I had a friend yell at me because I have not yet seen any of the Narnia movies. It’s true. I haven’t seen them. And I don’t plan to. I like movies, don’t get me wrong, and I like faithful movie adaptations of novels. But I cannot bring myself to watch the Narnia movies. I don’t want to compromise the picture of Narnia I have in my head. One of my favourite memories of reading the Narnia series was letting my imagination run away with itself. In my imagination I entered the land of Narnia. I could smell it, taste it, feel it. I don’t want anything to disturb those memories.
There is an interesting article about how the Narnia movies miss the point of C.S. Lewis’ stories. And seeing the trailer for Dawn Treader, I wonder if they’ve missed the point in this new movie as well.
Steven Boyer, in writing about how the movies get it wrong, says this:
The Peter we meet in the film version of Prince Caspian is a very different Peter from the one we saw grow up in the earlier film and certainly very different from the one in Lewis’s story. In the first place, it is hard to describe Hollywood’s Peter as anything other than a bumbler. He is not part of the deliverance that comes from the blowing of Queen Susan’s magic horn. He is instead part of the problem, a stupid, proud, boorish, arrogant fool who speaks and acts with ridiculous vanity and, far from delivering others, needs to be delivered himself. His arrogance and vanity are explicitly highlighted in the film:
• We first encounter Peter as the cause of a brawl in a London subway, which he started simply because someone bumped him.
• Once in Narnia, Peter sets out to lead the other children and gets hopelessly lost, but he keeps insisting (with stereotypical male vanity), “I’m not lost,” “We weren’t lost,” etc.
• When he finally assumes command of the Narnians and then is confronted by Lucy, who tries to talk sense into him and get him to wait patiently for Aslan, he condescendingly replies, “I think it’s up to us now. . . . We’ve waited for Aslan long enough.”
• In the enemy castle, in the midst of their failed attack, Peter stupidly and obstinately refuses to call for retreat, crying out instead, “No, I can still do this!”—which prompts Susan to ask, “Exactly who are you doing this for, Peter?”
These instances could easily be multiplied. At every point, the Peter of Hollywood’s Prince Caspian is the problem, not the solution. The high king of Narnia seems to have devolved into a young, handsome version of Homer Simpson…
In Lewis’s telling of all of the Narnia tales, the children’s experiences as kings and queens in Narnia consistently transform them into nobler, more virtuous people in their own world. They are not spoiled children wanting to be kings again; they are noble kings who carry that very nobility back into their non-royal roles as schoolchildren.
But not so in Hollywood. To be a king at all is to hunger for power forevermore, like a tiger that has tasted human blood and ever afterwards is a “man-eater.” To lose imperial power by being transported back to England is to become a bitter, sullen, acrimonious brat. That is just what Peter has become, and his folly is the driving force behind most of the action in the movie.
I was struck by Peter’s above-noted comment, “I think it’s up to us now. . . . We’ve waited for Aslan long enough.” A certain king in the Old Testament said the same thing about waiting for the prophet Samuel to come and offer the sacrifice, that the foolish king chose to go ahead and do it himself. In Scripture, this impatience led to the withdrawal of the Lord’s favour, and ultimately to disaster for the royal house (1 Samuel 13:1-14).
And so, not only do I not want to see the Narnia movies for fear of smashing the picture in my head, I am also hesitant to see them if they miss the whole point of the Narnia series altogether.