I consider the chronological numbering system a travesty, since I maintain that the only right way to discover the Narnian world is the way Lewis “discovered” it.
Is it possible that the makers of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader have made the best film in the series to date while charting a course even further from the book? I think it is. Perhaps it’s even because the film diverges from the book to the extent that it does that I’m able to regard the film more for what it is than for what it isn’t.
Before there are centaurs, fauns, or even a lamp-post incongruously burning in the middle of nowhere to establish that the forest beyond the wardrobe door is no ordinary wood, Andrew Adamson’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe creates the magic of the wood and the wardrobe with the enchantment on the face of young Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy Pevensie, as she gets her first glimpse of the Narnian wood.
A lot of thought and effort went into getting the feel, the look, the period and the characters of C. S. Lewis’s beloved fairy tale The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe right for the screen… At the same time, judging from the unanimous testimony of the filmmakers, one crucial element of the book was not a consideration one way or the other in adapting the story: its religious significance.
One of the most magical effects in Andrew Adamson’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn’t rippling computer-generated fur, ice castles, or battle scenes. It’s the wide-eyed wonder and delight on the face of young Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) as she passes beyond the wardrobe for the first time into the winter wonderland of the Narnian wood.
Starring Anton Rodgers as an avuncular Lewis at home in Oxford in 1963, the year that he died, the short film cuts between Lewis’s running commentary on the events of his life and flashback dramatizations of those events.
Beautiful, rugged UK landscapes, splendid old castles and other shooting locations, and some fairly impressive sets help create a sense of authenticity. At the same time, with the earlier episodes especially limited by modest production values, rudimentary special effects, and uneven acting, the Chronicles can’t be held even to the standard of such American TV productions as the Merlin and Arabian Nights miniseries.
If the first Narnia film got perhaps two-thirds of Lewis’s intended meaning, Caspian is lucky if it gets a quarter. … The upshot is that Caspian is a good-looking fantasy film with some appealing eye candy and comparatively little to do with the book, beyond basic themes of good versus evil and rather generic faith. On that level, if you can put Lewis out of your mind, it’s a pretty good ride.
Speaking by phone from New York, producer Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson and heir, suggested that the new film’s more mature tone was partly a reflection of the book itself. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written very much to be read aloud,” Gresham explained. “With Prince Caspian, in [Lewis’s] mind his audience had moved up a few years in age, and so Prince Caspian was written for them to read to themselves.”
With a new Blu-ray edition of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader available March 3, here’s a look back at the series so far … and a look ahead.
What, then, defines morally acceptable use of good magic in fiction? Where, and how, do we draw the line? How do we distinguish the truly worthwhile (Tolkien and Lewis), the basically harmless (Glinda, Cinderella’s fairy godmother), and the problematic or objectionable (Buffy, The Craft)? And where on this continuum does Harry Potter really fall?
Douglas Gresham, Walden Media’s Micheal Flaherty and C. S. Lewis scholar Devin Brown discuss the book and the film.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.