A Public Appeal to Ross Douthat

Will you *please* stop putting some of your best work in *National Review*! Think of the children!>Good News For Narnia – Ross Douthat: As I put it in my NR review:>>The movie plays up … every tension it finds in Lewis’s novel, and invents several more, creating rivalries (between Peter and Caspian), generating romances (between Susan and Caspian), adding battles (particularly a long set piece in the movie’s middle, in which the Old Narnians launch a raid on Miraz’s castle), and doubling down on the political intrigue in the Telmarine court. For the most part, the additions serve their purpose, transmuting a somewhat slight children’s adventure into a gripping medieval war picture: Braveheart with more magic, or Tolkien with talking squirrels.>>But this achievement comes with a price-namely, the evisceration of Lewis’s major theme. If The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a story about rebirth and renewal-Aslan resurrected, and spring cracking the ice of an enchanted winter-then Prince Caspian is fundamentally a story about re-enchantment, and the glorious return of the supernatural forces that the Telmarines have repressed. Little of this survives in Adamson’s adaptation; it’s been pruned away to make room for battles and arguments and longing glances and one-liners. The book’s climax, in which the trees and rivers come to life and a wild pagan rout overruns the sterile secularism of Telmarine society, is reduced to a brief battlefield intervention that rips off not one but two scenes in Lord of the Rings. Aslan, too, is reduced to a walk-on role, sweeping in once the body count has climbed and the CGI budget been exhausted to roar a halt to the proceedings. He murmurs about faith, in the voice of Liam Neeson, but he feels less a Christ figure than a strikingly flimsy plot device: Leo ex machina.>>The bad news for Narniaphiles is that this may be the only way that C. S. Lewis can plausibly be adapted, given the economics (and biases) of contemporary Hollywood-with the metaphysics downplayed and the Generic Epic elements accentuated, the better to justify the price tag that comes attached to any fantasy film … But judging from Caspian’s middling box-office showing to date, it might be worth considering something different for Voyage of the Dawn Treader and (one hopes) its sequels: half the budget, perhaps, and a little more fidelity to the elements of theme and plot that make Narnia something more than an entertaining but two-dimensional imitation of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.


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