Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ask the Anglican Priest about Narnia

There is a Church Supply store a few blocks from St. Mark's where we get a lot of our liturgical items. We call it Holy Hardware. Its largely a Catholic establishment, but they love us as well since we do most of our business there.

I was in there a few minutes ago getting some of that liquid paraffin that goes into those reusable fake altar candles. The owner knows me pretty well because I'm in there once a week or more, depending on what crisis the altar guild has for me on any given week. The owner said, "I've been meaning to ask you, Father...you're a good Anglican priest. What did you think of the new Narnia movie?"

Ironically, I finally got to see it yesterday afternoon. My wife and I had planned to see it a few times before, but every time we planned it, something happened like a leaking kitchen sink that was pouring water in the cabinet or a huge tree limb falling in the yard due to a rain storm.

I have been pondering in my copious free time today (all 10 minutes at lunch time) what I thought about Prince Caspian. Cinematography and all were good, as was the acting. There were certainly scenes that were very well done. I thought the 4 Pevensie children were again the bright spot of the movie; I was amazed at how much Lucy had grown compared to the other three.

I was largely disappointed overall though. It was a good try; the movie could have been a lot worse. Having not reread the book in the last few years, I am hesitant to talk about the ways the movie departed from the plot line in the book. However, I did notice some glaring errors about which I was not happy at all such as that I thought the children figured out they were in Narnia too quickly. In the novel, they didn't know for some time where they were.

Caspian's tutor, the half-dwarf guy, had a much bigger role in the book. I really thought he got short-changed, considering he was one of the most interesting characters of that novel. I do understand that unless you want to make a 5 hour movie, some things just have to be cut. However, considering my other gripe which I will discuss in the next paragraph, I was not all that happy with that directorial decision.

Probably my major beef with the movie was the violence. Granted, it was not Braveheart style blood-and-guts-heads-rolling-on-the-ground violence, but as far as I recall the movie, almost half or more of the film was one continuous battle scene. And I don't know what was the deal with the Peter-Caspian covert operation attacking the Telmarine castle was about. Neither my wife nor myself remember anything about that in the novel. Given that, I do not like when character development gets axed due to more time given to special effects/battle scenes.

Overall, I think the amount of battle scenes overtook the message of the book, and I am convinced CS Lewis would have been horrified by that. Ironically, I do think he would be amused that the director has watched his (later estranged) friend JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings films too many times. I thought the final battle scene with the trees and the water creature was too similar to the Ents et al in the LOTR films.

And what was with Susan kissing Caspian at the end? That was just creepy. I was under the impression that in the novels, Caspian was a boy, not nearly as old as Peter. I say this because Caspian is a younger child in Prince Caspian, was in the prime of his life in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and was an old man in the Silver Chair.

I won't even go into how weird the White Witch's cameo appearance was. I recall in the book that there was a discussion amongst some to try and bring the White Witch back, but as I recall it, there was not conclusive evidence whether they could actually do it or whether that was just a desperate pipe dream.

I will tip my hat to the Reepicheep the mouse character. I thought the movie portrayed him very well. He was probably my favorite character of the novels when I in grammar school. In fact, I remember doing a book report when I was in 3rd grade and I drew a cartoon picture of him for the cover of the report. I remember the teacher was quite taken with it. So, yes, my cartooning fixation goes back that far.

I must say I am hesitant now to see what they are going to do with the 3rd film, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They were pretty true to the novel in the first film, but got a bit far a field in the second. I fear, given the adventurous nature of the 3rd novel, they may completely go off the rails. We shall see. I will admit I will be more critical of the 3rd film, as the third book was always my favorite of the novels with I was younger.

Overall, I would give Prince Caspian 3 Archer Arrows out of 5.

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