Peter M Howard ::

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

31Dec2005 [movies]

Saw Narnia with the cousins yesterday; the kids all enjoyed it so they're obviously doing something right. But a few things bothered me... The actual realisation of the world of Narnia was spectacular; I thought it captured the world and its creatures really well. And in doing that, it appealed to all my good memories of Narnia.

BUT... As an adaptation of a book, it was pretty terrible. Sure, it kept all the major plot points, and didn't take liberties with the story or its meaning, which I appreciated. But it relied on the viewer to have read the book, or at least to have seen the old BBC mini-series. Huge chunks of dialogue were glossed over or cut completely, and then referred to later as if they had been there. And characters appeared without introduction, on the assumption that the viewer knew who they were supposed to be. The problem, of course, is that many people, like myself, haven't read the books or seen the old adaptations in a very long time. This can be relied upon to make a not-entirely-faithful recreation, but not to fill in the gaps in storytelling.

So in terms of storytelling, not a very good adaptation. The casting was very well done though; the kids were at least passable -- or not annoying anyway. The creation of magical creatures was good for the nostalgia, but, particularly in the battle scenes, seemed a bit much like stock-standard fantasy-adventure special effects. Though the effects in the old BBC version were nowhere near as good, they captured the mystical nature of Narnia far better. The army in the BBC version was full of mystical creatures: driads, naiads, fauns, centaurs and more; but other than some (very cool) centaurs, this version's army seemed full of people with funny-looking faces in standard fantasy armour. (A brief glimpse of a centaur wielding two swords -- as he didn't need one hand free to steer his horse -- looked very amazing - fantasy done right.)

Anyway, it also got me thinking about the recent (big) fantasy movies, Potter, Narnia, and Lord of the Rings, all of which _required_ the viewer to have a decent understanding of the original material... They've only worked because the original materials have large, and somewhat rabid fanbases. What I'd like to see is some fantasy that doesn't assume the viewer knows the background! The makers can assume some knowledge: having seen or read Potter and LotR, a viewer will know certain fantasy conventions... But I want to see fantasy movies made from wholly original material, and/or from more obscure fantasy material, that doesn't expect the viewer to read up on the background stories first.

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