Compromising Caspian?

Today at CT Movies, witness Mark Moring challenging Douglas Gresham on Prince Caspian. And Gresham’s answers are just fine… that is, if you aren’t concerned that the movie be true to the book, and if you thought the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was just spiffy.

Gresham doesn’t seem too concerned about asking “What would C.S. Lewis think about these adaptations?” His answer: He’s concerned about what the Holy Spirit would think. So… we should blame the Holy Spirit for the fact that many of Aslan’s regal characteristics were stripped away for the first film? And that the enemy was portrayed as almost fearless in Aslan’s presence? Is the Holy Spirit screwing up the screenwriting process?

Why not just change the title of the film and say, “Inspired by a few details from C.S. Lewis’s book Prince Caspian?” That would be honest, at least.

Even more baffling: Gresham seems surprised to hear that there were any criticisms regarding the portrayal of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess that means he never read my reviews at CT or Looking Closer, or reviews by Chattaway, or Greydanus, or… did he read any reviews at all? And yet he calls himself “the severest critic in the world”?

I understand that novels do not always translate well into movies, and that some creative embellishment may be necessary to make Prince Caspian work as a film. And I haven’t given up on Caspian, although the filmmakers’ comments have given me plenty of reasons to consider it. But the lack of concern for translating Lewis’s story to the screen, and for the concerns of zillions of fans who cherish the book, are diminishing my hopes for this movie… and this series. Let’s hope Michael Apted can turn things around with Dawn Treader. But as most of the mistakes in Wardrobe occurred at the script level, I doubt there’s much he can do.

Do you remember how hard Peter Jackson and company worked to communicate with the fans, and how their responses made the fans of the books feel respected and considered in the creative process? I’m not getting that here at all.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • http://goodwordediting.com mgoodyear

    The interview struck me as painful for a completely different reason–it seems unnecessarily aggressive. Maybe I’m just not a journalist or critic at heart.

    As for the faithfulness or lack of faithfulness to the book–I always assume adaptations are excercises in ekphrasis more than anything. (I loved that word when I was teaching.)

    I wouldn’t dream of a Narnia-inspired painting being “true” to the story. Or a Narnia-inspired sculpture. A Narnia-inspired movie falls into the same category. There is more overlap, sure, because the artistic form is similar, but there will be differences.

    And frankly, I revel in the differences. They are a big part of the fun.

    Good point about Peter Jackson’s extreme care with fans, though.

  • chessncoffee

    The interview was wince inducing-especially the “worry about global warming instead” part-and that’s coming from someone who’s not the biggest Narnia fan.

    Watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and reading what I have about Prince Caspian, it seems like the Narnia filmmakers are trying to make movies that are geared for fans of epic fantasy movies, not mainly fans of the books, so they try to make them more commercial, like with the climactic battle scene from LWW, and the glimpses of the gigantic LOTR style battles we get in the Caspian trailers.

    Anyway, I hope Prince Caspian turns out better than I’m expecting.

  • petertchattaway

    I would just like to clarify that I don’t normally read MSNBC gossip columns. I find the details of Brad Pitt’s accommodations, and whether and how he pays for them, frightfully tedious and boring. However, I heard about the MSNBC report via Studio Briefing, and I figured I’d link to the original source instead.

    As for that Prince Caspian interview… Ugh. I’ll blog that when I have a free moment.


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