but it’s too early to start criticizing that. Caspian understandably interprets the red dwarf’s words in a threatening way and when the black dwarf heads his way, he grabs the horn in desperation, raises it to his lips and blows before the dwarf knocks him out. I’d roll my eyes at Caspian blowing the horn seemingly hours after being told to only do so in his greatest need-if it took that long. But I understand why the filmmakers had him do so. And all quibbles aside, I really do love this opening scene. Some viewers may not like how it features none of the characters from the first movie and doesn’t even explain very much about the new ones it introduces but I don’t mind. If anything, I enjoy the mysteriousness of it all.

Well, this feels like a good place for a cliffhanger.

Next Week: How Have the Four Pevensies Been Doing Since the Last Movie?

References

References
1 Ann Peacock did not return, leading me to imagine her contributions to the first movie were minimal.
2 Theoretically, there’s no reason why stories about people trying to find their way out of woods can’t be great. After all, the first really popular novel was Robinson Crusoe, which was all about its hero surviving in the wilderness. And the profitability of shows like Survivorman and Man vs. Wild testify to the hold the theme has on the human imagination. But when I look back on the scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia that I feel like rereading the most often, the scenes of Prince Caspian that focus on the characters struggling to survive in the wild are nowhere near the top of the list and the book’s relative lack of popularity makes me think I’m not alone in that.
3 Well, literary critic Doris T. Meyers made a good argument that Prince Caspian is a more mature and adult book than its predecessor but in a comparatively subtle way.
4 Which were described as stars there, not planets, but never mind.
5 That is if they didn’t do any research before watching the thing.
6 The aforementioned speech summarizing Miraz’s political career mentions that “his flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become king” and it’s eventually implied Glozelle was one of them, but this is easy to miss.
7 Lewis always calls him Doctor Cornelius but I’m going to call him Dr. to save typing.
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The Best Great Expectations Miniseries Is Unavailable for Streaming

It may sound crazy to say that the Disney Channel produced a better miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations than the BBC ever did but that’s what happened in 1989!

Just eight years prior to the 1989 miniseries, the BBC had done its own version and it’s astonishing to see how much more visually appealing the later series was. Credit to that goes to director Kevin Connor, cinematographer Doug Milsome and production designer Keith Wilson. True, the sets don’t look as “lived in” as much as might be wished and the costumes even less so but for a TV serial of this time, they’re quite impressive and the locations are lovely.

The casting for the 1989 miniseries is also superior to that of the 1981 version and the scripts by John Goldsmith[1]Who also wrote adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and David Copperfield in 1995 and 2000 respectively. are far more engaging. Basically, this adaptation makes the 1981 miniseries look dull and clunky in every way. Well, truth be told, I think that one comes across as dull and clunky by itself, so that’s small praise. But I’d also stake the 1989 Great Expectations against any of the other miniseries based on the book and there have been several. In fact, I’d stake it against any adaptation yet made. That’s not to say it’s only one that’s any good, just that it’s the most consistently great in my opinion.

Of course, nothing is perfect, so I’ll start with a flaw. Young Martin Harvey who plays the character of Pip in his childhood[2]This is going to be one of those blog posts where I don’t explain the story. If you haven’t the read the book, you should either do so or read my previous post. is something of a weak link in the cast. His facial expressions are pretty great, but his line deliveries tend to sound fake compared to those of everybody else. And his crying sounds even more so.

Anthony Calf as the older Pip though is perfect. He looks and sounds more like how I imagine the character than any other portrayal I’ve seen, and he’s helped by the writing which excels at finding ways for Pip to express his thoughts aloud to the other characters that he only tells readers in the book. If I had blogged about this miniseries before I did my “awards ceremony” post, Calf’s Pip would have been a shoe in for best antihero.[3]Jeremy Irvine’s Pip from the 2012 movie would have gotten an honorable mention.

Another problem with this production is the choice to have Pip’s two possible love interests, Biddy and Estella, each be played by a single actress throughout the whole series rather than using child actresses in the characters’ youths and older ones afterwards. I know, I know. It’s unfair of me to first say that the child actor for Pip was inferior to the adult actor and then criticize the decision to not use child actors for other characters.[4]The only other character here to be portrayed by two different actors is Herbert Pocket who is played by Henry Power as a boy and Adam Blackwood, who was Dick Swiveller in The Old Curiosity Shop from … Continue reading This probably does make for more consistently great acting but if you’re not familiar with the story, it’s very confusing. Biddy’s early maturity isn’t as impressive when she looks like an adult from the beginning and there’s a scene where we see Estella as a teenager for the first time that was clearly written to be the first look viewers would get of her played by a new actress, but she looks just like she did the last time we saw her except that she’s wearing more age-appropriate clothing.[5]Viewers familiar with the historical culture in which this story takes place can theoretically tell that the characters are supposed to be younger based on how they wear their hair. But if said … Continue reading

Fortunately, the actual quality of the actresses’ performances is exemplary. As I wrote previously, anyone playing Estella has to delicately balance many contradictory characteristics to bring this unforgettable character to life. Kim Thomson does so without breaking a sweat, giving us an Estella who is sometimes icily indifferent, sometimes casually friendly and sometimes intensely bitter. Returning to the scenario in which I’d blogged about this miniseries before my awards ceremony, she’d have won best antiheroine.

Susan Franklyn is also great as Biddy. Like Thomson, she’s helped by how well this adaptation develops her character. You could even argue she has a bigger presence here than in the book. (Remember what I wrote about this miniseries finding ways to have Pip confide things in other characters that he only tells us through narration in the book?) Estella may be the story’s leading lady, but this adaptation understands that Biddy is its heroine in the moral sense.

You’ve probably picked up by now that this miniseries has a stellar cast. As awkward and ignorant as the loveable Joe Gargery can be, John Rhys-Davies plays him without a hint of condescension or winking at the camera. Some of the most emotional moments in the series belong to him.

As Pip’s shrewish older sister, Rosemary McHale makes her character’s abuse of her brother and her husband genuinely disturbing while simultaneously bringing great comedic timing to the role.

Other great performances include those of Anthony Hopkins as Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict who terrorizes young Pip[6]Though I must admit I prefer Ralph Fiennes from the 2012 movie, partly because, for once, the character is better developed there. Hopkins is still great though.,

Ray McAnally as Jaggers the fearsome lawyer[7]Don’t read this footnote if you haven’t read the book or experienced any adaptations. His most memorable scene is in the last episode where, after being chilly and inhumane throughout the … Continue reading,

and Charles Lewsen as his clerk, Wemmick who is cold and businesslike to the point of cruelty in his “professional capacity”

but friendly and playful outside of office hours.

But as much competition as she has, the crown jewel of the cast by a long shot is Jean Simmons, whom you’ll recall played the young Estella in the 1946 movie, as Miss Havisham. She brings a throaty growl to every line that she doesn’t venomously spit or deliver in a mournful wail. Even when she’s not speaking, she seems to radiate bitterness. I fully believe that she’s brooded over her grudge every day for years. This is the most awesomely creepy Miss Havisham I’ve ever seen, and she would have won the “Adaptee” for best tragic villainess with her hands tied behind her back.[8]I’ve gone on record as saying that Helena Bonham Carter was more moving as the remorseful Miss Havisham in the last act of the story and I’ll stand by that. But I enjoy Simmons’s … Continue reading

Nearly every minor character from the novel is present in this adaptation. There’s harried Matthew Pocket (Jonathan Newth) and his lazy, pretentious wife, Belinda (entertaining Angela Ellis),

Wopsle (John Quentin), the overly ambitious amateur actor,

“Trabb’s boy” (Mark Williams who’s good but I’d have preferred a younger actor in the role), the insolent tailor’s assistant who irritates Pip

and Orlick (Niven Boyd), the vengeful journeyman.

True, not all of these subplots are as well developed as in the book. I wish there were more audible heckling in the scenes of Wopsle’s bad performances to make them funnier and Orlick only shows interest in Biddy in one shot, making his later accusation that Pip “come twixt” the two of them rather inexplicable. Still, this is adaptation is an admirably complete take on the novel’s plot. In fact, it expands on the minor character of the useless young manservant who Pip hires for the sake of a genteel appearance and gives him a subplot to good effect. As played by Paul Reynolds, he resembles a young Uriah Heep and that’s no accident as this version has him conspire with his employer’s enemies.

Sadly, this adaptation does stumble a bit at the finish line. The way it handles a plot twist in the second-to-last scene[9]You’ll know it when you see it. makes Dickens’s bittersweet ending, which leaned more into the sweet in the book, lean more into the bitter here. A botched ending can sometimes ruin a whole story, but the very last scene of the miniseries, taking place eleven years afterwards, manages to mollify me. The adaptation moves the location to the churchyard to bookend with the very first scene of the first episode. I’m theoretically against this change since the scene’s location in the source material is thematically significant. But I’ll allow it since it gives the miniseries the opportunity to put a hilariously ironic inscription on the tombstone of one of the villains. I’d like to think Dickens himself would have gotten a kick out of that addition to his story.

No, I’m not going to show you the inscription. Maybe I should though since exasperatingly this, my favorite adaptation of Great Expectations, is unavailable for streaming anywhere and has only ever been released on VHS and Region 2 DVDs, something not every DVD player will play! Oh, the injustice! Currently, the miniseries can be watched on YouTube though it could be taken down for violating copyright at any moment. Normally, I would advocate paying for it but since whoever owns the series isn’t really selling it, I advise everyone to enjoy it while they have the chance.

References

References
1 Who also wrote adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and David Copperfield in 1995 and 2000 respectively.
2 This is going to be one of those blog posts where I don’t explain the story. If you haven’t the read the book, you should either do so or read my previous post.
3 Jeremy Irvine’s Pip from the 2012 movie would have gotten an honorable mention.
4 The only other character here to be portrayed by two different actors is Herbert Pocket who is played by Henry Power as a boy and Adam Blackwood, who was Dick Swiveller in The Old Curiosity Shop from the same screenwriter, as a man. Did the director just have something against child actresses?
5 Viewers familiar with the historical culture in which this story takes place can theoretically tell that the characters are supposed to be younger based on how they wear their hair. But if said viewers aren’t familiar with the book, I can easily imagine them assuming on a first viewing that the makers of the miniseries just didn’t do research on age-appropriate hairstyles.
6 Though I must admit I prefer Ralph Fiennes from the 2012 movie, partly because, for once, the character is better developed there. Hopkins is still great though.
7 Don’t read this footnote if you haven’t read the book or experienced any adaptations. His most memorable scene is in the last episode where, after being chilly and inhumane throughout the series prior, he reveals himself to be capable of compassion.
8 I’ve gone on record as saying that Helena Bonham Carter was more moving as the remorseful Miss Havisham in the last act of the story and I’ll stand by that. But I enjoy Simmons’s overall take on the character more and it’s not like she’s bad in the scenes where we sympathize with Miss Havisham. Her reminiscing over the first time she saw Estella is especially powerful.
9 You’ll know it when you see it.
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Two Adaptations of Great Expectations that Deserve Commendation

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens has been adapted into several miniseries and you’d expect that I, as a fan of the book, would prefer those to the film adaptations. After all, they’re longer, slower paced and theoretically include more from the rich source material. But, weirdly enough, there is only one miniseries adaptation of Great Expectations that I love, one I hope to cover on this blog next week. The rest of them range from OK to bad in my estimation. Two of my favorites are shorter movie adaptations, one from 1946 directed by Sir David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) and one from 2012 directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) The first one isn’t a controversial choice since it’s widely considered a masterpiece, both as an adaptation of the book and a movie in its own right. The second, while not widely hated or anything, is regarded as inferior but I’m not convinced of this. I’m going to look at both movies, what they each do well and what they each do poorly.

Writing and Direction

David Lean’s Great Expectations is justly celebrated for its atmosphere. The opening scene of the main character, a young boy called Pip (Philip Pirrip), being confronted by an escaped criminal in a churchyard on the lonely Kentish marshes is magnificently creepy. So is Satis House, the manor whose mistress, Miss Havisham, has decreed that everything shall stay in it exactly as it was the moment she received a letter from her con artist fiancé breaking off their engagement on what was to be their wedding day. Mike Newell’s direction for his Great Expectations is basically fine but rather bland by comparison.[1]I really wish that another Harry Potter director, Alfonso Cuaron, could have directed this version of Great Expectations instead of the 1998 movie which reimagined the story in contemporary America … Continue reading It drives me crazy how much sunlight gets through the cracks of Newell’s Satis House when it’s supposed to be lit only by candles. This makes a line about how a character raised there has never seen her mother figure’s face by daylight ridiculous. But on the flipside, the emotionally uplifting scenes in Newell’s Great Expectations tend to be much better directed than those in Lean’s which tend to be rather flat compared to the creepy ones. To be fair, a great deal of that may be due to the scriptwriting.

There’s much to love about both the screenplay for the 1946 movie by Lean, Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allen, Kay Walsh and Cecil McGivern and the screenplay for the 2012 movie by David Nicholls. Each one stays very true to the book’s story and dialogue while gracefully simplifying them for the movie format and nearly every scene is packed with little fan-pleasing details. I think of the two I prefer the 2012 script since it does a better job of developing the most important characters and even some of the less important ones as I hope to show below. There are some great lines from the 1946 script that aren’t in the 2012 one though. I especially have to praise it for including more lines from the book that indicate the character of Estella’s dark side.

In a wonderful piece for the Guardian, David Nicholls mentions voiceover narration and flashbacks as risky cinematic devices. His Great Expectations uses flashbacks but not narration. The 1946 movie uses narration but not flashbacks. Each one demonstrates the benefits of the risk it takes. When Pip returns to his old neighborhood after having a fortune and the status of a gentleman dropped in his lap in the 1946 movie, voiceover grants us access inside his head and we learn exactly how he talks himself out of visiting his old friends from when he was a lowly blacksmith’s apprentice-the only friends he had growing up. This also allows it to include one of the most haunting quotes from the book. “All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretenses did I cheat myself.” By contrast, the 2012 movie has only an awkward scene of Pip walking all the way to the blacksmith’s forge, seeing one of his friends without being seen, and then wordlessly walking away again. On the other hand, the 2012 movie’s use of flashbacks for scenes of the various characters explaining their backstories makes them far more dramatic and compelling than the equivalent scenes in the 1946 movie, which were just a bunch of talking heads. I hasten to add that sometimes it’s more interesting to just watch a character explain their backstory and other characters react to it. I just don’t usually find it so in the 1946 Great Expectations.

Charles Dickens’s main claim to fame is his characters, so let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?

Pip

I’ve mentioned something before about movies that follow a character or characters from childhood to adulthood: it’s typical for either to actors playing them as a child to make a better impression than the one playing them as an adult or vice versa. These movies are a case in point. Young Anthony Wager who plays Pip is perfect in the role[2]Though I have read some criticize his accent as being too posh for a “common laboring boy.” A valid complaint, I suppose. with his perpetually traumatized facial expression. Believe me, considering that he’s raised by an abusive older sister, blackmailed by an escaped convict and regularly summoned to a creepy mansion to be systematically emotionally abused by a femme fatale, this kid should look perpetually traumatized. Toby Irvine is fine in the same role in the 2012 movie but not nearly as memorable.

Sir John Mills isn’t terrible or anything as the adult Pip in the 1946 film but he’s not nearly as great as Wager and the movie’s overall quality consequently takes a drop when he takes over as the lead. Part of the problem is that Mills was in his late thirties and Pip is supposed to be in his early twenties. He just feels too old for the immature character to me.[3]Part of the problem might also be that the first thing I ever saw Mills in was Swiss Family Robinson (1960) in which he played the father. Jeremy Irvine, brother of Toby, is far better as the adult Pip in the 2012 film, bringing much more youthful vigor and enthusiasm to the role. I have read some criticism to the effect that he’s too palpably angry and emotional for the character’s culture. But, hey, Pip is supposed to be an unusually passionate person and this movie doesn’t have voiceover to give us access to his thoughts and feelings.[4]And while this version of Pip is definitely one of the angriest I’ve seen, it never annoys me the way Ioan Gruffud’s even angrier one from the 1999 miniseries does. If the overall quality of the 1946 Great Expectations drops for me when Mills takes over as Pip, the overall quality of the 2012 one improves when Irvine takes over as the character.

Estella

No one should envy an actress who has to play the young Estella, the girl at Satis House who bewitches Pip. She has to portray a snobby, sadistic bully while also coming across as beautiful, elegant and somehow charming enough to make Pip’s lifelong romantic obsession with her understandable. Jean Simmons in the 1946 movie knocks it out of the ballpark! Helena Barlow is sadly less effective in the role in the 2012 film. Her performance isn’t terrible or anything, but she just doesn’t have the screen presence necessary to make Pip’s infatuation with her believable, especially when there’s another girl in his life who is no less pretty, has the same social status and is actually nice to him.[5]Her hairdos are also relatively less goofy looking. There are a lot goofy looking hairdos in both these movies but if they’re period accurate, I suppose I can’t complain. I feel cruel for critiquing such a young actress for not being convincing as a charismatic supermodel[6]I’m sure Barlow would do better as Estella now that she’s had more acting experience. but it’s impossible for me to critique the movie without doing so, especially as I’m comparing it the 1946 one. For what it’s worth, Jean Simmons was actually a teenager when she played Estella and so she had that advantage over Barlow.

Speaking of charisma or a lack thereof, Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella is rather a disappointment after Simmons, in some ways even more than John Mills is a disappointment after Anthony Wager. In her defense though, the adult Estella is arguably an even more difficult role than the youthful one. She’s still cruel and callous but not sadistic like she was as a child. We’re told that she’s tormenting many men by making them fall in love with her and then crushing their hearts, but she does this out of obligation to the vengeful misandrist who raised her, not for fun. In fact, we get the impression she really resents this obligation and wishes for a different life. But this is out of boredom, not compassion for her victims. She’s grown genuinely fond of Pip in a strange way and tries to avoid hurting him, but she can’t really empathize with his feelings for her, limiting any compassion on her part. The actress has to balance a ton of contradictions to play this character. She needs to be both casual and intense, cold yet warm.[7]Readers may remember I wasn’t a fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Emma Woodhouse but I think she’d actually make a great Estella. If she did play her, it’d be the second … Continue reading During her early scenes, Hobson mostly just plays her as casual to the point of being bland and boring.[8]From what I understand, Hobson disliked working with David Lean and said he gave her inadequate direction, so maybe the fault lies with him. Fortunately, as the movie goes on and Estella is brought into conflict with Pip more, giving the actress more specific emotions to show, she improves. I still wish Jean Simmons could have played the character for the whole movie somehow.

Holliday Grainger certainly isn’t boring as the adult Estella in the 2012 film. In fact, for what it is, her performance is great, but I still consider it fundamentally misguided. As much as I love the screenplay for this adaptation, I have to admit that the fault lies with it or at least the script got the character off on the wrong foot. Like the 2011 miniseries, this version has Miss Havisham end young Pip’s visits to her house because she can tell that Estella is becoming genuinely attached to him, which would not fit in with her plans for the girl at all. (Remember this is while Pip is still common! In the book, she only becomes friendly to him once he’s a gentleman.) We’re told that Estella is “hard and haughty and capricious to the last degree” and that she’s deceiving many men. But we never see any evidence of this in Grainger’s performance. She comes across as sad and wistful in every one of her scenes. I can live with softening the character a little bit, especially in a shorter adaptation that has less time to develop her, but not in every single scene! It’s all but stated that this Estella really does love Pip but is in denial about it. This makes Pip seem far less delusional in his pursuit of her and an important choice of Estella’s, which was difficult to understand in the source material, downright incomprehensible here. Not helping much is that while Holliday Grainger is certainly a beauty, she’s not necessarily beautiful in an Estella-esque way. I feel that Estella should be tall and stately in keeping with her “inaccessibility” to use the book’s description. Grainger’s Estella, if anything, appears to be shorter than Jeremy Irvine’s Pip.

Miss Havisham

With the decaying wedding dress she always wears and the decaying wedding cake she keeps in her house, Miss Havisham is one of the most unforgettable antagonists in Dickens-no small praise-and for many readers, the most memorable character in Great Expectations. Martita Hunt is effectively eerie and brooding in the role in the 1946 movie. If I have a criticism of her performance, it’s that she could stand to be a little more energetic once in some moments, such as her rant ordering Pip to love Estella. (“If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her…”) Don’t get me wrong. I prefer Miss Havisham to be somewhat subdued and withdrawn in her early scenes as if she’s always preoccupied with the grudge that she’s nursing. But I also feel like she should be more palpably gleeful in later scenes as her vengeance seems to be coming to fruition. It would be flat slander to accuse Hunt’s Miss Havisham of never being palpably gleeful though.

Helena Bonham Carter has been accused of doing nothing at this point in her career but recycle her performance as Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter movies. Looking back at all the recent movies in which I’ve seen her, I wouldn’t say that’s totally fair, but I will say with regret that her portrayal of Miss Havisham in the 2012 movie is very much what has become the generic Helen Bonham Carter performance. Still, the generic Helena Bonham Carter performance at least makes for a good solid cartoon character, not like Gillian Anderson’s irritating, squeaky-voiced Miss Havisham in the 2011 Great Expectations miniseries whom one critic accurately described as “the ghost of all bad Ophelias.” I don’t understand why she seems to be asleep or half asleep whenever Pip enters her room. Isn’t the idea of her sitting there, alert and waiting for him, creepier? But there are some interesting things about this Miss Havisham. When Pip says the only card game he knows is Beggar My Neighbor and she tells Estella to “beggar him,” she laughs like that’s the most hilarious joke she’s ever heard. Again, I prefer something less hammy for those early scenes but it’s not a bad take on the character. In her final scenes of penitence, Carter grants my wish that she treat this as one of her serious performances and actually makes her Miss Havisham more sympathetic than Hunt’s or any other actress’s I’ve seen.

Joe Gargery

If Miss Havisham is this story’s most dastardly villain[9]Another character, Compeyson (played by George Hayes in 1946 and William Ellis in 2012), is arguably a better candidate for the honor of being the main villain but it’s easy to forget about him., Pip’s brother-in-law, Joe Gargery, is its most lovable hero. Bernard Miles is appropriately gentle and childlike in the role in the 1946 movie, but he doesn’t bring a lot of depth to the character.[10]He also doesn’t look particularly muscular for a blacksmith but that’s a relatively minor criticism. For example, when Pip, having had wealth and status suddenly bestowed upon him, leaves him to be a gentleman in London, we don’t get the impression that Joe is really saddened but hiding it for Pip’s sake. To be fair, a lot of the blame for that lies with the script and direction. It feels as if David Lean simply wasn’t interested in Joe. Granted that the character wasn’t going to be as fully developed as in the book, there are far fewer scenes of him than there should be and the scenes we get are directed with none of the flair of, say, the scenes at Satis House. One bit of comic business in the scene of Joe’s awkward visit to London is downright bad. Joe is supposed to rush over to grab his hat before it falls off its stand and fumbles with it so much that it falls in the food. It’s staged so awkwardly that it looks as if a demon suddenly possessed Joe so he could ruin his hat and the meal. Happily, Jason Flemyng’s Joe in the 2012 movie is even more appealingly gentle and childlike as well as even funnier in the bits where he’s played for laughs and much better served by the script. The final scenes of reconciliation between him and Pip are far more heartwarming than their perfunctory counterparts in the 1946 film.

Biddy

The novel’s saintliest character next to Joe is Biddy, Pip’s aforementioned alternative love interest to Estella. The 1946 movie ages her up and makes her more of a mother figure to him. Goodness knows the kid needs one! Eileen Erskine is likeable and appealing in the role, but the movie sadly though understandably doesn’t give her much to do and it feels like she was included out of obligation. Biddy keeps her original age and is much more of a possible love interest in the 2012 movie in which she’s played by Bebe Cave as a child and Jessie Cave as an adult. In fact, at one point, she grabs Pip and kisses him on the lips, which I’m fairly sure would have been considered inappropriate in this time period.[11]Pip also kisses Estella on the lips right after she’s told him they’re never getting together. This was obviously done just so they could show the leads kissing in the trailer. The shooting script describes the moment thus. “Her hand reaches across and takes Pip’s hand (or perhaps even a kiss?)” They probably should have shown restraint and left it at that when filming or had the kiss just be on the cheek. It’s horribly frustrating for fans of the book to read that script and discover that some great lines of the literary Biddy’s were going to be in the movie but were cut for time. I especially wish the scene of her upbraiding Pip for his patronizing attitude towards Joe had made the cut.[12]There’s plenty of other great stuff in the script that ultimately wasn’t in the movie. The whole thing is well worth a read. Still, while she’s not nearly as memorable a character as in the book, this adaptation still probably does more justice to her than the 1946 one. Her introductory scene at the local schoolhouse effectively establishes her as kind, competent and someone who has had to grow up very quickly and a brief shot of her bursting into tears after Pip leaves for London is more moving than almost anything in the 1946 Great Expectations. And for once, the actor playing the character as a child and the one playing the character as an adult are equally great. The Cave sisters look so much alike in this movie, I barely noticed when the switch occurred.

Abel Magwitch

As Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict who terrorizes the young Pip in the churchyard, Finlay Currie is memorably fearsome in the 1946 movie’s early scenes. However, when Magwitch unexpectedly reenters Pip’s life in the second half and becomes a much more sympathetic figure, Currie’s performance is less effective. That’s not to say it’s bad. Just that it isn’t great. Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch in the 2012 film, on the other hand, is wonderful throughout the whole thing, helping it achieve its biggest tearjerking moments. He’s helped of course by the fact that the script devotes much more time to his backstory than that of the 1946 adaptation. (Remember what I wrote about flashbacks?) Fiennes still deserves a lot of credit though. Along with Jeremy Irvine and Bebe and Jessie Cave, he’s probably the 2012 cast’s biggest asset.

Random Thoughts on Other Characters

As Pip’s abusive older sister in the 1946 movie, Freda Jackson looks like Mrs. Tweedy from Chicken Run-which makes all kinds of sense! Sally Hawkins is less intimidating in the role in the 2012 version but she’s still good.

Miss Havisham’s gold-digging relatives aren’t much more than a cameo in either movie, but they serve more of a purpose in the 2012 one. They’re also very funny thanks to the performances of Pooky Quesnel, Kate Lock, Richard James and Roberta Burton. (Everley Gregg and Anne Holland play two of them in the 1946 movie. The other two are uncredited.) I’m not sure if it was such a good idea though to have one of them call Estella a “little bitch.”[13]That wasn’t in the script by the way.

The menacing character of Orlick is cut from both adaptations, reasonably so. While Orlick is a memorable villain in the book, he usually comes across as a bit extraneous in the adaptations that include him. With the 1946’s movie’s flair for creepiness and suspense though, I do wonder what it could have done with the final confrontation between him and Pip.

As Mr. Jaggers the lawyer, neither Francis L. Sullivan in the 1946 movie nor Robbie Coltrane in the 2012 one is quite as intimidating as the book’s character. Of course, you could argue he’s not meant to be as intimidating in the 2012 movie, which eventually humanizes him and has him admit to Pip that “there have been too many secrets.” I maintain this confession would have been more interesting though if he had been smugger and icier earlier. Come to think of it, the 1946 adaptation ends up humanizing Jaggers too in a subtler way.

The “Aged Parent” of Jaggers’s clerk, Wemmick (Ivor Barnard in 1946, Ewen Bremner in 2012), gets a cameo in both movies. (O. B. Clarence plays him in the 1946 film and Frank Dunne in the 2012 one.) The 1946 cameo is funnier but feels like it was included out of obligation. I actually prefer the 2012 one since it serves to develop Wemmick’s character. The scene’s joyfulness also makes for a nice break from the cynicism of that section of the story.

The Ending

Regrettably, there’s no way to discuss how the 1946 Great Expectations adapts the book without getting into the ending. I’ll try to keep the details about the movie-specific aspects of it vague, but I am going to have to give away the book’s conclusion. If you haven’t read it and don’t want it spoiled, skip to the end of this blog post.

The 1946 adaptation, to its credit, is so true to the book for most of its runtime that when it dramatically veers from it in the last scene, it’s downright jarring. The first time I watched the movie, I was too dumbfounded by the ending to know whether I liked it or not. After repeated viewings and years to reflect on the matter, I’ve decided I dislike the ending. It’s well written but losing Estella’s years of suffering makes her redemption feel unearned compared to the book. To be fair though, she does undergo an interesting humiliation in this version that she never does in the source material. I also dislike the way this revised ending makes Pip more of a romantic hero and Miss Havisham more of a symbol of evil whereas in the book, she’s ultimately seen as human and pitiable.[14]Frustratingly, nearly every adaptation has Pip be less forgiving to her than Dickens had him be. In the book, he tells her “I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with … Continue reading

The 2012 movie’s ending is pretty much the same as that of the book except that it changes the location. This is somewhat unfortunate as I consider the location of the book’s last scene thematically significant but, on the plus side, it does allow the movie to show that Pip’s friend, Herbert Pocket (Olly Alexander in this one, Alec Guinness in the 1946), has remained helpful to him after his fortunes fell. The same can’t be said of the other film. Anyway, the 2012 version’s ending would be beautiful if only the adaptation hadn’t softened Estella’s character so much prior to it. The result is that it’s hard to see how she’s supposed to have changed at all. I can’t really see contrast between Holliday Grainger’s performance in this scene and every other one. That’s the only major problem with this Great Expectations as an adaptation, as opposed to any shortcomings it has as a movie in its own right[15]Though I’d argue it ends up being both., but it’s an aggravatingly big one.

Concluding Thoughts

For me, these two movies have a weird relationship where what each one does well the other does poorly. The 1946 film does a much better job with creepy characters and aspects of the book. The 2012 one does much better with the book’s healthier minded characters and heartwarming aspects. Which one you favor likely depends on what you consider the most important part. If only there were a way to combine their strengths! Actually, the one miniseries adaptation of Great Expectations that I do love does just that and I intend to write about it next week. Stay Tuned.

References

References
1 I really wish that another Harry Potter director, Alfonso Cuaron, could have directed this version of Great Expectations instead of the 1998 movie which reimagined the story in contemporary America and wasn’t nearly as well written. His emotional style would have been perfect for Dickens. Kenneth Branagh is another director whom I’d have preferred for this script.
2 Though I have read some criticize his accent as being too posh for a “common laboring boy.” A valid complaint, I suppose.
3 Part of the problem might also be that the first thing I ever saw Mills in was Swiss Family Robinson (1960) in which he played the father.
4 And while this version of Pip is definitely one of the angriest I’ve seen, it never annoys me the way Ioan Gruffud’s even angrier one from the 1999 miniseries does.
5 Her hairdos are also relatively less goofy looking. There are a lot goofy looking hairdos in both these movies but if they’re period accurate, I suppose I can’t complain.
6 I’m sure Barlow would do better as Estella now that she’s had more acting experience.
7 Readers may remember I wasn’t a fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Emma Woodhouse but I think she’d actually make a great Estella. If she did play her, it’d be the second time to my knowledge that the same actress has portrayed both Emma and Estella.
8 From what I understand, Hobson disliked working with David Lean and said he gave her inadequate direction, so maybe the fault lies with him.
9 Another character, Compeyson (played by George Hayes in 1946 and William Ellis in 2012), is arguably a better candidate for the honor of being the main villain but it’s easy to forget about him.
10 He also doesn’t look particularly muscular for a blacksmith but that’s a relatively minor criticism.
11 Pip also kisses Estella on the lips right after she’s told him they’re never getting together. This was obviously done just so they could show the leads kissing in the trailer.
12 There’s plenty of other great stuff in the script that ultimately wasn’t in the movie. The whole thing is well worth a read.
13 That wasn’t in the script by the way.
14 Frustratingly, nearly every adaptation has Pip be less forgiving to her than Dickens had him be. In the book, he tells her “I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with you.”
15 Though I’d argue it ends up being both.
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Special Anniversary Lookback: The Best of the Obscure

I admit it. I write about many famous stories on this blog. But one of my favorite things about it is drawing attention to works of art or entertainment about which many people haven’t heard. It gives me joy to think that readers might have been inspired to seek them out thanks to me. Or, you know, it would give me joy if my blog had actual fans but let’s pretend it does for the moment.[1]For the record, I meant that to sound humorous, not bitter. I understand that this blog is unlikely to have a big fanbase because it covers such a random assortment of stuff. A reader interested in, … Continue reading For The Adaptation Station’s three-year anniversary, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite books, movies and TV shows that I’ve discussed on it about which your average joe or jolene probably hasn’t heard. First, I should lay down some guidelines.

I’m not listing every obscure thing about which I’ve blogged, just the ones I consider my favorites. There are others that I also enjoy, just not as much. I wanted to keep the list reasonably short.

I don’t love every item on the list. There are plenty of books, movies, etc. about which I’ve blogged that I prefer to many of the ones I’ve listed. This is the best of the obscure, not the best period. I do consider each one to be OK at the very least though.

I’m only listing adaptations of famous works if they’re ones about which most people haven’t heard. I love the 1999 David Copperfield miniseries and the 1996 Emma movie[2]The one directed by Douglas McGrath, not Diarmuid Lawrence. more than many of the adaptations on this list. But while the average person on the street may not have seen either of them or read their source material for that matter, they have probably heard of that source material and those adaptations are likely to appear first in a Google search, partly because of the famous actors in the lead roles. My goal for this list is to give more publicity to stuff that’s more removed from the mainstream.

On the other hand, I am listing the source materials for famous movies. People who pay attention to credits probably know that Freaky Friday and One Hundred and One Dalmatians were based on books, so, strictly speaking, they have heard about them. But I’m not sure how many have actually taken the time to read them, and I’d like to see the number increase, so they’re going on the list. So really this is a list of books about which people know without having read them and movies and shows about which they haven’t heard at all.

I’m counting filmed plays as movies/television. If I didn’t, I would have to include a category with only two entries.

I’m listing these in alphabetical order. Ranking them is just too hard for me.

If a title isn’t a link, it’s because I’ve already linked to the post about it. Some of my posts are about multiple adaptations of the same source material. Also, I’ve included both lesser-known books and (my favorite) adaptations of them. If an image intrigues you but there’s no link to it, just scroll back up and you should find what you seek before too long.

I can’t guarantee you’re going to like any or all of them. My taste can be weird sometimes. Of the people who have read or watched these things, not all of them enjoyed them as much as I did. In some cases, very few did. I mean, hey, what would be the point of having my own blog if I couldn’t express an unpopular opinion on it now and then? I do recommend everything on this list in that I think they each deserve a chance, but I don’t recommend them in that I think anyone reading this list will love every item on it. But there’s probably one that you, whoever you may be, would love though. It’s your job to figure out which one it is.

With that warning out of the way…

Books

Caging Skies by Christine Leunens[3]I know many people would find this book too unpleasant to be enjoyed and I can’t blame them. It’s not a big favorite of mine. But it has such great prose and such a striking story that I … Continue reading

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare[4]I know this is technically a script for a play, not a book but I’m recommending the play itself, not any particular production of it. Like Caging Skies, this is not a pleasant work of art with … Continue reading

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens[5]I feel weird putting this on the list but not Bleak House by the same author. Both books contain many great things, and both are also very flawed. I decided to just include this one since while you … Continue reading

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Love and Freindship (sic) by Jane Austen[6]OK, I’ve never actually blogged about any adaptations of this obscure book, just an adaptation of Lady Susan that borrows this book’s title. But it’s so hilarious that I had to … Continue reading

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers[7]Many people are probably inspired by the original Mary Poppins movie to check out the first book in the series, I don’t know how many of them go on to read the whole series. As you can guess … Continue reading

If you look closely, you’ll see that author P. L. Travers and illustrator Mary Shepard have cameos in this picture.

Movies

As You Like It (2006)

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)

Fantasia 2000 (which was actually released in 1999.)[8]You’ve probably heard of the original Fantasia even though you probably haven’t seen it but not this sequel.

Freaky Friday (1976)[9]Most people know about the 2003 Freaky Friday or perhaps the 2018 one since it’s the most recent but not the first adaptation. Many probably don’t even realize the 2003 movie is a remake.

Fun and Fancy Free (1947)[10]I feel bad for including this “anim-anthology movie” and not the more consistently great The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. But I’d feel weird including that one and not the … Continue reading

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

Little Women (2018)[11]I still say Sarah Davenport is the best Jo March and Allie Jennings is the best Beth.

Love and Friendship (2016)

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Peter Pan (1924)

Peter Pan (2000)[12]Technically, people have heard of this musical but they’re more likely to watch either the first filmed version or the most recent one. That’s too bad because this “middle … Continue reading

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)


Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)[13]If all of Dreamworks’s animated movies were trapped in a burning building, I’d actually rescue this one before trying to save any of the Shrek or How to Train Your Dragon movies. … Continue reading

Snoopy Come Home (1972)

Television Series and Specials

Charlie Brown’s All Stars (1966)

It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976)

It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (1974)

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982)

The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby (2012)[14]Yes, I’m including each of my top four Nicholas Nickleby adaptations. What? It’s an awesome story!

Little Dorrit (2008)

Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971)

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller (1987-1989)[15]Part of me feels bad for not also putting Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre on this list. But people are less likely to have heard of The Storyteller. And it is much more consistently great.

There’s No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (1973)

You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972)[16]Yes, I’m also including every underrated Peanuts special. Just be glad I’m only doing the ones I described in some detail and not ones that got throwaway mentions.

Well, I think that’s a good list even if Nicholas Nickleby and Charlie Brown did take up large portions of it. As a reward for those who made it all the way to the end, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend something I haven’t on this blog before. Well, technically speaking. If you’ll scroll up a little bit, you’ll see a link to an early post of mine about the old TV series The Storyteller, which adapted several European folktales in a way that felt both classic and unique. I didn’t mention that the show’s acclaimed screenwriter, Anthony Minghella, also wrote a tie-in book version of it, retelling each of the short-lived show’s nine episodes. It’s just as beautifully written as the show and since I’m more of a book guy than a television guy, I’d probably say I enjoy it even more.[17]Though it is true that the book doesn’t have the delightful comedy of the Storyteller’s dog. Give it a read if you can.

So… had you heard of anything on this list? Did anything pique your interest? It’d make me glad to know on my blog’s anniversary that it was responsible for directing anyone to a hidden gem.

References

References
1 For the record, I meant that to sound humorous, not bitter. I understand that this blog is unlikely to have a big fanbase because it covers such a random assortment of stuff. A reader interested in, say, my posts about adaptations of Les Misérables isn’t necessarily going to be interested in reading about Freaky Friday adaptations too. It’s a price I willingly pay to get to write about stuff that interests me rather than worrying about a target audience.
2 The one directed by Douglas McGrath, not Diarmuid Lawrence.
3 I know many people would find this book too unpleasant to be enjoyed and I can’t blame them. It’s not a big favorite of mine. But it has such great prose and such a striking story that I felt compelled to include it.
4 I know this is technically a script for a play, not a book but I’m recommending the play itself, not any particular production of it. Like Caging Skies, this is not a pleasant work of art with its rather unlikeable protagonist. But he’s an unlikeable protagonist to whom I personally relate, something I can’t say of every Shakespearean tragic lead. (To my way of thinking, Lear was an old idiot, Romeo and Juliet young idiots, Cleopatra a treacherous diva and Hamlet a self-righteous, self-absorbed, navel gazer.) And the play’s climax is one of the most powerful in all of Shakespeare’s oeuvre.
5 I feel weird putting this on the list but not Bleak House by the same author. Both books contain many great things, and both are also very flawed. I decided to just include this one since while you likely haven’t read either, you’re more likely to have heard of Bleak House. And Cricket on the Hearth does have the virtue of brevity.
6 OK, I’ve never actually blogged about any adaptations of this obscure book, just an adaptation of Lady Susan that borrows this book’s title. But it’s so hilarious that I had to include it here, especially since many of the tropes it satirizes, mainly that forbidden love is inherently nobler than unforbidden love, are still familiar to us today.
7 Many people are probably inspired by the original Mary Poppins movie to check out the first book in the series, I don’t know how many of them go on to read the whole series. As you can guess from the title, this book was the main source for Mary Poppins Returns.
8 You’ve probably heard of the original Fantasia even though you probably haven’t seen it but not this sequel.
9 Most people know about the 2003 Freaky Friday or perhaps the 2018 one since it’s the most recent but not the first adaptation. Many probably don’t even realize the 2003 movie is a remake.
10 I feel bad for including this “anim-anthology movie” and not the more consistently great The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. But I’d feel weird including that one and not the 1995 animated Wind in the Willows which is a more accurate adaptation and that one sadly hasn’t endeared itself enough to me to make this list.
11 I still say Sarah Davenport is the best Jo March and Allie Jennings is the best Beth.
12 Technically, people have heard of this musical but they’re more likely to watch either the first filmed version or the most recent one. That’s too bad because this “middle child” is easily the best of the three and one of the most sheer fun Peter Pan adaptations I’ve seen.
13 If all of Dreamworks’s animated movies were trapped in a burning building, I’d actually rescue this one before trying to save any of the Shrek or How to Train Your Dragon movies. That’s not to say I dislike those. I just prefer this movie.
14 Yes, I’m including each of my top four Nicholas Nickleby adaptations. What? It’s an awesome story!
15 Part of me feels bad for not also putting Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre on this list. But people are less likely to have heard of The Storyteller. And it is much more consistently great.
16 Yes, I’m also including every underrated Peanuts special. Just be glad I’m only doing the ones I described in some detail and not ones that got throwaway mentions.
17 Though it is true that the book doesn’t have the delightful comedy of the Storyteller’s dog.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Part 12: Will We Ever Go Back?

We transition from the battlefield to the sea. Sea people leap and dive in the water. We don’t hear them sing, something they do around this point in the book, but it’s great to see them at all. The camera pans up to the Castle Cair Paravel, which looks as beautiful as I could imagine or better than that.

Aslan leads Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, all four dressed in beautiful Narnian garb, to the fabled four thrones. The beavers stand with two silver crowns for Edmund and Lucy and two golden crowns for Peter and Susan on cushions. In another Narnia book, The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis describes dwarf-made Narnians crowns as “not ugly, heavy things like modern European crowns, but light, delicate, beautifully shaped circles that you could really wear and look nicer by wearing.” I think the movie’s designs live up to that description nicely. Tumnus, whose amusing idea of formal wear is a dress scarf and nothing else, places a crown on each Pevensie’s head as Aslan gives a speech. “To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy the valiant, to the great western wood, King Edmund the Just, to the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan the Gentle and to the clear northern sky, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.” In the book, those titles (valiant, just, etc.) are acquired by the Pevensies after years of reigning and they make more sense that way, but I understand why the movie didn’t feel like it had time to explain that and I don’t mind Aslan knowing what they would become, either through supernatural foresight or seeing their potential. This speech has some great shoutouts for fans of the book series. All the geographical information Aslan mentions comes from there and the stars raining down from the heavens is exactly what happens when the world of Narnia comes to an end in The Last Battle. Of course, a persnickety fan might point out that in The Horse and his Boy, a Narnian character says his fellow citizens have no use for sayings about wishing for their monarchs to live forever. (“I don’t want him to live forever and I know he’s not going to live forever whether I want him to or not.”)

If you look closely, you can see symbols of each king or queen on the back of their throne.

Aslan leads the guests in chanting, “Long live King Peter! Long live Queen Susan! Long live King Edmund! Long live Queen Lucy!” In a fun little gag, Mr. Beaver shouts, “long live Queen Lucy,” while his wife shouts, “long live Queen Susan!” Among the crowd, we see the fox has been saved from being a statue by Aslan.[1]C. S. Lewis never mentioned if the equivalent of the fox’s character was turned back in the book but he assured a younger reader that he was in a letter. If you have quick eyes, you can see a couple of badgers in the corner of another shot. Hopefully, one of them is the badger who was a friend of Mr. Beaver and whom the Witch turned to stone for helping Tumnus. More prominently, in the same shot as the fox, you can see the stone lion from the Witch’s courtyard, restored to flesh and blood but still with the moustache and glasses Edmund drew on her. Lewis described that act of Edmund’s as “something very silly and childish,” so he probably would disapprove of the visual joke. But I guess I’m silly and childish because it makes me laugh.

Later, we see Aslan walking along the beach, away from the castle. In the books, Aslan is described as always coming to Narnia from across the sea, so I took this as a nod to that, indicating that he’s returning to his home. On reflection though, it’s probably just because the sea is right beside Cair Paravel. Lucy runs out onto the balcony, the celebration visible behind her. She’s sad to see Aslan go without even a goodbye. “Don’t worry. We’ll see him again,” says a voice from behind her. It’s Tumnus. In the book, Mr. Beaver is the one to tell the Pevensies this and that arguably makes more sense since he and Mrs. Beaver are the main sources of exposition about Aslan and are implied to have been more devout followers of him than Tumnus. But I think the filmmakers were ultimately right to give the speech to Mr. T since his friendship with Lucy is so important, yet he has so little to do in the story. She asks him when they’ll see Aslan again. “In time,” he says ruefully. “One day he’ll be here and the next he won’t. But you mustn’t press him. After all, he’s not a tame lion.” Lucy looks thoughtful. “No,” she says, “but he is good.” Tumnus produces a handkerchief and hands it to her. “You need it more than I do,” he says. The two of them look back the seaside and see that Aslan has entirely vanished. Despite their sadness, they manage to smile acceptingly.

We cut to years later. The two kings and queens, now adults, are riding through the forest, hunting a stag. In the book, this is the legendary White Stag that can grant wishes to anyone who catches him. The movie doesn’t specify this, but it seems to be the subtext since they speak of “the stag,” not “a stag.” Edmund (Mark Wells-all the actors who play the Pevensies as adults are great by the way) slows down and asks his horse if he’s alright. “Not as young as I once was,” replies Philip. In this instance of riding a talking horse, I can’t even defend it by saying he’s training Edmund for war. What’s really annoying is that this the only instance in the scene of him speaking. Neither Philip nor any of the horses participates in their riders’ conversation or pays attention to what’s going on around them the way humans would. In the Narnia books, C. S. Lewis really worked out the implications of talking beasts and treated them as equals to the other intelligent species.

Edmund’s fellow monarchs rejoin him.

Susan (Sophie Winkleman): Come on, Ed.
Edmund: Just catching my breath.
Susan: Well, that’s all we’ll catch at this rate!
Lucy (Rachael Henley, sister of Georgie): What did he say again, Susan?
Susan: “You girls wait at the castle. I’ll get the stag myself.”

In the book, the adult kings and queens speak in a formal sounding medieval dialect. It might have been nice for the screenwriters to try to replicate this, but I don’t blame them for not doing so. Their dialogue in this scene was rather a pain to read in the book. Well, that’s to say it was a pain to read when I was a kid. As an adult who enjoys a good bit of Shakespeare now and then, I have no problem with it thought it’s still rather jarring to go from the rest of the book’s dialogue to “fair consorts, let us alight from our horses.” Anyway, the way Edmund is still a bit defensive about his sisters’ ribbing demonstrates that he’s still the same old Edmund while the concern he shows for Philip demonstrates how far he’s come. (I know I just criticized the bit with the horse, but I can have complicated opinions, can’t I?)

Everyone’s laughter fades as Peter (Noah Huntley) notices something strange and dismounts from his horse. The others follow suit. The strange thing is the lamppost, now overgrown with greenery.

Peter: What’s this? This looks familiar.
Susan: As if from a dream.
Lucy: Or the dream of a dream.

See how the horses are just acting like regular dumb horses?

Now we get my favorite bit of humor from the movie that’s not from the book though it is riffing on one from there. As Lucy stares at the lamppost, a memory stirs in her mind. “Spare Oom?” she says, causing the others to look at her in bewilderment. She runs into the thicket, and they run after her. (“Not again,” Susan grumbles. Another good funny moment.) As the Pevensies go deeper into the woods, they find themselves brushing against fur coats rather than pine branches. Then they tumble out the wardrobe into the old spare room, their old ages again[2]By which I mean the ages they were when they first went to Narnia, not that they reverted to being in their seventies or anything. and in their old clothes. The door to the room opens and Prof. Kirke enters. “Oh. There you are. What were you all doing in the wardrobe?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye. The Pevensies stare at each other in bittersweet wonder. “You wouldn’t believe us if we told you, sir,” says Peter. The professor raises his eyebrows and tosses Peter a cricket ball. “Try me,” he says.

As the end credits start to roll, a pop song starts. Now there are some people who hate the idea of pop music playing over the credits of a Narnia movie or any movie that takes place long before such music was invented. Me, I don’t really think you need any songs for the end credits of any given movie. It strikes me as an extra expense when you already have a musical score you could use. And I hate the idea of pop songs in the body of a Narnia movie itself, but I don’t necessarily mind them in the credits. In fact, I think having a modern song play over the credits of a historical story can emphasize that the themes in that story are still relevant today. It’s probably a stretch though to say that any of the songs that play over the credits of this movie do that with their rather vague lyrics. But I like the first one, I Can’t Take It In by Imogene Heep. Harry Gregson-Williams’s score for the last scene does a really nice job of transitioning into it so the sudden change in musical style doesn’t jar too much and the title expresses the marvelousness of finding Narnia in a wardrobe and all that it entails.[3]Another of the credits songs, Wunderkind by Alanis Morissette is something of a guilty pleasure of mine.

Before too long, the credits pause, and we see Lucy sneaking into the wardrobe room in the middle of the night. On my first viewing, I thought this was an outtake since there was an earlier scene like this in the movie. But, no, this time Lucy has no candle and when she opens the wardrobe door, a voice behind her says, “I don’t think you’ll get back in that way.” She turns to see Prof. Kirke, sitting on the windowsill in his bathrobe and pajamas. “You see, I’ve already tried,” he says ruefully. Lucy stares wistfully into the now ordinary wardrobe. “Will we ever go back?” she asks. “I expect so,” says the professor, closing the wardrobe door, “but it’ll probably happen when you’re not looking for it. All the same, best to keep your eyes open.” In the book, the part of his speech about keeping one’s eyes open was about finding others who have visited worlds like Narnia. I think it made more sense in that context, as the professor’s advice is rather contradictory this way. (“It’ll probably happen when you’re not looking for it” but “keep your eyes open?”) Lucy takes his hand and smiles at him as they leave the room. In their absence, the wardrobe door opens a crack. Lights pour out from it along with the sound of Aslan’s triumphant roar. Both the pre-credits ending and this post-credits one beautifully capture the spirit of the book’s ending. I love that our final image is of a door closing, symbolizing how the door to Narnia is closing for us as well as the characters.

The movie is dedicated to the director’s children, Isabelle and Sylvie by the way. Aww!

Concluding Thoughts

On the whole, I think this is a great movie with a beautiful sense of childlike awe and wonder, what the source material describes as “that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.” I think it’s got a great story with great themes, great casting, great visuals, great music. (Well, maybe not all of the music is great but enough of it is.) I don’t think however that it has a great script. That’s not to say the script is terrible or anything. But even at its best, during the first act of the story or so, I would call it solid writing rather than inspired. The uninspired elements aren’t bad enough to keep the movie from being good, but they dilute the overall quality enough to hold it back from being as great as it could easily have been. As frustrating as that is though, I honestly find movies where everything is great except for the script, as long as that script is OK rather than terrible, less frustrating than movies where the script is the only thing about them that’s great.

It should be noted that while for many readers, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is their favorite Narnia book or even the only Narnia book they consider great, for me, it’s one of my least favorites in the series if not my least favorite period. Keep in mind though that being my least favorite Narnia books means I’d only grade it an A- rather than an A or A+. So I am going to be picky about any adaptation but not as picky as some fans. I’d argue that the many of the things this one adds or expands may be untrue to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe specifically but aren’t untrue to The Chronicles of Narnia in general. An emphasis on character development for the young leads and their relationships with each other, including conflict between them, is characteristic of The Horse and his Boy, The Silver Chair and The Magician’s Nephew. The Horse and his Boy and The Last Battle both feature epic battles. (It’s right in the title of the latter!) And even the short battle at the climax of the next Narnia book, Prince Caspian, is described in more detail than the one at the climax of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[4]There’s also a case to be made that girl characters were more likely to be involved in action scenes in later Narnia stories. If you’re mainly a fan of the specific book which this movie adapts, you may not love it. But if you’re a fan of Narnia in general, you very well may. If I’m being completely honest, I kind of enjoyed seeing the familiar story be told in a different style. I even kind of enjoyed things like focusing more on the four children than on Aslan. It made me think about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from a different angle. I don’t believe it improved on the book as a whole and I’ll always wish it had been truer to some aspects of it. But I believe I’ll also always enjoy the movie for what is.

Phew! It’s been taxing doing one blog post per week for so long, especially with each one being so detailed. I still intend on giving the two other Narnia movies, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this treatment but I intend to take a nice long break first.

Bibliography

C.S. Lewis letters to children : Lewis, C. S. (Clive Staples), 1898-1963 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Lewis, C. S. (1954) The Horse and his Boy. HarperCollins Publishers.

Lewis, C. S. (1950) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. HarperCollins Publishers.

Lewis, C. S. (1955) The Magician’s Nephew. HarperCollins Publishers.

References

References
1 C. S. Lewis never mentioned if the equivalent of the fox’s character was turned back in the book but he assured a younger reader that he was in a letter.
2 By which I mean the ages they were when they first went to Narnia, not that they reverted to being in their seventies or anything.
3 Another of the credits songs, Wunderkind by Alanis Morissette is something of a guilty pleasure of mine.
4 There’s also a case to be made that girl characters were more likely to be involved in action scenes in later Narnia stories.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Part 11: It Is Finished

Surprise! Early post for Easter.

We transition from the map of the battlefield to a gryphon (voiced by Cameron Rhodes) flying over the actual place. I apologize for starting off this post with some criticism, but it annoys me that there are gryphons in this movie when there are none in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia. “But, Stationmaster,” you say, “why shouldn’t gryphons be included in the fantasy kitchen sink that is Narnia? Aren’t you being ridiculous?” Well…maybe I am. I guess what bothers me is that while the books include creatures from different mythologies, the author made them his own. A Narnian centaur is different from your common or garden variety centaur. But he never made gryphons his own so I have no idea what a specifically Narnian gryphon would be like. As long as I’m criticizing, it’s unfortunate that this battlefield doesn’t take place near a ford as the book specifies. I understand that might have been difficult for staging and if it were just part of this story, I wouldn’t care. But the ford returns to play a greater part in the sequel, Prince Caspian, and because it hadn’t been established in this movie, it lacks the thematic significance it had in the source material.

Anyway, we see that Peter and Oreius are going to lead the cavalry and foot soldiers while Edmund and Mr. Beaver command the archers from higher ground.[1]The movie has Mr. Beaver wear armor in this scene by the way. In another Narnia book, a badger character refuses to wear any on the grounds that “he was a beast, he was, and if his claws and … Continue reading The gryphon lands beside Peter. “They come, Your Highness,” he reports, “in numbers and weapons far greater than our own.” Oreius counters by saying, “numbers do not win a battle,” which is kind of a corny line, but Peter has a good response to it. “No, but I bet they help.”

As battle horns sound from across the field, we see that there are two leopards in Peter’s army. This pleases me since there were also two leopards in the book.[2]You could argue Oreius replaced them in the movie. Actually, I think these might be cheetahs but I’m just going to imagine that they’re leopards because I want them to be a nod to the book.

The White Witch’s army appears on the horizon. I’m pleased to note a couple of giants on her side. They don’t do much, giants being an expensive special effect, but I’m glad they’re included because giants, both good and bad, play a big part in the Narnia books. OK, maybe not that big a part but they’re definitely a memorable one. (I just wanted to make a pun on “big.”)

We also see the Witch is in a chariot drawn by polar bears.[3]When I first saw an out-of-context promotional image for that polar bear-drawn chariot, I thought it was replacing her reindeer-drawn sleigh from the book. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I’m informed that she’s wearing a headdress made of Aslan’s mane, which is a really cool idea, but her wig is so bad that to me, it honestly looks like the headdress is just supposed to be part of it. After glancing back in Edmund’s direction[4]Ed nods but I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a signal since I don’t think Peter could see it from his location., Peter imperceptibly gulps[5]Well, obviously, it’s perceptible since I perceived it. But it’s not obvious and “subtly gulps” sounds weird. and draws his sword. His soldiers follow suit. “I have no interest in prisoners,” the Witch tells her general, “Kill them all.” Her army starts to charge. Long before they reach their opponents, Peter signals his gryphons to fly overhead and drop boulders on them. Some of the Witch’s soldiers are crushed but her dwarf archers shoot some of the gryphons too. In the extended cut of the movie, the Witch’s flying creatures also battle the gryphons in the air. That is the only thing besides the added springtime footage that I think improves on the theatrical version. I’m not super interested in battle scenes but if you’re going to have one with flying creatures on both sides, why wouldn’t they fight in the air? In both versions, after the gryphons retreat, the evil army is still surging forward in great numbers.

“Are you with me?” Peter asks Oreius. “To the death,” he replies. Sort of a weird exchange to have right then. It’s not like this would be a good time for Oreius to back out. But the actors manage to sell it as a legitimately emotional moment. Peter raises his sword again. “For Narnia,” he cries, “and for Aslan!” Not the most interesting battle cry but it feels very fitting considering what Aslan just did for everybody. Peter’s army charges to meet the enemy. I mentioned before that I’m not a fan of slow motion, but I think it works here just before the armies clash.

Once they start hacking and slashing, we go back to real time and then we somewhat abruptly cut back to the Stone table. This is technically the only example of a flashback in any of the Narnia movies since it takes place just before the sun rises and the beginning took place toward the end of the morning at the latest and quite possible midday. Apparently, at one point, the scenes were going to be in chronological order, but the director decided, probably rightly, that viewers would empathize less with Peter’s army if they knew what they do not. Susan and Lucy, who have been sleeping beside Aslan’s body, awaken. “We should go,” says Susan. “I’m so cold,” says Lucy. Their voices sound like they’ve both spent all their emotions. Susan gently leads Lucy away, but they pause to look over their shoulders at Aslan one last time. It’s all very sad.

As they turn back and continue walking, the ground suddenly trembles beneath their feet! They turn around to find that the Stone Table has split in two and the body on top of it has disappeared. “What have they done?” Susan whispers. As the sun rises over the hill, we hear a familiar music cue. It’s the same music that played when we saw Aslan for the first time. That’s no accident as he steps over the hill in time with the sun, mane intact and completely restored to life. I like the way the atmosphere of the scene changes from gray and chilly to warm and bright with his appearance.

Joyfully, the girls run around the Stone Table-the staging is somewhat awkward-and hug Aslan. “But we saw the knife…the Witch…” Susan protests. “If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice,” explains Aslan, “she might have interpreted the Deep Magic differently, that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table would crack and even death itself would turn backwards.” As he says this, the camera pans across the symbols carved on the rim of the Stone Table. In the book, these represent the Deep Magic. This pan is the only indication of that in the movie. Aslan’s explanation, by the way, is a bit different from the one in the book.

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know: Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.”

Personally, that idea has more poetic appeal to me than the White Witch misinterpreting the Deep Magic. Director Andrew Adamson feared that the book’s explanation made it sound as if Aslan had conned the Witch, using knowledge she couldn’t possibly have had, and wanted to make it clear that her weakness was due to her moral inferiority, not her lack of power or mechanical knowledge. I don’t see why the adaptation couldn’t have had it both ways. Just have Aslan say, “If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she would also have known of a magic even deeper than the Deep Magic,” or something like that but hopefully more eloquent. Oh well.

“We sent the news that you were dead,” says Susan, “Peter and Edmund will have gone to war.” Lucy whips out her dagger. “We have to help them,” she says. “We will, dear one,” says Aslan, laying a huge paw on her little hand, “but not alone. Climb on my back. We have far to go and little time to get there and you may want to cover your ears.” Weirdly, the roar he gives is actually one of the quieter ones in the movie.

I’ve got to say after Aslan’s death scene and the scene of the girls mourning him, which I loved, this resurrection scene feels disappointingly undercooked and anticlimactic. If I were a newcomer to the story, I wonder if I’d be annoyed that the movie spent so much time on this character’s sacrifice only to undo it in one little scene. This part of the book was much more emotional. What went wrong? I really don’t want it to blame it on Anna Popplewell and Georgie Henley whose performances throughout the movie are excellent. Maybe the fault lies in the pacing. In the book, Lucy and Susan are initially as freaked out by Aslan’s reappearance as they are ecstatic and need to be reassured that’s he not a ghost or a dream before they rush to embrace him. Keeping that might have made the movie’s version a bigger and more emotional moment. The way the dialogue in the film quickly turns to Peter and Edmund may also be a problem. In the book, after telling them about the Deeper Magic, Aslan romps around with the girls and even tosses them in the air with his paws before they ride on his back. (“Whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.”) Including that might have helped but I can’t blame the filmmakers for feeling it would be selfish of Aslan to take time to do that when he could be helping the Narnians. And that’s not even getting into the technical difficulties of such a scene!

The long and short of the matter and the impression I can’t escape is that the filmmakers just weren’t very interested in this scene, seeing it as a hurdle through which they had to jump to get back to the battle. I wonder if in their heart of hearts, the screenwriters would have preferred for Aslan to remain dead and for Peter or Edmund to be the one to defeat the White Witch. (They would have Edmund metaphorically, if not literally, defeat her in each of the two sequels so I feel like that theory holds some water.)

Meanwhile-actually, sometime later, the battle is raging. Peter and the Witch make eye contact across the field. There’s a great subtle joke here as Edmund, from his vantage point, yells, “Fire!” and one of his archers shoot a flaming arrow which transforms into a phoenix. There actually are phoenixes in the Narnia books so props to the movie for that.[6]Actually, there’s only one phoenix in The Last Battle and it’s not in the land of Narnia itself, technically speaking, but details, details! This phoenix creates a wall of flame between Peter’s troops and the Witch’s, but she magically extinguishes it with her wand. Peter orders his army to draw the enemy back into the rocks for an ambush from the archers.

Since phoenixes are associated with death and rebirth, it’s thematically fitting to have one at this point.

Now we’re with Lucy and Susan riding across the countryside toward the Witch’s melting castle on Aslan’s back. This ride is one of the big emotional highpoints of the book so it’s sad to report that we get less than a minute of it here.

Back at the battle, Peter is thrown off his unicorn when Ginarrbrik shoots it. Seeing his king down and the White Witch headed his way, Oreius charges her at her. He has to fight his way through her general, who dies with two weapons sticking out his back, to get to her but it’s to no avail. She ducks as he tries to slice off her head and, to Peter’s sorrow, turns him to stone with her wand. I’m sorry if I’m not describing this scene very well. It’s hard for me to enjoy it for two reasons. The first is that I find chase scenes more exciting than battle scenes. The second is that I resent this battle for taking time away from parts of the book’s climax that I love and wished to see fully depicted on the big screen. To be fair though, this isn’t a terrible scene or anything and I understand that battles are an expense in film with all the extras they require, so if filmmakers are going to include one, they’re also going to want to have their money’s worth. Taking that into consideration, I’ll actually write some things (sort of) in defense of this scene.

A common criticism of Walden Media’s Narnia movies is that they rip off of the Lord of the Rings movies which loomed large in the public consciousness at the time. People tend to either criticize this version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe either for trying to be too much like The Lord of the Rings or not enough like it and often both. I assume the criticism mostly comes from this scene since I can’t think of much else that the two stories have in common except for really generic elements like both being about heroes who go on a long journey by foot. I can’t say the accusations of this movie copying what was popular at the time are unfair, but I also can’t get too angry about it because…well, I can’t remember the specifics of any battle scenes from The Lord of the Rings well enough to notice which parts this movie is imitating. The only aspects that I know for certain were copied from those films were being filmed in New Zealand the use of WETA Digital. I can’t complain about either of those things since I think the movie’s locations are great[7]Though I think I prefer the ones from the Czech Republic. and so are the weapons, armor, etc. created by WETA. Should I wish for the movie to be less good? Also, while the Narnia books don’t have that much in common with the literary Lord of the Rings beyond some surface level aspects, there’s a significant overlap between the fanbases, so for a movie based on one to be influenced by movies based on the other isn’t the craziest idea. I mean, it makes more sense than for an adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to try to be like Game of Thrones.

And I do like the way the movie cuts from Oerius being turned to stone to a stone centaur in the Witch’s courtyard. The theme for Tumnus’s lullaby is heard on the soundtrack as Lucy finds him reduced to a statue. Water drips from the walls to his body and off again like tears. (Actually, it looks more like sweat but I’m sure the movie meant us to think of tears.) As Lucy sobs and Susan comforts her, Aslan breathes on Tumnus, actually making his stone curls rustle. Slowly, color starts to spread over the faun as he comes back to life. Lucy happily introduces him to Susan. They look around to see all the statues in the courtyard reverting to normal at once. “Come, we must search the castle,” says Aslan, “Peter will need everyone we can find.”

If I was irritated by the ride on Aslan’s back getting short shrift, I’m furious at how quickly this passes. The scene of Aslan breaking the spell on the statues has some of my favorite descriptive writing in the book and strikes me as perfectly cinematic in its use of color.

I expect you’ve seen someone put a lighted match to a bit of newspaper which is propped up in a grate against an unlit fire. And for a second nothing seems to have happened; and then you notice a tiny streak of flame creeping along the edge of the newspaper. It was like that now. For a second after Aslan had breathed upon him the stone lion looked just the same. Then a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble back then it spread — then the colour seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper — then, while his hindquarters were still obviously stone, the lion shook his mane and all the heavy, stone folds rippled into living hair. Then he opened a great red mouth, warm and living, and gave a prodigious yawn... Everywhere the statues were coming to life. The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.

To be fair, I feel like the movie already ruined the color contrast by having the walls of the Witch’s house be made of ice instead of gray stone. Oh well. If the movie only had to focus on one statue being turned back into flesh and blood, it made sense for that statue to be Tumnus, a character about whom we care.[8]In the earlier draft of the script, this scene and the ride on Aslan’s back were longer and closer to the book. I wish they’d stayed that way but on the other hand, Lucy’s first … Continue reading I do like the way the movie cuts from this scene to the Witch having turned a satyr to stone, making it clear that said satyr and her other victims will be saved when Aslan arrives without the movie having to show that happening. It also shows her turning a gryphon into stone in midair. Conveniently for her, when it falls to the ground and smashes, it crushes some of Aslan’s soldiers, not any of hers. The statue smashing means that there’s at least one victim Aslan won’t be healing. In the book, between his breath and Lucy’s cordial, it’s implied that the good army suffered no casualties at all, making the movie slightly darker in one way.[9]Of course, given how long the battle had been going before Lucy arrived, some soldiers probably died before she could heal them.

Seeing which way the wind is blowing, Peter calls to Edmund, telling him to escape, find the girls and bring them home. Mr. Beaver starts to lead Edmund away, but Ed stops, seeing the White Witch heading towards Peter with her wand while he’s busy fighting a minotaur. “Peter said to get out of here,” Mr. Beaver reminds him. “Peter’s not king yet!” says Edmund, running toward the Witch. According to the book, he had to fight his way through three ogres to get to her, making this bit a rare case of the literary version being more action packed than this movie’s. (That’s not a complaint. I think the three ogres would have unnecessarily slowed down the pace.)[10]The extended edition is a bit closer to the book by having Edmund fight his way past Ginarrbrik. It doesn’t work very well in my opinion. Edmund leaps in front of the Witch. When she tries to stab him with her wand, he steps aside and shatters it with his sword.

Now the ordinarily aloof Witch is as visibly furious as we ever see her. She stabs Edmund with her sword, and he falls to the ground. She tosses the useless end of her wand away. Peter has witnessed everything and he’s not happy. After finishing off the minotaur, he runs at the Witch. The two of them fight and the Witch is clearly the one in control. She also clearly enjoys toying with Peter though and draws out the fight. The sound of a lion roaring interrupts the battle. Peter and the Witch look up to see Aslan standing in the rocky area above them, alive and well. “Impossible,” breathes the Witch. That line and even the shot of her saying it recalls Susan’s reaction to seeing Narnia for the first time, a nice bit of parallelism.

Formerly stone reinforcements pour into the valley. Rumblebuffin, the giant from the book, gets a cameo.

Amusingly, we even see the timid Mr. Tumnus in berserker mode, take down some of the enemy. (That’s not a criticism; it’s supposed to be amusing.) The Witch resumes fighting Peter but now she clearly wants to kill him as fast as possible before Aslan gets to her. To his credit, Peter makes her have to work for it a bit. Eventually however, she pins his arm to the ground and knocks aside his shield. But before she can finish the deed, Aslan comes bounding across the field and pounces on her. Aslan takes a moment to stare her in the face, almost pityingly, before it’s implied that he bites off her head. (Hey, he’s not like a tame lion.) Then he turns to Peter, who has gotten up from the ground, and gravely says, “It is finished.”[11]Those are actually the last words of Christ before His death but, according to the director, this was unintentional. The phrase is generic enough that I believe him, and I don’t think it makes … Continue reading This is weird because there’s nowhere else in the film that we’re supposed to feel sorry for the Witch. As Mrs. Beaver says in the book, “she’s bad all through.”

She almost looks happy to die in this shot. Again, weird.

Susan and Lucy come running to Peter. C. S. Lewis described him as looking older after the battle and I think William Moseley captures that well.

“Where’s Edmund?” asks Susan. He’s lying on the ground, near death. Ginarrbrik limps towards him with his battleax raised but Susan kills him with an arrow. (Bleeding to death from an arrow wound is actually a rather slow and agonizing way to die, so don’t picture what is happening to Ginarrbrik offscreen throughout the following scene. Not if you’re tenderhearted anyway.) Edmund’s siblings gather around him, and Lucy takes out her cordial. She pours a drop of it in his mouth. After a long, scary moment, Edmund’s breathing returns to normal and he comes back to life. The others embrace him. “When are you going to learn to do as you’re told?” Peter asks affectionately. That’s…actually a good point. Since one of Edmund’s main vices has been pride and refusing to submit to authority outside himself, having his big redemptive act be one of disobedience doesn’t make much thematic sense. Modern writers seem to feel that heroism has to involve defying authority in some way. This makes it somewhat hard for them to write good Narnia adaptations.[12]While the good guys in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are fighting against their acting monarch, the book stresses that Aslan and the Pevensies are the land’s rightful rulers, and her … Continue reading

Edmund looks over the others’ shoulders to see Aslan. I feel like he should be more amazed to see him alive, especially since he should also have been wracked with guilt over his death. Anyway, Aslan breathes on a stone satyr and nods at Lucy. She runs over to a wounded body with her cordial. Again, the movie does a great job letting us know what they’re going to do without a long montage. And I believe after one more post, I’ll have covered this whole movie!

Next Week: The Prophecy is Fulfilled

References

References
1 The movie has Mr. Beaver wear armor in this scene by the way. In another Narnia book, a badger character refuses to wear any on the grounds that “he was a beast, he was, and if his claws and teeth could not keep his skin whole, it wasn’t worth keeping.” But, hey, beavers are less fearsome beasts that badgers.
2 You could argue Oreius replaced them in the movie.
3 When I first saw an out-of-context promotional image for that polar bear-drawn chariot, I thought it was replacing her reindeer-drawn sleigh from the book. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
4 Ed nods but I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a signal since I don’t think Peter could see it from his location.
5 Well, obviously, it’s perceptible since I perceived it. But it’s not obvious and “subtly gulps” sounds weird.
6 Actually, there’s only one phoenix in The Last Battle and it’s not in the land of Narnia itself, technically speaking, but details, details!
7 Though I think I prefer the ones from the Czech Republic.
8 In the earlier draft of the script, this scene and the ride on Aslan’s back were longer and closer to the book. I wish they’d stayed that way but on the other hand, Lucy’s first visit to Narnia, the one when she met Tumnus, was far too rushed in that draft and I’m glad it was revised.
9 Of course, given how long the battle had been going before Lucy arrived, some soldiers probably died before she could heal them.
10 The extended edition is a bit closer to the book by having Edmund fight his way past Ginarrbrik. It doesn’t work very well in my opinion.
11 Those are actually the last words of Christ before His death but, according to the director, this was unintentional. The phrase is generic enough that I believe him, and I don’t think it makes the movie particularly Christian, especially as Aslan says it long after his death, but it’s an amusing coincidence, isn’t it?
12 While the good guys in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are fighting against their acting monarch, the book stresses that Aslan and the Pevensies are the land’s rightful rulers, and her authority is bogus.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Part 10: You Have to Trust Me

Unable to sleep, Lucy tosses and turns in bed at night. A silhouette passes the transparent wall of her tent. It’s Aslan. Lucy wakes up Susan and, taking their Christmas presents with them, the two follow Aslan as he slips out of camp. In the book, Susan didn’t need to be awakened as she was also awake, worrying about Aslan’s strange moodiness. I kind of wish that could have been the case in the movie too. Just because Lucy is the less flawed of the two it doesn’t mean Susan can’t ever be sensitive.

I wrote in a previous post about the movie seeming to avert the idea of Aslan being omniscient but, in this scene, he arguably comes across as more omniscient than in the book. There he only noticed the girls following him when he turned around while they were in an exposed place with nowhere to hide. Here, without turning around, he says to them while they’re hiding behind a tree, “Shouldn’t you both be in bed?” That could just be implying that they’re really bad at stealth though. After an embarrassed moment, they approach him. “We couldn’t sleep,” explains Lucy. “Please, Aslan, couldn’t we come with you?” Susan asks humbly. “I would be glad of the company for a while,” says Aslan, “thank you.” They put their hands in his mane and continue through the woods. This scene is more dramatic in the book with Aslan moaning and stumbling and the girls tearfully begging him to tell them what’s wrong. Honestly, I’m OK with the way they do it here though. Partly because I don’t think the movie has succeeded quite enough in making Aslan scary for his vulnerability to have the same effect as in the source material. While Lucy is a bit cautious about touching him, it doesn’t come across as the terrifying liberty that the book implies. And partly because, given the direction this scene is headed, a lot of moaning and weeping might have felt like overkill.[1]No pun intended. That’ll make sense in a little bit.

Aslan: It is time. From here, I must go on alone.
Susan: But, Aslan-
Aslan: You have to trust me for this must be done. Thank you, Susan. Thank you, Lucy. And farewell.

Aslan walks off. The girls watch him go. But instead of returning to the camp, they sneak around and, crouching in the undergrowth, see that Aslan is going to the Stone Table, around which a crowd with torches waits.

This doesn’t look good. (The situation, I mean. The visuals for this scene are superb.)

Head bowed, Aslan makes his way through the Witch’s followers.[2]I’m not going to list all the species. If you’re interested, read the book or maybe look up some old promotional material for the movie. C. S. Lewis quipped that if he described some of these monstrous creatures, “the grownups would probably not let (kids) read this book.” The movie does a great job of making these monsters look hideously grotesque while still keeping within a PG rating. The White Witch’s soldiers also have a variety and a whimsy to their designs, making them visually fun where, say, the orcs from the Lord of the Rings movies were simply repellent.[3]I don’t necessarily mean that as a knock on those movies. After all, they were trying to tell a very different story from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with a different atmosphere and to … Continue reading The movie also does a pretty good job in this scene of showing that they’re afraid of Aslan.

The White Witch stands atop the Stone Table, waiting for Aslan, dressed in black and carrying a ceremonial knife. “Behold the Great Lion,” she says. Her followers laugh on cue. From their hiding place, Susan and Lucy look confused. The minotaur general cautiously prods Aslan with his battleax. Aslan doesn’t resist but a little snarl escapes him. The general looks back at the Witch, not quite confident in proceeding. But then, to the girls’ shock, he violent knocks Aslan to the ground. The Witch’s other followers draw near and jeer at him. “Here, kitty, kitty,” taunts Ginarrbrik, “do you want some milk?” I’m surprised the movie doesn’t have Lucy try to rush to Aslan’s assistance here and Susan hold her back. It would have made a lot of sense. “Why doesn’t he fight back?” Lucy asks. Susan has no answer. “Bind him,” commands the Witch. Her soldiers, now that they’re not as scared, rush forward and tie cords around Aslan’s paws, body and mouth. (According to the book, they tie them so tightly that they cut into his flesh!) “Wait,” the Witch suddenly says, “let him first be shaved.” The creatures cheer at this. Ginarrbrik comes forward, saws off a tuft of Aslan’s mane and holds it up like a trophy to much cheering. Others eagerly gather around and hack off the mane, tossing hair into the air like confetti. “Bring him to me,” says the Witch. The creatures roughly drag Aslan up onto the table-the way his jaw bangs against the stones can make you wince-and tie him there. Their bloodlust is at a fever pitch when the Witch holds up her hand and the scene goes silent.

Then four hags carrying torches start-wait, I’ve got to talk about the design for these characters. I’ve always assumed that by “Hags” the Narnia books meant stereotypically old and ugly Halloween-type witches as opposed to the beautiful enchantress archetype represented by the White Witch. But for whatever reason, the movie gives them these weird beaks. My guess is that they felt unattractive older women would look mundane in the company of all these horrible monsters. It’s a bit of an odd decision but it doesn’t distract me in context.

The hags start pounding out a rhythm with their torches. Other creatures take it up. Some of them hiss or bellow. The wolves howl. It’s awesomely eerie. I love the music here. It would be easy to simply make the scene scary, but I applaud the soundtrack for focusing on the sadness of it just as this scene in the book does. For me, the whole sequence is one of the most epic in the movie. It’s one of the parts that makes me believe I’m watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, not just a version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The White Witch kneels down and addresses her victim. “Now, Aslan,” she says, “I’m a little disappointed in you.” In the book, she begins this speech with the words, “And now who has won?” That strikes me as more dramatic but, oh well, I guess this isn’t bad. “Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor?” she asks. Lucy and Susan look at each other, aghast, as they realize the reason for Aslan’s lack of resistance. Don’t tell me they shouldn’t be able to hear from so far away and with the crowd making so much noise! It’s a great dramatic moment.

“You are giving me your life,” continues the Witch, “and saving…no one. So much for love.” That last line is really corny on paper, but Tilda Swinton’s delivery actually makes it chilling. The Witch rises and addresses her followers. “Tonight,” she proclaims, “the Deep Magic will be appeased. But tomorrow we will take Narnia forever!” In the book, that part of her speech came before her telling Aslan that his sacrifice will be in vain, and I think it flowed better that way, the idea being that once Aslan is dead, he won’t be able to stop her from killing Edmund and everybody else who is a threat to her. I wouldn’t say the movie’s rearranging ruins the speech though. You can still follow her logic; it just takes a little more thought. Anyway, her followers cheer and their rhythmic pounding speeds up, becoming more and more frenzied. The Witch raises her knife above Aslan. “In that knowledge,” she says, “despair…” Lucy seems to make eye contact with Aslan[4]Don’t tell me there’s no way she could do so! This is a great scene., silently begging him to do something.

“…And die!” concludes the Witch, bringing down her knife. The movie arguably makes the scene a tad darker than the book, according to which “The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn’t bear to look and had covered their eyes.” Here the camera cuts between Lucy’s wide-open eyes and Aslan’s face as the life goes out of him. The girls hug each other and weep. “The great cat is dead!” shrieks the Witch. Her army cheers. “General, prepare your troops for battle,” she says, “however short it may be.”

We cut to the Stone Table after the Witch and her followers have left. In the dim light of very early morning, Susan and Lucy approach Aslan’s lifeless body. In a poignant detail original to this version, Lucy has a moment of hope and takes out her bottle of healing cordial. “It’s too late,” says Susan gently. “He’s gone.” She manages to smile through her tears as she tells Lucy, “He must have known what he was doing.” Some fans of the book might reasonably object that for Susan to be calm and collected enough (initially anyway) to tell Lucy this lessens the scene’s power. In the book, basically all either girl could do at this point was cry, hold hands and be silent. Lewis writes of them being up all night and crying until they have no tears left in them. I can understand someone not liking this little moment in the movie. But I’ve got to say I love it. Up until this point, Susan has been the most skeptical character in the movie, expressing incredulity at the ideas of a magical world inside a wardrobe, robins and beavers talking, ordinary children becoming heroes and Father Christmas.[5]Remember that this adaptation’s version of Father Christmas specifically told her to trust in her bow. That wording might have significance. For her to be the one to maintain that Aslan knew what he was doing when it appears to common sense that he made a terrible mistake and played right into the Witch’s hands, rather than the more intuitive Lucy, is a powerful character moment. We’ve also seen her try to be a mother to Lucy without much success throughout the story and it’s nice to see her be as comforting a presence as possible in this devastating situation.[6]The book also arguably had Susan show some impressive growth a little before this scene. Previously, she’d been the most fearful of the Pevensies, but she asked to accompany Aslan wherever he … Continue reading In any case, she and Lucy do break down sobbing and bury their faces in Aslan’s body afterwards though this doesn’t go on for as long as the book implies. The music also isn’t as emotionally intense as I’d have imagined, but it’s still beautiful in its subtler way.

A squeaking noise causes the girls to look up from their crying. They see mice are crawling all over Aslan’s body. Disgusted, Susan tries to shoo them away, but Lucy stops her, realizing that the mice are actually chewing away the cords. The girls help remove the last of them. Lucy strokes Aslan’s unmuzzled face before burying her own in it.

Susan: We have to tell the others.
Lucy: We can’t just leave him!
Susan: Lucy, there’s no time! They need to know.

Lucy can’t argue with this, but she still doesn’t want to move. Then she has an idea. “The trees,” she says. We cut to a strange wind blowing through the forest, scattering leaves and cherry blossom petals. It enters Peter and Edmund’s tent, waking them. The petals coalesce into the form of a dryad (Katrina Browne.)[7]Browne is actually credited as a Green Dryad, not a cherry blossom one but since this is the only dryad with a speaking role in the movie, I assume it’s she. “Be still, my princes,” she says, “I bring grave news from your sisters.” Lucy and Susan send no such message in the book, being probably too distraught to think of doing so. I approve of this alteration. Since a lack of dryads in Narnia is important in the next entry in the series, Prince Caspian, it makes sense to emphasize their presence in this one.

I’ve never noticed before how creepy those eyes are though.

As the rest of the camp awakens, Peter sadly comes out of Aslan’s tent. “She’s right,” he says, “He’s gone.” He stares down at a battlefield map. Edmund is weirdly unphased by this, considering that he’s the one responsible for Aslan’s sacrifice. In the book, Susan even tells Lucy not to tell him about it lest the guilt be too devastating. Later books imply he was eventually informed as others mention Aslan’s death in front of him and he isn’t confused, so I guess I don’t necessarily mind the movie explicitly having Edmund learn of it but if you’re going to do that, have him react for crying out loud!

Still, I do appreciate how this scene demonstrates Edmund’s character development.

Edmund: Then you’ll have to lead us. (Beat) Peter, there’s an army out there and it’s ready to follow you.
Peter: I can’t!
Edmund: Aslan believed you could. So do I.

After being so resentful of Peter asserting any authority over him[8]Or Susan doing so for that matter., it’s really impressive to hear Edmund be the one to encourage him to take charge. I just wish Skandar Keynes, whose performance is generally stellar throughout the film, could have also conveyed that Edmund was experiencing horrific feelings of guilt during this moment. “The Witch’s army is nearing, Sire,” Oreius tells Peter. “What are your orders?”

Next Week: ….

References

References
1 No pun intended. That’ll make sense in a little bit.
2 I’m not going to list all the species. If you’re interested, read the book or maybe look up some old promotional material for the movie.
3 I don’t necessarily mean that as a knock on those movies. After all, they were trying to tell a very different story from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with a different atmosphere and to a different audience. But if you ask at which evil army, I enjoy looking more, it’s the Narnian one.
4 Don’t tell me there’s no way she could do so! This is a great scene.
5 Remember that this adaptation’s version of Father Christmas specifically told her to trust in her bow. That wording might have significance.
6 The book also arguably had Susan show some impressive growth a little before this scene. Previously, she’d been the most fearful of the Pevensies, but she asked to accompany Aslan wherever he was going, no matter how bad it might be.
7 Browne is actually credited as a Green Dryad, not a cherry blossom one but since this is the only dryad with a speaking role in the movie, I assume it’s she.
8 Or Susan doing so for that matter.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Part 9: Whoa, Horsie!

Peter emerges from his tent in the morning to see Oreius passing by. Oreius motions with his head to where Aslan and Edmund stand on a rock in conversation. The book says that “There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot.” You might expect this movie with its emphasis on character journeys to want to dramatize such an important moment in Edmund’s development. But, no, they stay true to the source material, leaving it ambiguous what is being said and whether Aslan was more stern or more compassionate. And while it may not make sense in theory to refrain from dramatizing it further, I think it works beautifully in practice.

I love the lighting/colors in this shot.

Susan and Lucy emerge from their own tent. Lucy sees Edmund, calls his name and starts to run towards him but Peter holds her back out of respect for the privacy of this moment. Edmund hears Lucy’s voice however and Aslan gives him a stern nod. The two of them slowly walk toward the other Pevensie children. I appreciate how the movie slows down and really gives this scene some gravitas. You really feel Edmund’s shame and awkwardness as well as the mixed emotions of his brother and sisters. The quiet music is also beautiful.

“What’s done is done,” says Aslan, “There is no need to speak to Edmund about what is past.” He leaves them alone. Edmund has a hard time at first meeting anyone’s eyes. With an effort, he blurts out a “hello.” Lucy runs over and gives him a hug which he returns. Susan puts a hand on his shoulder and gives him a gentler hug once Lucy’s is done. Peter’s expression is still somewhat lacking in friendliness. It’s unclear whether he wants to hug Edmund too or strangle him.

Susan asks Ed if he’s alright and he says that he’s a little tired, doubtless something of an understatement. “Get some sleep,” says Peter, a little curtly. Edmund starts to walk away, looking as if he wished for a warmer reception from his brother. On impulse, Peter calls after him, “And Edmund-” For a moment, it seems that Peter is going to pour out his heart, but he reconsiders and simply says, “try not to wander off.” That line could easily have come across as a rebuke. Indeed, in the earlier version of the script, that’s exactly what it was. But here it plays as friendly banter. The fact that Peter comes feels comfortable enough to joke about Edmund’s betrayal with him really shows that all his forgiven between the two.

After Edmund’s gone, Peter’s smile fades though. That may be less because of his feelings about Edmund himself however than it is about his worries over something else.

At a first glance, this movie seems much faster paced than the book that inspired it. That’s because the book is largely devoted to the scenes of characters walking and eating.[1]I don’t mean that as a criticism! It’s how C. S. Lewis himself described the books he wrote, walking and eating being some of his favorite pastimes. But this impression is something of an illusion. It’s right at this point in the book, when “everyone wanted very hard to say something which would make it quite clear that they were all friends with him again-something ordinary and natural-and of course no one could think of anything in the world to say,” that the White Witch requests a meeting with Aslan. The movie actually adds a scene or two, one of them a dialogue scene, in between. It’s not so much that the movie is fast paced, and the book slow paced as it is that they have different interests.

The Pevensies have a picnic. Edmund, how dressed in Narnian clothes, wolfs down bread and cheese, understandably starving. Peter says he’s sure the Narnians will pack plenty of food for the journey back. “We’re going home?” asks Susan incredulously. Up until now, she’s been the one insisting that they all return to their own world. But now when that seems about to happen, she sounds disappointed, which is strangely convincing. Peter says he’s sending his siblings back since he promised their mother he’d keep them safe, but he intends to stay and help Aslan’s army. “But they need us,” says Lucy, “all four of us!” Peter argues that it’s too dangerous. “You almost drowned,” he reminds her, “Edmund was almost killed!” To the others’ surprise, Edmund interjects that that is why they have to stay. (Presumably, he’s referring to the circumstances around his near demise, not Lucy’s.) “I’ve seen what the White Witch can do,” he says, “And I’ve helped her do it. But we can’t leave these people behind to suffer for it.” Lucy wordlessly grips his hand. There’s a moment of silence. Now I’m a pretty individualistic loner-type for whom the military holds no appeal, so the fact that the movie was able to move me with the Pevensies deciding to risk their lives to help a country means it deserves some kind of medal!

“I suppose that’s it then,” Susan says calmly. She rises from the table and walks away. “Where are you going?” asks Peter. “To get in some practice,” she says with a smile, picking up her bow and arrows. Fans of the original book and of the character of Aslan in particular may reasonably criticize this adaptation for emphasizing the role of the Pevensies at his expense but it’s worth noting that Edmund, Susan and Peter all show major character growth here, for seemingly no other reason than meeting him.[2]Of course, a viewer less enchanted with the movie than I might say that’s an example of badly structured character arcs. That should count for something. We get a brief scene of Susan practicing her archery on a field a bit removed from the camp. Amusingly, Lucy also practices throwing her dagger and turns out to have a better aim than her older sister. Peter and Edmund are also practicing riding on horses and sword fighting. The book, by the way, never depicted them training for battle at all. You could argue that by adding this bit, the movie makes their survival a tad more realistic. You could also argue that it’s still unrealistic and by trying to make it less so, the movie actually draws attention to the implausibility. But I won’t make that case.

Mr. Beaver comes running across the field, scaring Edmund’s horse who neighs and rears. “Whoa, Horsie!” says Edmund. “My name is Philip,” says the horse (in the voice of production manager Philip Steuer.) “Oh, sorry,” says an embarrassed Edmund. The moment is worth a chuckle but it’s actually one of the parts of the movie that annoys me most as a fan of the Narnia books, which state emphatically that talking horses are not to be ridden or used as beasts of burden.[3]Also, the name Philip does not sound at all like the horse names in The Horse and his Boy. It’s true that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe itself doesn’t mention this but this movie has already shown signs that the screenwriters skimmed the other books in the series at least and we’ll see more signs later. It would have been nice if they could have remembered that rule. It may be a little thing but it’s something that stands out about the Narnia books. As a fan of those, I want to watch these movie adaptations and imagine that I’m seeing the world of Narnia come to life before my eyes. The absence of the no-riding-talking-horses rule makes this movie’s world feel less like Narnia to me. It’s also worth noting that in the final book in the series, The Last Battle, seeing a talking horse be treated like a dumb animal so infuriates the good guys that they gruesomely kill the perpetrators without giving them a chance to defend themselves.[4]The Last Battle is somewhat darker than the average Narnia story. Had the movie series been able to adapt that book, it wouldn’t have been impossible for them to make that plot point work. After all, the horse wasn’t just being ridden but whipped and abused. But it would be a lot easier to sell if they established that talking horses should be differently from regular horses right from the start.

To be fair, the books do give an exception to the rule: “in war where everyone must do what he can do best.” Training Edmund for battle could technically count as that with some generosity. By the way, Peter’s horse is actually a unicorn, something that also isn’t supposed to be ridden in Narnia. The Last Battle also depicts unicorns as talking, something Peter’s unicorn never does. Technically, that makes it even less accurate to the book series but if they had to have the first inaccuracy, I’d rather they do the second since it actually makes the first less annoying. I know there are people out there who would laugh at me devoting so many words to this little moment, but their laughter doesn’t alter my opinion. Tiny moments in an adaptation can be what make fans of the original cheer the most and they can nag like mosquitoes.

Anyway, back to the story. Mr. Beaver tells the boys that the White Witch has demanded a meeting with Aslan. We cut to the Witch being carried into the camp in a portable throne by cyclopses. There are no cyclopses among the Witch’s followers in the book, but they fit. Ginarrbrik goes before the litter, crying, “Jadis, Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands!” Those Lone Islands are mentioned briefly in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but aren’t really relevant until The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.[5]For that matter, the Witch’s first name, Jadis, is also mentioned once in the book and only becomes relevant much later in the series. The fact that the movie gave them a shoutout even though they didn’t need to do so makes me happy. See? Little details can make or break an adaptation. If I weren’t bothered by Edmund riding a talking horse, I couldn’t enjoy the mention of irrelevant islands and be consistent.

Aslan’s soldiers boo the Witch and her entourage as they approach Aslan’s tent. In the book, while Aslan and the Witch are described as the only ones who seem totally at their ease in this scene, it’s also implied that the Witch is still intimidated by Aslan. We get a closeup of his face and then a closeup of her face which can be interpreted as her being nervous but could just as easily not be interpreted that way. As much as I’ve praised Tilda Swinton’s aloof performance, there is a danger with aloof characters. It can be hard to tell what they’re feeling.

As the Witch alights from her litter, she makes eye contact with Edmund before turning her attention to Aslan.

Witch: You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan.
Aslan: His offense was not against you.
Witch: Have you forgotten the laws upon which Narnia was built?
Aslan (snarling): Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch! I was there when it was written.
Witch: Then you’ll remember well that every traitor belongs to me. His blood is my property.

In the book, Aslan comes across as more relaxed and seems to be toying with the Witch. His initial response to her first words is “well, his offense was not against you.” That one word, “well,” makes his tone more casual, humorous even, and less defensive than it is in the movie. When the Witch accuses him of forgetting the Deep Magic, he says, “Let us say I have forgotten it. Tell us of this Deep Magic.” Presumably, the filmmakers didn’t want Aslan to seem too in control for fear the scene would lose tension. (When Aslan rebukes her, the Witch actually seems a little triumphant at having gotten a rise out of the lion.) As we’ll see with the battle between Aslan’s army and the Witch’s, they also really wanted this to be an underdog story. Personally, I think having Aslan be totally calm, on the surface anyway, is more interesting and I actually think it could have heightened the suspense by making viewers worry that he might be overplaying his hand. Oh well.

In response to the Witch claiming Edmund’s blood, Peter draws his sword. “Try and take him then,” he says. In the book, that line[6]Well, actually, the line is “come and take it then” in the book but never mind. is actually said by a bull with a man’s head.[7]Not to be confused with a man with a bull’s head. I think transferring it to Peter is a good way of confirming that the brothers are reconciled. The White Witch gives Peter a condescending look. “Do you really think that mere force will deny me my right, little king?” she says. “Aslan knows that unless I have blood as the law demands, all of Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water. That boy will die on the Stone Table as is tradition! You dare not refuse me.” Edmund looks devastated by this news as you’d expect. His emotions are a bit more complex in the book.

He felt a choking feeling and wondered if he ought to say something; but a moment later he felt that he was not expected to do anything except to wait, and do what he was told.

I think that’s more interesting than what the film does but it probably would have come across as bad acting so changing it was the right call. Actually, you could argue that Edmund’s reaction is true to the book in that he’s disturbed but refrains from saying anything.

In the book, by the way, we learn a little more about this mysterious Deep Magic/law but not much more. It was apparently created by Aslan’s father, the Emperor beyond the Sea, and is engraved on his scepter. That really raises more questions than it answers though. This Emperor is mentioned in a couple of the books, mostly prominently in this, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but never appears or receives much more than a mention, so I think it was reasonable for this adaptation to drop him.[8]From a Christian theological perspective, the Emperor corresponds to God the Father and Aslan corresponds to God the Son. However, this is never really developed and in The Magician’s Nephew, … Continue reading Anyway, Aslan says he’ll talk with the Witch in private and leads her into his tent. We cut to sometime later as the Pevensies and the rest of Aslan’s followers are waiting for a verdict. The movie does a good job of capturing the book’s description of this scene with even small background noises being prominent in the nervous silence.

I also like how Edmund works out his nervousness by pulling grass apart. It feels very realistic.

Everyone’s attention turns to the tent as the Witch emerges, followed by Aslan. She gives Edmund a piercing look. Aslan’s head is bowed, and it really feels as if he’s about to admit defeat. But then he says, “She has renounced her claim on the Son of Adam’s blood.” The scene is kind of brilliant. It fools you into thinking Aslan is going to say the opposite of what he does without him or the Witch doing anything that doesn’t make sense. That is to say, it doesn’t make sense now, but it will once we know all as we will shortly. “How do I know your promise will be kept?” demands the Witch. Aslan roars at her. When he did that in the book, “the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.” Here she just sits down, looking scared, which manages to be less lame than you’d imagine. It’s perfectly valid for book fans to criticize the adaptation for not having the Witch be scared of Aslan enough but the filmmakers must have wanted her to be somewhat scared of him or they wouldn’t have included this moment at all.

Nevertheless, as her bearers carry her away, the Witch looks over her shoulder at Aslan with an I’ll-Get-You-For-This expression. Everyone is clapping Edmund on the back and congratulating him and his brother and sisters. Lucy looks over at Aslan, expecting him to be rejoicing too. But instead, he bows his head and, with a brief, sad glance at her, goes back into his tent. Lucy is disturbed by this quickly gets caught up again in the celebration. No moment like this is described in the book but Lucy and Aslan have a very close relationship in later installments of the series[9]According to Prince Caspian, she “understood some of his moods.”, so this feels very consistent with that.

Next Week: So… What’s This Promise Aslan Has to Keep Now?

References

References
1 I don’t mean that as a criticism! It’s how C. S. Lewis himself described the books he wrote, walking and eating being some of his favorite pastimes.
2 Of course, a viewer less enchanted with the movie than I might say that’s an example of badly structured character arcs.
3 Also, the name Philip does not sound at all like the horse names in The Horse and his Boy.
4 The Last Battle is somewhat darker than the average Narnia story.
5 For that matter, the Witch’s first name, Jadis, is also mentioned once in the book and only becomes relevant much later in the series.
6 Well, actually, the line is “come and take it then” in the book but never mind.
7 Not to be confused with a man with a bull’s head.
8 From a Christian theological perspective, the Emperor corresponds to God the Father and Aslan corresponds to God the Son. However, this is never really developed and in The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan fills God the Father’s role of Creator.
9 According to Prince Caspian, she “understood some of his moods.”
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Part 8: This is Peter’s Battle

Remember how at the end of Part 4, I wrote that we’d reached a place where I felt the movie’s quality, the quality of its writing anyway, started to go downhill? Well, I’m happy to report that we’ve now reached a point where it starts going uphill again. I’m not sure if it’s as consistently great as it was before, at least from an adaptation standpoint, but I find it closer than it was during that middle section we just went through, maybe because the characters whose dialogue I enjoy the least talk less.

As Peter, Susan, Lucy and the beavers walk uphill toward Aslan’s camp, we see what appear to be a horse’s hooves. The camera pans up to reveal that the hooves actually belong to a centaur who blows a horn signaling our heroes’ arrival. (By the way, the movie portrays some centaurs as being female even though, like fauns, they’re a one-sex species in mythology.)

I love the colors in this part of the movie! Actually, I love the art direction throughout this whole film, but we’ve reached a turning point of sorts when it comes to the visuals that makes it worth bringing up the topic again. The bright green of the hillside contrasts with the black and white visuals that have defined Narnia up till now. Not that those weren’t beautiful in their own way. Sheesh, I can theoretically understand some viewers finding them easier on the eyes. But in context, they come across as very refreshing. And the bright, almost circus-like colors of the tents make Narnia feel like something out of a storybook. It’s perfect.

Right before the characters enter the camp, Lucy notices a couple of dryads who wave at her. This movie series portrays the dryads’ bodies as being composed of seemingly windblown leaves and flower petals. The book depicts them more as people with bark for skin and leaves, willows and moss for hair and clothing. I’d have preferred something like that, but I don’t dislike these dryads. Actually, I appreciate that they don’t look like the ents in the Lord of the Rings movies, which still loomed high in the public’s memories when this movie was released.

Lucy waves back at the dryads. This moment reminds me of one from another Narnia book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy makes eye contact with a Sea Girl e.g. a mermaid.

Neither could speak to the other and in a moment the Sea Girl dropped astern. But Lucy will never forget her face…Lucy had liked that girl and she felt certain the girl had liked her. In that one moment they had somehow become friends. There does not seem to be much chance of their meeting again in that world or any other. But if ever they do, they will rush together with their hands held out.

As they enter the camp, various Narnian creatures stare at the humans in awe. Susan nervously wonders why, and Lucy suggests she looks as strange to them as they do to her. In another look-they-really-do-love-each-other moment, Mrs. Beaver starts to groom her fur and her husband tells her to stop fussing because she looks lovely. Aslan’s soldiers fall in behind the Pevensies as they approach a big tent in the middle of the camp.

Outside stands a centaur (Patrick Kake.) This character isn’t from the book but he’s true to the Narnia books’ depictions of centaurs in that he’s intimidatingly stern[1]In the book, Prince Caspian, a character says that “no one ever laughed at a centaur., wise and noble though he’s more of a warrior whereas in the books, centaurs are defined more by being astrologers/prophets. His name is Oreius, which sounds like it could easily be a name from the Narnia books, but it should be the name of a faun, not a centaur. (Centaur names in the books include Glenstorm, Cloudbirth and Roonwit. Faun names include Tumnus, Mentius and Obentinus.) Oh well, nice try.

Peter unsheathes his sword and salutes Oreius. “We have come to see Aslan,” he says, his voice trembling. That’s not a criticism of Moseley’s performance. He’s clearly supposed to be nervous.[2]As well he should be. In the book, Mrs. Beaver says, ““if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just … Continue reading Oreius turns toward the tent and all the soldiers bow.

A tremolo is then heard on the soundtrack that give me the shivers, more so, regrettably, than the music that plays when the tent flap opens and Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), who is here revealed to be a lion, steps out. Peter, Susan and Lucy kneel before him. Now one of the most memorable parts of the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the Narnia books in general is the feeling that Aslan’s presence inspires in all the characters.

People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly.

Every fan hopes seeing Aslan onscreen will give them this feeling. Does it in this movie? Well…for me, not really. To be fair though, I’m not sure how it could. While the fact that Aslan is a lion is certainly part of what makes him “terrible”, it’s not just that.[3]In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a character who has been transformed into a dragon describes meeting Aslan thus. “I was terribly afraid of it… I could have knocked any lion out easily … Continue reading And while we can theoretically understand why meeting a lion is scary for the characters in the movie, it’s not that scary for us to watch it onscreen, knowing that the lion is a good guy who won’t eat them. Aslan doesn’t really do anything intimidating in this scene in this book. It’s more a matter of his aura, something that might be easier to describe in a book[4]Though even with that medium just saying that someone has an aura can be unconvincing by itself, especially if you lack C. S. Lewis’s eloquence. than to actually generate in a movie.[5]I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for a movie. One I’ve written about on this very blog, The Prince of Egypt, kind of nails the numinous effect which Lewis gave Aslan in its burning … Continue reading I’m not bitter toward the filmmakers for their failure because, while there are things they perhaps could have done better[6]In the book, the characters are in such awe of Aslan, that none of them dares be the first to address him and they get into a little argument over it. Including that might have helped the movie sell … Continue reading, I get the impression from the actors’ performances, from the soundtrack and the general staging that they were trying.

As Aslan’s voice, Liam Neeson is…fine. The fact that his isn’t one of the best vocal performances in the movie actually says great things about the voice acting and acting in general in it. He sounds suitably soothing when comforting the Pevensies and suitably stern when confronting the White Witch. He just isn’t much about which to write home for such a major character. According to the book, Aslan’s voice “was deep and rich and somehow took the fidgets out of (the characters.”) Neeson’s voice isn’t particularly deep, which I think may actually have been a good thing as a deep voice is the obvious route to go with a lion. It also might have worked better for the character though. On the plus side, Neeson’s voice can reasonably be described as rich. Previous actors portraying Aslan have all hammed it up in the role in their own unique ways and there is something refreshing about Neeson’s Aslan not being a ham. I can’t blame those other actors for wanting to ham it up with such a big character, especially the ones in radio dramas which depend almost solely on them to bring that character to life, but hearing a version of Aslan deliver his lines like a normal person does make for a nice change.

I like the bell designs on Aslan’s tent. They can be considered a nod to the fact that this is supposed to take place over Christmas even though the movie seems a little embarrassed by the Christmas part of the story.

The ensuing dialogue is fairly close to the corresponding conversation in the book.

Aslan: Welcome, Peter, Son of Adam. Welcome, Susan and Lucy, Daughters of Eve. And welcome to you, Beavers. You have my thanks. But where is the fourth?
Peter: That’s why we’re here, sir. We need your help.
Susan: We had a little trouble along the way.
Aslan: Captured? How could this happen?
Mr. Beaver (after an awkward pause): He betrayed them, Your Majesty.
Oreius: Then he has betrayed us all!
Aslan: Peace, Oreius. I’m sure there’s an explanation.

This is a minor but, I think, interesting difference between the book and the movie. In the former, Aslan never asks for an explanation for Edmund’s betrayal, not that we learn anyway. (He has a private conversation with Edmund later to which we are not privy.) Lewis just writes that “something made” Peter give a partial explanation anyway. It can be inferred though that Aslan’s presence was that something. Meeting him seems to accelerate character development for each of the Pevensies in both the book and the movie. “It was my fault really,” Peter says at this point in the latter to his sisters’ surprise, “I was too hard on him.” Susan puts a supportive hand on her older brother’s shoulder. “We all were,” she says. That isn’t really true since Susan wasn’t really hard on Edmund that we saw. In fact, you’ll recall that when Peter and Lucy were upbraiding him, she tried to change the subject. But after seeing Peter and Susan butting heads for so much of the movie prior to this moment, it’s very heartwarming. “Sir, he’s our brother,” adds Lucy. “I know, dear one,” says Aslan, “but that only makes the betrayal all the worse.” That’s also a minor but interesting change from the book. Lewis doesn’t have Aslan verbally condemn Edmund here. Neither does he blame Peter or excuse him. He “merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.” Again, that’s something that’d be hard to accomplish in a film as opposed to a book. “This may be harder than you think,” says the cinematic Aslan. His literary counterpart says something similar when Lucy asked him if he could save Edmund. According to Lewis, “Up to that moment Lucy had been thinking how royal and strong and peaceful his face looked; now it suddenly came into her head that he looked sad as well.” The movie’s animators capture that well. I think it would have been even more powerful if Aslan’s face had looked sterner before this moment and it’s not like they were incapable of that. His features are quite stern looking in some other scenes. Still, as it is, the movie does a great job with this pivotal scene.

Later, at sunset, Peter stands on a hill overlooking the camp. He has now changed into a Narnian outfit. The book never specifies that he or his brother or sisters do this, but it makes perfect sense, given the state their clothes would realistically be in at this point, and it allows costume designer Isis Mussenden to showcase royal Narnian garb, something Lewis doesn’t describe in great detail but the beauty of which he stresses.[7]He also emphasizes that in Narnia, unlike in our world, fancy clothes are actually comfortable. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Peter’s Narnian costume isn’t really Mussenden’s best work but don’t worry. We’ll see better examples of it shortly. Aslan comes up behind Peter and points out to him a shining castle on the seacoast in the distance. “That is Cair Paravel, castle of the four thrones on one of which you will sit, Peter, as High King.” Peter doesn’t respond enthusiastically to this. Aslan asks if he doubts the prophecy. “No,” says Peter, “it’s just…it. Aslan, I’m not who you think I am.” To his surprise, the lion responds, “Peter Pevensie, formerly of Finchley. Beaver also mentioned you planned on turning him into a hat.” Some fans may be disappointed in that moment since it seems to imply that Aslan is omniscient-or more “niscient” than your average lion-only to humorously subvert it. In the books, Aslan is meant to be the Christian God who is omniscient but, to be fair, the book version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does have moments that imply Aslan isn’t. (He outlines two possible battle plans, one for fighting the White Witch in the forest and one for assaulting her castle if his army can’t cut her off from it and in the same scene, he gets distracted and asks Peter to repeat a question.) But in the very next book in the series, Prince Caspian, he says he’s sometimes wondered if the character of Reepicheep, whom he’s never met face to face, thinks too much about his honor. The plots of The Horse and his Boy and The Silver Chair depend on Aslan, at the very least, being able to accurately predict the future. His lack of omniscience in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is something of an example of Early Installment Weirdness, something of which the book has a fair bit. Of course, the filmmakers clearly did research on the later Narnian installments so maybe I shouldn’t let them off the hook so easily.

“Peter,” Aslan says, “there is a Deep Magic, more powerful than any of us, that rules over all of Narnia. It defines right from wrong and governs all our destinies, yours and mine.” This metaphysical Deep Magic, which corresponds to the Christian concept of God’s Law, is easily one of the weirdest parts of the book, especially as it’s not introduced until the last third of the story and proves integral to it. I understand the screenwriters introducing it a little earlier here, if only by a couple of scenes. I don’t love the way they describe it though. Somehow it sounds vaguely like the Force in Star Wars. Maybe what rubs me the wrong way about the phrasing is that it implies the Deep Magic outranks Aslan. To be fair, that’s not entirely wrong. When someone asks Aslan in the book if he can do anything against the Deep Magic, he responds with grave anger. And in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when a character expresses incredulity that a magic spell could have the power to make Aslan visible, he says, “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?” Whether Christians believe God is somehow bound by his law is a tricky question, one I’d prefer these screenwriters not try to answer so glibly. But what I do like about this part of the movie is that we get more subtle foreshadowing that Aslan is planning to do something painful for him. When he talks about having no choice regarding his own destiny, he turns his face away from Peter, hiding a rather sad expression from him.

Peter doesn’t pick up on Aslan’s melancholy. (I don’t mean that as a criticism of the character by the way.) “But I couldn’t even protect my own family,” he protests. “You brought them safely this far,” counters Aslan. “Not all of them,” Peter says wistfully. “Peter, I will do what I can to help your brother,” says Aslan[8]I wish he said, “all I can,” since that’s closer to what he says in the book but that’s a nitpick., “but I need you to consider what I ask of you.” He looks down at his subjects in the camp below. “I too want my family safe.” It’s a moving moment that recalls a scene from another of the Narnia books, The Magician’s Nephew, in which Aslan expresses empathy for a character’s concern for their family but asks them to put it on hold for the sake of Narnia.

We cut to the Witch’s camp where Edmund is gagged and tied to a tree. Ginarrbrik taunts him. “Is our little prince uncomfortable? Does he want his pillow fluffed? Special treatment for the special boy. Isn’t that what you wanted?” This dialogue is no more subtle than that during the melting waterfall scene, but for whatever reason, it works a lot better for me.

Back at Aslan’s camp, Susan and Lucy have been given Narnian dresses that are better examples of Isis Mussenden’s talent than Peter’s outfit and are admiring their reflections in a stream.

Lucy (approvingly): You look like Mum.
Susan: Mum hasn’t had a dress like this since before the war.
Lucy: We should bring her one back! A whole trunkful!
Susan: If we ever get back.

Susan notices Lucy’s face falling at those last words and apologizes. “We used to have fun together, didn’t we?” she says. “Yes,” says Lucy wistfully before adding with a laugh, “before you got boring.” The girls have a splash fight in the stream then they go up the bank to get towels. Susan removes one from a clothesline, only to reveal a snarling Maugrim behind it. “Please don’t try to run,” he says, “we’re tired.”

“And we’d prefer to kill you quickly,” adds another wolf (Jim May.)[9]I’m aware this wolf is called Vardan in the credits, but no one says his name in the film proper, so using it feels weird to me. The movie is in a bit of a tricky spot here. In the book, Peter ends up rushing to his helpless sisters’ rescue and this adaptation doesn’t want to change that. Indeed, it has built up Maugrim as an enemy of Peter specifically in a way the book didn’t. But in this day and age, the trope of a female character needing a male character to save her life has fallen so out of favor as to be offensive. The movie finds a graceful compromise by having Susan need to get past Maugrim to get her magical horn from Father Christmas, which she’s left with her old clothes, and having her hit him with a towel to do so.[10]If you’d like my opinion on the controversy over the Narnia books’ portrayal of gender, here’s the shortest answer I can give. While Lewis did go on record as being antifeminist in … Continue reading Back on the hilltop, Peter and Aslan hear the horn. “Susan!” cries Peter and runs in the direction of the sound. In the book, Aslan had to tell him it was her horn. That would have made more sense, but I understand the movie wanting to tighten the pace of a suspenseful action moment. (I guess we can assume Peter had a general idea of where his sisters were and knew anything like a warning signal from there meant trouble.) Susan and Lucy have climbed into the branches of a tree, but the wolves are snapping at the former’s dangling ankles and those aren’t the thickest branches either. Peter comes running with his sword, yelling, “Get back!” The wolves turn their attention to him.

“Come on,” says Maugrim, “we’ve already been through this before. We both know you haven’t got it in you.” Suddenly, Aslan’s clamps down on the non-Maugrim wolf, leveling the playing field for Peter. Oreius and some other soldiers from the camp arrive but Aslan tells them to stay their weapons on the grounds that “this is Peter’s battle.” With one last taunt (“You may think you’re a king but you’re going to die like a dog!”), Maugrim pounces on Peter, knocking him over. The girls scream. Suddenly, both Peter and the wolf lie still. Susan and Lucy leap down and run over. Maugrim is dead with Peter’s sword in his stomach while underneath him, Peter is very much alive. The three Pevensies hug, all of them looking somewhat traumatized, much as the book describes at this point.[11]Well, it describes Peter and Susan as crying. Lucy isn’t the focus as much in this part of the book.

Perhaps surprisingly, given how this adaptation ups the action from the book, this scene isn’t as exciting to watch as its literary equivalent is to read.

(Peter) rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. That
stroke never reached the Wolf. Quick as lightning it turned round, its eyes flaming, and its mouth wide open in a howl of anger. If it had not been so angry that it simply had to howl it would have got him by the throat at once. As it was — though all this happened too quickly for Peter to think at all — he had just time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute’s forelegs into its heart. Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling, and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead, and he had drawn his sword out of it and was straightening his back and rubbing the sweat off his face and out of his eyes.

To be fair though, I’m not sure how the film could have captured that intensity except by filming the scene from Peter’s point of view and that might have cost it is PG rating. I think PG was the right rating for this movie to aim. You could argue that the descriptions of violence in the book are technically more gruesome, but I’d describe it as a book that’s good for kids if they have parental supervision and I’d prefer an adaptation’s rating to correspond to that.

Anyway, Aslan lets go of the other wolf who runs away, whimpering. “After him,” says Aslan to Oreius. “He’ll lead you to Edmund.” Oreius and a party of other swift soldiers chase after the wolf. Then Aslan turns his attention back to the Pevensies. “Peter, clean your sword,” he says. In the book, his line is “you have forgotten to clean your sword.” The contrast between the intensity of what just happened, and the mundanity of Aslan’s chiding is pretty funny and I wish the movie could have kept that. We cut to Peter kneeling with his sword now clean and Aslan putting his paw on his shoulder. “Rise, Sir Peter Wolfsbane,” he says, “knight of Narnia.” In the book, he concludes by saying, “And whatever happens, never forget to wipe your sword,” again making this a funny moment.[12]Though it should be noted that for all that Aslan’s words are jarring in their mundanity, keeping your sword clean is important as you don’t want it to rust. Oh well. If the movie had to omit the humor there, it’s a decent enough serious moment.

Night has fallen on the Witch’s camp, and we see some of her monstrous followers preparing weapons. This is a bit of change from the book in which she only summons them after she’s learned of Maugrim’s death. The movie wisely refrains from showing the most gruesome of the creatures until the point the book shows them though. The Witch’s minotaur general (Shane Rangi) is discussing a battle plan with her. I don’t get why the movie has the minotaurs’ bodies be entirely covered with hair. They’re supposed to be like men with the heads of bulls. But to be fair, Narnian minotaurs don’t have to be exactly like classical depictions.

The wolf comes running into camp, followed by Aslan’s rescue party. The Witch and the general go to investigate. They find several of their soldiers dead, Edmund gone and Ginarrbrik gagged and bound in his place. There’s even a knife stuck in his cap! The idea that Oreius and company would have the time to do all that and leave before the Witch and her reinforcements arrived to stop them is pretty ridiculous but the visual is amusing enough that I’ll allow it.[13]In the book, as I mentioned, the Witch’s army hadn’t arrived yet and one of Aslan’s soldiers knocked her wand out of her hand. She was only able to escape by magically disguising … Continue reading

In the book, the Witch is about to kill Edmund right before he’s rescued, preventing the prophecy of the four thrones being fulfilled that way. It’s somewhat unfortunate that the movie doesn’t do this since it makes her dumber.[14]You could argue she was already dumb in the book for waiting as long as she did before trying to kill Edmund. In an earlier draft of the script, she planned to kill Edmund as soon as she could do so … Continue reading Anyway, the Witch brandishes a knife of her own and for a moment, it looks like she’s going to kill Ginarrbrik in anger. But she only cuts his bonds. “You’re not going to kill me?” he asks hopefully. “Not yet,” she says. Then she turns back to her general. “We have work to do.”

Next Week: Do the Pevensies Go Home or Stay and Fight? And Just What Work Does the Witch Have in Mind?

References

References
1 In the book, Prince Caspian, a character says that “no one ever laughed at a centaur.
2 As well he should be. In the book, Mrs. Beaver says, ““if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
3 In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a character who has been transformed into a dragon describes meeting Aslan thus. “I was terribly afraid of it… I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it — if you can understand.”
4 Though even with that medium just saying that someone has an aura can be unconvincing by itself, especially if you lack C. S. Lewis’s eloquence.
5 I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for a movie. One I’ve written about on this very blog, The Prince of Egypt, kind of nails the numinous effect which Lewis gave Aslan in its burning bush scene. A kids’ fantasy movie of a similar vintage to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Nanny McPhee, does a great job making its title character come across as both “good and terrible at the same time.” Nanny McPhee arguably has some advantages over Aslan in that she dresses in black and actually does scary things when we first meet her.
6 In the book, the characters are in such awe of Aslan, that none of them dares be the first to address him and they get into a little argument over it. Including that might have helped the movie sell the “Aslan effect.”
7 He also emphasizes that in Narnia, unlike in our world, fancy clothes are actually comfortable. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
8 I wish he said, “all I can,” since that’s closer to what he says in the book but that’s a nitpick.
9 I’m aware this wolf is called Vardan in the credits, but no one says his name in the film proper, so using it feels weird to me.
10 If you’d like my opinion on the controversy over the Narnia books’ portrayal of gender, here’s the shortest answer I can give. While Lewis did go on record as being antifeminist in other things he wrote, Narnia doesn’t relate to that much and half the accusations of misogyny it receives contradict the other half. Some say it’s misogynist because it portrays stereotypically feminine female characters positively and stereotypically masculine ones negatively. Others say it’s misogynist because it portrays stereotypically masculine female characters positively and stereotypically feminine ones negatively. (Many of the books’ young heroines could be described as either.) These two things can’t both be true, so half of the criticism must be wrong.
11 Well, it describes Peter and Susan as crying. Lucy isn’t the focus as much in this part of the book.
12 Though it should be noted that for all that Aslan’s words are jarring in their mundanity, keeping your sword clean is important as you don’t want it to rust.
13 In the book, as I mentioned, the Witch’s army hadn’t arrived yet and one of Aslan’s soldiers knocked her wand out of her hand. She was only able to escape by magically disguising herself as a boulder. While this is a memorable scene, I understand why the filmmakers omitted it since it amounted to randomly giving the Witch a new power and then not having her ever use it again.
14 You could argue she was already dumb in the book for waiting as long as she did before trying to kill Edmund. In an earlier draft of the script, she planned to kill Edmund as soon as she could do so on the Stone Table in keeping with tradition. In the book, she expresses regret over not being able to do that but decides that beggars can’t be choosers.
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