Monday, April 8, 2024

Good Movie Additions: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Book-to-movie adaptations get a bad reputation from years and years of Hodge podge work (see fans of Percy Jackson and their movies) but I still stand behind the apple pie metaphor from a blog post TJ did years ago. It’s an adaptation, after all, not a direct translation. So some artistic liberties are taken. Some adaptations cause fans to die a little inside (see the Burrow burning in Half-Blood Prince) because they’re unnecessary, but some enhance the feeling and theme of the story (see Stephen’s post about Dawn Treader). I guess my point is that not all creative additions to book-to-movie adaptations are bad. That’s what I want to delve into with some of these blog posts. Today’s example: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Scenes from the Blitz

The book starts out with the four children arriving at the professor's home. The blitz has already happened. But in the movie, the Blitz scenes make the war more real to modern audiences. The war had barely been over five years when The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first in print, so readers of the book probably didn’t need reminding of the traumatic experience. But those of us in modern days, especially those of us in North America, have never experienced night time air raids. So seeing the bombings, and what the Pevensies (and other kids) were running from makes the urgency much more real. In addition, there were several references to the war throughout the adventure in the movie setting up a juxtaposition of the war in the “real” world, fought by others, to a war fought in Narnia, in which the Pevensie children were commanders. 

Entering Narnia

In the book, the siblings were simply exploring when Lucy wandered into Narnia. And then later, during a game of hide and seek, she and Edmund ventured into Narnia more or less together. Finally, when they entered the wardrobe as a family, CS Lewis simply had them hiding from visitors. As grateful as I am to the writer of these wonderful stories, those situations don’t exactly come across as good cinema. Instead, the movie portrayal created a greater sense of mystery around the wardrobe and entering Narnia; Lucy checks the wardrobe during a game of hide and seek, and then tries to return during a midnight walk. And when she returns with both brothers  and her sister, the broken window provides a sense of urgency that drives the story forward. 

Peter’s Shadows

Even before entering Narnia, the movie gave greater depth to the characters, especially the brothers, that was not as obvious in the text especially during a first reading.Even before entering Narnia, Peter and Edmund were at odds with each other; this conflict was only magnified as they entered the wardrobe. For example, Peter’s pride reinforced Edmund’s betrayal, as he gave a woman’s coat to his brother. In contrast to that pride, we also saw Peter’s fears and insecurities, as he’s hesitant to fight, while the book makes it seem like accepting his destiny was easy for him. “We’re not heroes,” he claimed. Movie Peter directly told Mr. Beaver and Aslan that he didn’t want to fight and instead just wanted to get the family home. Instead of running away, he found the courage inside to face his destiny.

Edmund’s Betrayal 

Peter’s pride may have reinforced the betrayal (like with the lady’s coat mentioned above), but the movie added layers of emotional baggage and depth to Edmund’s betrayal beyond the sibling relationships. From the moment they arrived at Beaver Dam, Mr. Beaver noted to Edmund, “Enjoying the scenery?” There was a weight upon Edmund. Add to that when he saw Tumnus turned to stone, instead of simply seeing a statue, and his failed efforts to save the fox. It became obvious early on that Edmund wanted to turn back, but couldn’t.

The Journey to Aslan

From the moment the children meet the beavers in the film, there was a sense of urgency, lost in the wordiness of the novel (Tangent: I love the added line from Susan in the movie, “He’s a beaver; he shouldn’t be saying anything.”). I particularly found Mrs. Beaver’s urgency more understandable in the movie and honestly found her slow speed in the book off-putting (you have a witch chasing you; take all the head start you can!). The depiction of the battles in the movie, including the skirmish on the frozen river, added a sense of action lacking in a direct translation of the book. 

So agree or disagree? What were the best parts of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie? What could you have lived without? Next up for Narnia posts is going to be about The Horse and His Boy—my favorite! 

For Narnia and for Aslan!

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