Friday, December 19, 2008

Requiem For An Epic

I won't make this post unduly long, but I need to take a moment to just completely trash Hollywood for continually pushing the same formulaic garbage on the American people. Last summer was sort of a lost summer for me in terms of movies, as I missed out on countless films I was actually interested in seeing, and one of my "most-missed" films of the summer was Prince Caspian, the second installment in the Chronicles of Narnia series. I loved the books as a kid and the first installment, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had been enjoyable, if not outstanding, so I was quite interested to see what movie magic could do with a story that was definitely geared toward slightly older children.

Well, I found out the other night when my wife and I finally watched the DVD and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Hollywood films today have this tendency of trying to stuff any story into a generic formula that's easily to sell to the public and in the case of Narnia, this meant the movie needed to be a fantasy epic in the style of Lord of the Rings, regardless of what the original story actually was or what would be even remotely interesting. This was achieved by revolving the movie around epic battle scenes, rushing the plot, and giving the characters precious little time to interact.

Perhaps we've been spoiled by TV dramas where stories are allowed to unfold over time and characters are given time to develop, but that doesn't mean the film is dead as a storytelling device. The Harry Potter films tend to suffer a bit from rushed plots, but that's only because of very real time constraints. The Narnia books on the other hand are all very, very short and very easy to work with. Yet rather than utilizing C.S.Lewis's timeless story, the creative minds behind the film decided C.S. Lewis could use some rewrites. The scenes not in the book include a twenty minute (or longer) assault by the Narnians on the castle of evil King Miraz. Even the film's penultimate battle is unduly long and exaggerated. In the book, the Telmarines surrender when Aslan appears. In the film, one of the baddies sword fights with a river person.

The scene I remember most from the book is that of Aslan roaming the countryside with Lucy (and perhaps Susan) and Telmarine children dashing from their classrooms to see the great lion. It's a fitting scene for a book that's supposed to be a religious allegory and it's nowhere to be found in the movie, perhaps because there was not a single action sequence that could afford to be cut.

The other scene I remember quite well is the one where the dwarf Nikabrik recruits several evil creatures and attempts to convince Caspian and the others to call on the White Witch to help them againast the Telmarines. In the book, Nikabrik and the evil creatures are quickly slain when their plans are revealed. In the movie, we're treated to the White Witch herself, called by black magic, and a far more furious action sequence. It's a minor complaint, but it's indicative of the need to soak every scene in as much adrenaline as possible and the dumbing down of scenes to ensure that absolutely no one misses the point or gets mired in subtleties. (For Lord of the Rings fans, I'd say this is similar to the LOTR films treatment of King Theoden as literally posessed by Sauraman.)

I could go on, but I promised not to make this too long of a post. Anyone interested in similar complaints about the Two Towers and the Return of the king can let me know.


Anonymous rose said...

Unrelated topic: Obama has gone from sounding like Michael Moore in the democratic primary, to basically, John McCain. Seriously, how can someone fully support Obama then and now? His policy on Iraq, trade, gay rights, wiretaps etc. have completely morphed (or were never really fully defined).

To their credit, moronic liberal blogs point this stuff out. At least they stand for real ideas. What principles do the mainstream democrats who supported Obama then and now stand for? This phenomenon really just goes to show how weird and creepy their obsession w/ this guy is.

3:26 PM  

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