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« A Little Cylon Speculation | Main | Faith. Hope. Cha... »

May 16, 2008

Comments

David B.

Good review (and interview!). I feel softer than before towards the film's idea of the "PC" story.


SDG, do you think Steven Knight's experience with Faith and Christianity in writing Amazing Grace will help or hinder his adaptation of the Dawn Treader?

SDG

Good review (and interview!). I feel softer than before towards the film's idea of the "PC" story.

Thanks, David B! Yeah, the Register headline "The Defanging of Aslan" kinda gets the other piece off on a confrontational note, doesn't it? :-) I actually enjoyed the screening, especially the siege sequence and some of the other bits.

SDG, do you think Steven Knight's experience with Faith and Christianity in writing Amazing Grace will help or hinder his adaptation of the Dawn Treader?

Of course it's hard to say (and let's not forget that while Adamson isn't directing, he's still going to be producing, so we'll have to see what impact that has on the film).

My impression from Amazing Grace is that, whatever Knight's own views or affiliation, if any, he has at least a basic humanistic respect for Christian belief and is able to treat religious themes with respect, which is I think really all you need.

It's worth noting that the LOTR filmmakers, especially screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, brought that same sort of humanistic respect for Tolkien's religious impulses to their work. I was very impressed with their willingness to talk about ideas like immortality, providence and cosmic meaning, objective morality and other points. Even Ian McKellen was willing to frankly acknowledge Tolkien's faith and look for moral common ground -- to say nothing of John Rhys-Davies.

I never understood why the Narnia filmmakers, in stark contrast to the LOTR filmmakers, have insisted on being so evasive and squirrelly on this point.

David B.

SDG,


Of course it's hard to say (and let's not forget that while Adamson isn't directing, he's still going to be producing, so we'll have to see what impact that has on the film).

As an example, Peter Jackson will undoubtedly have a powerful voice in The Hobbit even with Guillermo del Toro as Director. I fear that the same might be true for Adamson and Apted. We-American movie-goers tired of standard, 'Oprahized' spirituality in the usual Hollywood fare- need the next film to be a good and respectful version of Lewis's story.


P.S. Whatever evil AA did to Reep may be hard to reverse in the third film without gutting the continuity of the second. Not sure if that's good or bad. ;-)

Jared Weber

If only they'd hired Peter Kreeft as their Lewis expert....

Thomas

I'm rereading PRINCE CASPIAN for the first time in several years in preparation for seeing the movie tomorrow so forgive me for not yet reading your review. However, I do have one question:

Is it true that near the end of the movie there's a jarring goopy pop-song? I read a few lines of the review in The Boston Globe that said the movie was very captivating but people left laughing because this song tore them right out of the experience.

So, was it really as bad as all that? I'm hoping not, but I suspect it was.

SDG

If only they'd hired Peter Kreeft as their Lewis expert....

The problem is, Gresham thinks he's the Ultimate Lewis Expert, and isn't remotely, while Adamson, I suspect, doesn't really want a Lewis Expert on board -- doesn't want to "get it right." I suspect that he and perhaps his fellow screenwriters are deliberately subverting the Christian themes of the books. It will be interesting to see if the unfortunate trend continues.

Is it true that near the end of the movie there's a jarring goopy pop-song? I read a few lines of the review in The Boston Globe that said the movie was very captivating but people left laughing because this song tore them right out of the experience.
So, was it really as bad as all that? I'm hoping not, but I suspect it was.

Bizarrely, yes, it is really as bad as that. It was one of the few times in the film that I winced not as a Lewis fan but just as a general moviegoer.

David B.

Adamson, I suspect, doesn't really want a Lewis Expert on board -- doesn't want to "get it right."

I think his joy at making 'my memory' of the LWW illustrates his lack of regard for what Lewis thought, meant, and said. What we instead get is what Adamson thinks, likes, and wants to promote Because-It's-Better-Than-The-Book.

Adamson said, while defending his skim milk version of Aslan in LWW, he just wanted to tell Lewis's story, without adding or subtracting from the its meaning. And yet here he is, essentially calling Lewis a sexist pig those female characters were caricatures until The Horse and His Boy, and excusing his 'Feminist Lite' revision of the stories Lewis wrote. Hippo-crat.

The films should say "Based on the Chronicles of Narnia only Andy Adamson remembers." :-)


P.S. Was the awful song near the end of the movie, or when the credits rolled?

Sifu Jones

I just rewatched LW&W in preparation for PC tomorrow, and I have to say it was better than I remembered it, even theologically. I mean, whatever AA wanted to do, even my 7 year old daughter caught most all the analogous material. Was there more in the book? Sure. But I don't know if I'd go so far as to say Adamson wanted to strip out the Christian allegory.

Is it not possible that he (mistakenly) assumed that all the theologically correct terminology, on which he is obviously sloppy in translation to film, would be too confusing for the general audience he was aiming at?

It seems obvious he wasn't shooting to make the movie particularly Christian, but I don't really see that he was gutting the theology just for the sake of gutting it.

Of course I haven't seen PC, and I have read your review, SDG. But even then we should give the guy the benefit of the doubt -- rather than assume he's removing the Christianity because he thinks its offensive or what have you, it's likewise possible that he's downplaying the Christian themes because he sees them as over the head of his audience, and not essential to the "adventure" of it all. SDG's PC review seems to suggest as much to me.

J.R. Stoodley

Oh, I so want to make an inappropriate and immature comment on SDG's title and picture and all. Surely I can't be the only one to have that general thought go through their head...

David B.

Forget my question: I just saw the movie and still mostly agree with SDG, though
Trumpkin came off more unbelieving than I'd thought he would.

SDG

But even then we should give the guy the benefit of the doubt

Sifu, I can appreciate this, and I am all for giving people the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean ignoring probability. I don't say what I did lightly. Certainly I don't know Adamson's heart or that of anyone else involved, but I do think there is a credible case that choices are deliberately being made to genericize Lewis's vision, to avoid specific entanglements with Christianity.

Adamson has commented in interviews that lots of movies have a resurrection story: Star Wars, The Matrix and so on. Lewis would have agreed: He would have said that the resurrection myth was a common mythological motif, and Christianity is the "true myth." The point is, in Narnia Lewis deliberately did a resurrection myth with specific entanglements with the True Myth. Adamson and company seem to be going out of their way to make it "just another resurrection myth," disentangling it to a greater or lesser extent from the Christian story.

Trumpkin came off more unbelieving than I'd thought he would.

Can you clarify, David B? I'm asking because, you know, we critics write these reviews after seeing the movie once. Often we would like to see it again before committing our thoughts to print, but we don't have that luxury.

What do you mean by "came off" and "unbelieving"? Are you referring to attitude or to dialogue? Do you mean a generally cynical bearing or suggestions of disbelief in concrete propositions such as "An omnipotent Lion Aslan actually exists," etc.?

I don't mean to sound cross-examinatory. I'm just interested in your impressions, is all.

Shane

Well, I've just come back from seeing PC, and I have to say I really don't agree with your review, SDG, for some of the reasons others have mentioned.

To me, Trumpkin very clearly came off as an agnostic or one without faith altogether, at least in Aslan. When the kids first meet him, he says that Aslan abandoned the Narnians long ago. Now I believe you alluded to this and are critical that he views it more as an abandonment than a disbelief. However, I think that's making unecessary distinctions. True, dictionary-defined atheists are pretty far and few between, in my experience. The vast majority of those carrying the atheist or agnostic label have a disbelief that is characterized more by a sort of despair or doubt in God's care for the world than any sort of iron-clad rejection of His existence. In other words, the disbelief of the vast majority of atheists I run into seems as though it would evaporate if they thought that God would really love them and be with them in their struggles.

Even with this aside, I think that the "God won't help me" sort of despair/skepticism is just as important an enemy of faith as true, strict skepticism or atheism. If Caspian is about the triumph of faith over skepticism and/or disbelief, I certainly think that including a character who believes God has abandoned His people qualifies very nicely for illustrating this triumph.

That being said, I really thought that Trumpkin exhibited disbelief throughout the film, not just despair. He behaves throughout the entire film as though Aslan isn't real, and as though the only thing that is going to help anyone is a bow or a sword. I felt that in virtually every scene in which he was present (apart from the heavy-duty action sequences when he was obviously occupied with other things) he in some way exhibited a genuine disbelief in Aslan.

The other point which I really and honestly unqualifyingly (is that a word?) disagree with you is over whether or not tales of the Old Narnia have been surpressed a la modern skepticism. It is made plain throughout the film that stories about the past most certainly are anathema. The doctor makes this plain in his words and actions in the opening sequence, and when confronted by Miraz with the arrow he explicitly mentions that Miraz had forbade any mention of these things. At the end of this scene, Miraz tells the council member (the one, I believe, who is gobbled up by the river at the end) that he needs to learn his history. This man was seemingly entirely ignorant of the history of the 4 kings and queens of Narnia. When Caspian is chased into the forest escaping from his uncle in the opening scenes, Miraz' general makes it clear that he doesn't in the slightest way believe any of the superstitions about the forest. Note that not only does he disbelieve in them, but that the very real, historical facts of Narnia have fallen to the status of superstition - a status which I would venture to say is even further down the line of disbelief than the history of the Gospels exists as today. Modern skepticism views the supernatural realities of the Gospel as being more akin to myth or some sort of feel-good religious fabrication. Even in our own culture, supernatural beliefs in Christ have not reached the level of not breaking mirrors or walking under ladders. Think about it this way: a modern child's television program would never dream of treating the story of Christ in the mocking and dismissive tone that superstitions like allowing a black cat to cross one's path are. The story of Christ may be treated as a wonderful cultural belief that little Johnny's family celebrates versus the also quite nice story about Mohammad and the Archangel Gabriel, but it would never be ridiculed or treated as casually as superstitions are. Yet in the Narnia of the film, tales of the old magic are consigned to that level of respect.

Of course the children also express unbelief, and while it is not of the same character as the average agnostic's, it is very akin to the disbelief that Christians who have been there and understood the reality of God can fall into. When asked why the other children didn't see Aslan, Lucy replies that perhaps it is because they weren't looking for him. Lucy comes off as the devout and faithful follower of Christ who seeks His guidance and to see His presence in every facet of life. As they go through the forest, she is paying keen attention for Aslan, just as the saints paid keen attention for God in the tiniest of endevors. The other children, on the contrary, at first don't even think to look for him until Lucy's sighting, and after this treat the possibility that she did see him with a striking disbelief, even a contempt. Lucy's efforts to see Aslan are a waste of time and energy in their eyes - he isn't even considered as an option. To me, this is very clearly an allusion to the beginning of the LTW&TW when the children similarly disbelieve Lucy's tales of having visited Narnia.

I just don't see the lack of faith at all being absent from this film. I thought it was oozing with skepticism and disbelief of all varieties - perhaps even enriching the treatment of disbelief in Lewis' work with more of the flavors of it that pop up in the world and in the Christian life.

Of course, I don't want to sound like I am utterly ripping apart the review. I agree with a lot of it, and I do think the film has it's plusses, and it's minuses. I just really don't see these two as being in the latter list.

Peace and God bless

Shane

A few more thoughts which I find important enough to ammend as they come to me at this early hour...

It seems to me that the two additions made to the story in the film fly in the face of the idea that the story was revised but that Lewis' theme was lost, ignored, downplayed, minimalized, or the like, because both very perfectly strike a chord in perfect harmony with the theme.

First, we see the decision to invade the castle being made in an attempt to overcome the enemy on the stregth of the people involved, rather than by relying on and following Aslan's lead. In fact, Lucy explicitly points this out when she challenges Peter's idea, asking him, "have you forgotten who really defeated the White Witch?" Peter replies with the perfect answer of someone who has in some way lost his faith, asserting that Aslan isn't helping this time, or isn't there to help this time, or that they have to do it on their own or some such thing.

Second, we see the White Witch's tempation of both Caspian and even of Peter. A more powerful statement of doubt you will not find. The entire scene puts in the forefront the temptations that befall us in our greatest times of darkness, when we feel the call to doubt the most, those times when we forget Christ and are tempted by what is truly Satan's answer. What happens when that temptation is defeated? There, revealed from behind the icy wall that represents the cold wall of temptation and the easier way that so often blocks our view of Christ, is the gigantic symbol of Aslan, glowing in the flames.

SDG

To me, Trumpkin very clearly came off as an agnostic or one without faith altogether, at least in Aslan. When the kids first meet him, he says that Aslan abandoned the Narnians long ago. Now I believe you alluded to this and are critical that he views it more as an abandonment than a disbelief. However, I think that's making unecessary distinctions. True, dictionary-defined atheists are pretty far and few between, in my experience. …
I think that the "God won't help me" sort of despair/skepticism is just as important an enemy of faith as true, strict skepticism or atheism.

Even if this is true, "just as important" is not remotely the same as "same." It is one thing to say "Jesus and the Apostles never existed, the Gospels are fairy tales, miracles have never occurred, etc." To say "Miracles don't happen any more" is utterly different. Lewis was writing about the former, not the latter.

Contra your slash equivocation, "despair" and "skepticism" are two entirely different things, and this exactly expresses the heart of the matter. Lewis's Trumpkin does disbelieve but doesn't despair, while the movie's Trumpkin doesn't disbelieve but does despair. Lewis's Trumpkin is a "faithful atheist"; the movie's Trumpkin is a faithless believer. (Incidentally, I notice you don't mention Trumpkin's personality change from jolly and sanguine to testy and phlegmatic.)

It is made plain throughout the film that stories about the past most certainly are anathema. The doctor makes this plain in his words and actions in the opening sequence, and when confronted by Miraz with the arrow he explicitly mentions that Miraz had forbade any mention of these things. At the end of this scene, Miraz tells the council member (the one, I believe, who is gobbled up by the river at the end) that he needs to learn his history. This man was seemingly entirely ignorant of the history of the 4 kings and queens of Narnia. When Caspian is chased into the forest escaping from his uncle in the opening scenes, Miraz' general makes it clear that he doesn't in the slightest way believe any of the superstitions about the forest.

You may be right about the first incident; the other two, however, support rather than undermine my criticism. Miraz rebukes the man's ignorance of the four kings, which he calls ignorance of "history." In other words, the stories aren't "anathema," just unknown. That is exactly the opposite of the suppression the movie never (or barely) established.

As for the general not believing the superstitions about the forest, any Lewis fan would tell you he is right to disbelieve them. The Telmarines' superstitions about the forest are groundless, based in their hatred and fear of the trees. So once again we have a rational leader rightly criticizing others for their ignorance of the truth rather than skeptics dismissing the truth as superstition.

The other children, on the contrary, at first don't even think to look for him until Lucy's sighting, and after this treat the possibility that she did see him with a striking disbelief, even a contempt. Lucy's efforts to see Aslan are a waste of time and energy in their eyes - he isn't even considered as an option. To me, this is very clearly an allusion to the beginning of the LTW&TW when the children similarly disbelieve Lucy's tales of having visited Narnia.

And you see this as a good thing?!

Lewis is treating a very different dynamic in this book than in the last. In the book, the question whether or not to believe Lucy is a crucial one, and Peter really struggles over it. In the end he feels so hesitant that he doesn't even want to cast the tie-breaking vote until Trumpkin sternly tells him it's his duty. In the movie it's almost an offhand thing.

That the film version has the kids suddenly back in the first-story dynamic of taking it for granted that Lucy is imagining things is not a plus in my book.

In fact, Lucy explicitly points this out when she challenges Peter's idea, asking him, "have you forgotten who really defeated the White Witch?" Peter replies with the perfect answer of someone who has in some way lost his faith, asserting that Aslan isn't helping this time, or isn't there to help this time, or that they have to do it on their own or some such thing.

Interesting. How different is Peter's comment here in your view from Lucy's response to Peter's question about why Aslan didn't provide proof? Peter says "Maybe it's up to us"; Lucy says "Maybe we're the ones who have to prove ourselves to him." How different are these really?

Second, we see the White Witch's tempation of both Caspian and even of Peter. A more powerful statement of doubt you will not find.

No no no. Once again, doubt and temptation are not the same thing. Peter isn't doubting, he's tempted, and after having just saved Caspian from temptation. And once again Edmund has to ride to his rescue (once again "Yay the Adamson-like middle child!" as a friend of mine put it) with another sarcastic put-down of elder-brother Peter. A sour ending to an imaginative scene.

David B.

SDG,

Can you clarify, David B?...What do you mean by "came off" and "unbelieving"? Are you referring to attitude or to dialogue? ...
Do you mean a generally cynical bearing or suggestions of disbelief in concrete propositions such as "An omnipotent Lion Aslan actually exists," etc.?


I can't remember as well as I did last night right after seeing it, but I think that at least one point Trumpkin said, referring to waiting for Aslan's aid, that fairy tales (or maybe 'ghosts' was the word) couldn't help them in the real world. Could be wrong though.

I suppose also that Dinklage's Dwarf, while not as unbelieving as his literary counterpart, was unbelieving at points,. Of course, while the Real Trumpkin was much more consistent, I was glad that AA threw the 'Real Trumpkin' in occasionally. OTOH, AA's general omission of a consistent disbelief on the part of Trumpkin might have left the high-fructose corn syrup dwarf less of a character in the long run.

I usually(;-P) trust your impression of a film more than my own, especially after one only viewing each. After all, I'm not the one with the film degree. :-)

David B.

SDG,

And once again Edmund has to ride to his rescue (once again "Yay the Adamson-like middle child!" as a friend of mine put it) with another sarcastic put-down of elder-brother Peter. A sour ending to an imaginative scene.

EXACTLY! That was the scene that drove me out of my mind. I thought "finally, AA's Peter will set himself straight and tell the Witch that he knows he can't win on his own power, and then he'll drive his sword into the ice as he shouts 'ASLAN!'"

SMASH! Adamson waltzed in, said "Sorry, David, but I can't have the almost apostolic literary Peter muss up my love for dissing authority figures and elevating subordinates through insubordination!"

I'd like to know why directors like Adamson and (to add to the mix) Peter Jackson can't show the power of an evil creature or ring through the temptation of the 'hero' without making the tempted character (Peter or Faramir) almost give in or give in. Christians know from experience that temptation to Evil is strong, but that Good is stronger.


David B.

SDG,

I just noticed that your link to LWW leads right back to JA.O. Just so ya know.

Shane

SDG,

I think there may have been a misunderstandning that I want to clear up before I proceed, though it may only be my own :p. You had told David you weren't trying to be confrontational, but you came off as very confrontational in your response to me. Perhaps I'm misreading you, and if so I apologize. If I am not, I can only attribute it to a failing on my part for having given the impression that I myself was confronting you in my original post. I didn't intend to do so. I disagreed with some of the points you made in your review, but intended to simply have a friendly discussion.

I'll address one other point up front, because it is one of the reasons I read you as coming of confrontationally, so its appropriate to place it here in the context of discussing that issue. You asked why I didn't bring up the change in Trumpkin's character. I didn't do that because I didn't disagree with you on it. I actually made it a point in my original post that I didn't disagree with you on everything. (This is something that stuck out at me as being confrontational, in case you really didn't intend to be so and are scratching your head about just what it was you said - an experience with which all of us of the internet age are I believe quite familiar). I really only meant to address the two points I mentioned, so when I saw something that didn't seem to relate to my point, I came away with that impression.

Even if this is true, "just as important" is not remotely the same as "same." It is one thing to say "Jesus and the Apostles never existed, the Gospels are fairy tales, miracles have never occurred, etc." To say "Miracles don't happen any more" is utterly different. Lewis was writing about the former, not the latter.

Contra your slash equivocation, "despair" and "skepticism" are two entirely different things, and this exactly expresses the heart of the matter. Lewis's Trumpkin does disbelieve but doesn't despair, while the movie's Trumpkin doesn't disbelieve but does despair. Lewis's Trumpkin is a "faithful atheist"; the movie's Trumpkin is a faithless believer. (Incidentally, I notice you don't mention Trumpkin's personality change from jolly and sanguine to testy and phlegmatic.)

I think I may have failed to effectively convey my point here. Certainly despair and skepticism are two different animals. What I was trying to get at was that skepticism can sometimes be a child of despair. If one despairs long enough or in the right way, or if one with a particular sort of personality despairs, a loss of faith can come about through that. I'm not contending that it is impossible to despair without a loss of faith. I am too faithful a reader of St. Thomas to suggest such a thing. My point is that skepticism comes about from many things, and often times in an unbeliever, despair was one of the seeds that grew into skepticism.

Moving forward, this point about despair was only an introduction to my main point which is really simply that Trumpkins came across as an unbeliever to me. David felt this way too, and so while I won't even try to speak for him, I will cite him as an example of someone who's first impression was at least similar to mine. I'm pretty sure he is right about "fairy tales." I am almost positive Trumpkin utters this line. If so, it is certainly a tangible bit of evidence about the impression I'm refering to. I, like David, wish I could better remember why I say this, but the character really came across to me as doubting, or unbelieving, or faithless.

Consequently, I think I understand why you may have mentioned his personality in your response... his down-trodden, almost Marvin the Robotesque personality certainly lends itself to one in despair, rather than something like a jolly atheist. I just got a different impression.

You may be right about the first incident; the other two, however, support rather than undermine my criticism. Miraz rebukes the man's ignorance of the four kings, which he calls ignorance of "history." In other words, the stories aren't "anathema," just unknown. That is exactly the opposite of the suppression the movie never (or barely) established.

As for the general not believing the superstitions about the forest, any Lewis fan would tell you he is right to disbelieve them. The Telmarines' superstitions about the forest are groundless, based in their hatred and fear of the trees. So once again we have a rational leader rightly criticizing others for their ignorance of the truth rather than skeptics dismissing the truth as superstition.

Unless my memory fails me, it's made clear by the doctor that Miraz has made the old stories illegal. This would be why the fellow didn't know about the stories. I really didn't see Miraz' statement as a rebuke, although I guess it may have been. I really thought he was just telling him that he needed to learn his history, rather than rebuking him for not. In other words, the guy wouldn't know the history, which was not legal, but now he was in need of doing so - which he does by reading the doctor's materials after Miraz leaves.

I guess I would really just have to disagree about the forest. I don't understand why you say the superstitions were baseless. The superstitions were based on the historical fact that the trees could do just what they eventually do when Aslan wakes them up. The "miracle" of these trees coming to life was a historical fact - just like the true miracles recorded in our own history - reduced to superstitions. When I see the general rejecting the superstitions, I see something as real and as founded on history as the Resurrection reduced to the status of and old wives tale.

And you see this as a good thing?!...

Well, not objectively, from the standpoint of the characters, no. They doubted - that's not good! :) However, from the standpoint of Lewis' novel, I do. As you mention in your review, the novel finds the kids one by one coming to see Aslan as they are open to him. In the film, we have the kids exhibiting a similar (though less protracted) plot line. The kids start off in a sort of quasi-disbelief, and then gradually come back to faith. Susan's character seemed to come around first, if I recall, with Edmund's faith/disbelief being perhaps the most confusing or perhaps inconsistent development of the bunch.

Interesting. How different is Peter's comment here in your view from Lucy's response to Peter's question about why Aslan didn't provide proof? Peter says "Maybe it's up to us"; Lucy says "Maybe we're the ones who have to prove ourselves to him." How different are these really?

I think these are vastly different, I really do. Actually, I've tried to use softer language this time around out of a fear that I came off too strong, but this is one point over which I have to really vert strongly disagree. There is a huge difference between saying we have to do it ourselves, and saying that God has to do it but we have to cooperate. Peter's statement is the sort of thing said by one who doesn't believe there is any Divine help to be found. Lucy's is the sort of thing said by one who knows there is and knows that a person has to bee faithful to God if he is going to try to expect his help. In a battle against temptation, for example, one can't overcome on his own - he needs God's help. However, one can't just sit there and wait for God to make the temptation go away, but must trust in God while doing all he can to overcome. Peter is saying something like, "God doesn't help" or "there is no God to help," whereas Lucy is saying "God helps those who help themselves."

No no no. Once again, doubt and temptation are not the same thing. Peter isn't doubting, he's tempted, and after having just saved Caspian from temptation. And once again Edmund has to ride to his rescue (once again "Yay the Adamson-like middle child!" as a friend of mine put it) with another sarcastic put-down of elder-brother Peter. A sour ending to an imaginative scene.

As I said, I am not trying to equate or conflate doubt and temptation. What I'm saying is that I saw this scene as a moment of temptation which is fed by doubt. There is no way that the Peter of the first film would have given so much as half a second's consideration to the Jadis' temptation. The reason he does this time around is because he has just failed quite miserably in his assault on the castle and led many Narnian's to death by his own hubris. All the while, he has shown virtually no trust in Aslan to help - or even any recognition that Aslan exists. He treats Aslan almost like a fairytale. Miraz' army is on the march and they're all going to die, and here is an offer of salvation from the White Which. It's the same situation that many a doubting Christian finds himself in... he knows the choices he ought to make yet hasn't spoken to Christ in years and isn't even sure anymore if He exists, and now there is some tragedy in his life. Satan presents him with a temptation to find salvation in something else. It is the classic case of one who isn't sure if Christ the savior exists and so looking for the savior in other places. In Peter's case, when the crisis is over, he sees the carving of Aslan and remembers the faith he once had.

Consequently, I don't really think it's the same issue, but I want to say I really liked the ending of the scene. I didn't see it as a sarcastic remark. Certainly it was sarcastic, but I didn't see it as merely so. At this point in the movie, it has been established well that Peter is entirely overcome with pride, and at this time when he has almost really done them all in, Edmund says "Yeah, I know, you had it sorted," knocking him down a few pegs. I thought it worked well as an instrument to bring Peter back from his vacation in the land of hubris. In other words, it wasn't just a sarcastic comment made by an upset character; it was a meaningful comment offered with an intention.

Peace and God bless

SDG

Hi Shane,

Thanks for your follow-up comments. FWIW, the main reason that my qualification about not meaning to sound "confrontational" appeared in my response to David B without a corresponding qualification in my response to you is that with David B. I was effectively cross-examining his observation with clarifying questions, whereas with you I thought I was mostly responding to your cross-examination of my review.

In other words, with David B. I was a little concerned to avoid coming off as (to continue the courtroom language) "badgering the witness," whereas with your comments I was essentially defending my original interpretation rather than pressing you to clarify yourself, so I didn't think there was the same risk of being perceived as hostile, which was certainly not my intent.

I never took your comments as anything other than friendly disagreement, and certainly intended my comments the same way. Perhaps I just take too much for granted the critical rough-and-tumble of variant interpretations that I commonly engage in at, say, artsandfaith.com. The theological disagreements that often take place here at JA.org are often a little more charged, so perhaps expectations aren't always the same. In any case, please accept my apologies if you felt I came on too strong; as I say, it wasn't my intent.

I may respond to some of your points a little later when I have more time; that's all for now.

David B.

Wow, I didn't realize how tiresome my having adding the first initial for my last name was! :-)


I'd really like to deep six the 'B,' But there are so many 'Davids' that I can't! :-I

Sifu Jones

SDG, Shane, et. al.:

A few points. I did see PC, and I thought it was great. For Trumpkin, he very clearly said that Aslan "doesn't exist." He specifically used those words. So there's at least one significant nod to Trumpkin's atheism.

Also SDG, worth mentioning is that Alsan in this movie fixes as problem you had with LW&W: that he wasn't "scary" enough, as Lewis had written him. While he still doesn't rise to the complex and majestical level that Lewis wrote, there are at least two scenes where he even frightens the good guys: when he first meets Lucy and roars her off her horse, and when Trumpkin kneels before him: the look on Dinklage's face very much reminds me of someone both joyful and scared out of their mind.

And yes, the "we will never know what happened" and "as you grow bigger, so shall I" lines annoyed me, but I think could still relatively easily be interpreted in such a way as to maintain Aslan's divinity.

It's bothersome that even relatively Christian-friendly Hollywood like Walden Media felt the need to deemphasize those elements, but they could have done things to make it completely impossible to see Aslan as God, and they didn't. I realize that's like saying we're happy the government takes too much of our money rather than all of it, but that's not quite the case here.

I think what Adamson and company did was mildly disrespectful, but I don't think they meant it to be so. I think they were trying to leave it "Christian enough" to make us happy, and even though I think the movies would have been objectively better if they'd been more faithful in their translation, I still think there's enough there to still claim it as "our own".

And I am sorry to imply that you were "knowing" Anderson's heart -- that wasn't my intention.

Sifu Jones

Forgot to reiterate that when Aslan meets Trumpkin, he roars at him as well, seemingly for no other reason than to establish that he is, in fact, awesome.

Shane

Actually, the line "We'll never know" doesn't really detract from Aslan's divinity. To someone with a classical Thomistic understanding of God, the line is the right answer, whereas "we're never told" rings of the dreaded middle-knowledge of the Molinists!

I don't consider myself in either camp, btw. Just thought it was a valuable point.

Shane

SDG,

I appreciate your comments. Like I said, it may just as likely have been my own misreading of your tone than you actually writing confrontationally or appearing to do so. I think any disagreement or line of questions really can sound that way in writing unless someone makes it a point to express sentiments of friendliness or the like, a la St. Paul. I think what it came down to was I read your comments on Trumpkin and your parenthetical comment about my lack of having addressed his personality and I said to myself, "That doesn't even have to do with my point, is he trying to get after me or something?" After the fact I realized that a negative and slouchy sort of a mood versus a jolly one certainly could be the result of despair.

I might have edited my confrontation bit out after I realized this, but I thought it was worth leaving it in just in case it contributed to a better discussion. We actually have some mutual friends and I can't imagine them hainging a picture of a nasty fellow and his family on their fridge, so I know you're a decent guy and I figured it would only help versus causing more trouble as it may with some folks.

Peace and God bless

In any case, all's well

Veronica

As an average movie-goer who has read The Chronicles of Narnia several times, I can only say that I enjoyed the movie, and that I didn't think it undermined Aslan's divinity in any way that I am aware of. I think the movie, despite its flaws and its obvious departure from the original story, remained faithful to the themes that Lewis tried to get across in PC. My 4 year-old niece loved the movie too, which to me is the biggest praise any movie could have. :)

I do agree though, that 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' has to remain as close to the source material as possible, but I'm not so sure that it will work as a movie. I think it will be very confusing for people who haven't read the books, and even more so for people who don't understand the Christian allegory of the series. Some things don't work so well in a visual medium, and if the producers want a movie that is palatable to a general audience they will have to make many changes in the story in order to adapt it to the big-screen. Just my 2 cents...

Jesuit John

I appreciate all that y’all are saying here. But for me, not having read the book since the 6th grade, I thought it was pretty good! I am no C.S. Lewis purist so I guess it didn’t bother me where it differed from his book and vision. So watch it with fresh eyes and you may enjoy it a lot more.

The problems I had with it had to do with that terrible song at the end (people in the theater audibly snickered!) And the cute humor juxtapose with violence. Don’t get me wrong, I know the mouse had to cut the soldier’s throat, but did he have to make a joke about the man’s lack of verbal creativity just a second before?

The movie still get’s an A- from me.


Jesuit John
www.companionofjesus.com

David B.

Jesuit John,

You sound like smart fella (is it okay to call a Jesuit 'fella'?). I winced at that Reepicheep moment as well (and his sarcastic 'shut up' line which others repeated).

Thomas

I have no doubt there's a great dialog here, but I'm short on time and can't read it all, so I'll just throw out some bullet points.

- I thought the movie was atrocious.

- I was never a fan of the casting of Peter in TLTWATW, but PC actually made it worse. He came of as a prideful little bastard. His attitude towards Aslan's absence was a butchering of the character, and the contrived rivalry with Caspian added to this.

- The equally contrived "romance" between Susan and Caspian felt like forced pandering.

- They harmed Reepicheep's character with his sarcastic little remarks.

- They took Aslan's already limited role and unnecessarily reduced it.

- By excluding the Pevensie's ultimate decision to follow Lucy to an Aslan they couldn't see the movie really did a disservice to their faithfulness in the books. And hand in hand with this is the subplot of Susan's obstinancy, regret, and forgiveness.

I was a huge fan of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. That's why it's so perplexing how the very same director could turn around and do this to Prince Caspian. Very disappointing.

Lynn

I can't think of an addition that improved the film, *imho* of course. I didn't find anything beneficial in the invented castle battle sequence nor in the 'stand-off at Beruna's Bridge' sequence. I believe staying closer to Lewis' book would have made for a much stronger film. I don't have a problem with moving scenes around (i.e., the birth of Miraz' son and Caspian's subsequent flight wasn't told in flashback) and I probably wouldn't have a problem with the creation of scenes if they'd advanced the meaning of book - but they didn't. Even my genuine delight in seeing the wonderful Peter Dinklage dissipated as I saw the movie 'Trumpkin' fall short of the book's character.

One of our party hasn't read the books and she asked, "when Aslan said Peter and Susan learned what they needed to learn in Narnia, what was it? What did they learn?" Well maybe they were supposed to learn to trust Aslan, follow Aslan, wait on Aslan (all those Christian exhortations) - but they didn't ever learn it.

The treatment of Peter's character (his qualities, his nature) was even worse than in the first film, which also misrepresented CSL's conception of Peter. This time around they had Peter petulant, almost surly, fighting left and right, and competing with Caspian (who also gets misrepresented but not as badly), a real 'troubled teen.' *sigh*

Susan and Lucy are shown lounging on The Stone Table, completely at odds with the holiness inherent in the object as described in the book - rather like leaning on the true cross while waiting for a friend... yikes!

But absurd in the extreme was the handling Aslan Himself: what, Lucy has to ride off and fetch Aslan as if she'd left her stuffed lion in the woods? Going back to the place she saw him last?! AARRRRGGGH! In fact I even wrote a blog entry called Aslan is not a stuffed Lion. One must vent or burst, you know--

blessings--

Shane

Well maybe they were supposed to learn to trust Aslan, follow Aslan, wait on Aslan (all those Christian exhortations) - but they didn't ever learn it.

I guess I just don't see this... I really thought it was plainly clear that the kids started out without giving Aslan a second thought, not trusting him, even forgetting that he was there, and that in the end they did learn this in turning to him after their failures trying to do it on their own.

john


One of my favorite parts of the book was Caspian's learning about Old Naria from Cornelius and his nurse and longing for it. The whole mood of being up the silent tower watching the planets coming together, hearing your heart's desire is true and that your life is in danger was something a movie could have captured. When it opened with the escape I dispaired.

A movie also could have captured the sheer joy of Aslan's romp at the end. It did not even try.

Trumpkin was not quite the book Trumpkin, but he was the realest character in the movie. I thought the actor was great.

While I recognize the song at the end as objectively cheesy, I liked it. By then I was so far from wanting to recreate my enjoyment from reading Naria that I was ready for even a pop version of the awakening that magic and other worlds and myths can give.

Shane

John's comment about Aslan's romp made me think about something I've been feeling....

I just think that the way the movie presented it gave a greater sense to Aslan's importance. I can appreciate those who would disagree, but when I look at the book and I look at the movie, the movie just seems to create a much greater sense that all is lost until Aslan comes in to save the day... in the book I don't know that that sense is really as powerful.

The difference to me is that in the book, you have Caspian fighting, who in some sense doesn't really know to call on Aslan, and the kids who in some sense do. The kids come to Narnia and call on Aslan, and he saves the Narnians, but because of the way its presented the real importance of it doesn't come out as strongly as in the film, in my opinion. In the film, the kids try to do it on their own and fail and end up caught in a real mess, and they thus learn to call on and trust in Aslan, who very clearly is responsible for defeating Miraz' army.

The line that has been the subject of so much discussion here, "we'll never know/no one is ever told" takes on what I think is a better meaning in the film. In the book (unless I really misunderstand the passage), it's really just about Lucy's decision not to come looking for him. If she had, it would have turned out ok. It comes off as more about how the kids would have reacted to her, whereas in the film its about the decision to turn to Aslan now rather than earlier, and the issue isn't embarassment or whatnot, but the lives that could have been saved.

Maybe everyone will disagree with me, but I've got the book right in front of me and that's the sense I get.

Catholic Mama

"I've interviewed Gresham..."

SDG,

OT here, just a bit...Wondering if you have heard any more about the movie "The Screwtape Letters" which was announced a couple years or so ago, based on Lewis's famous book, and announed it would also be produced by Doug Gresham. I can find no updated information at all on this project. It would be great if you could ask him about it in your next interview and fill in your readers. Thanks!

diane

We saw the movie on Friday afternoon and enjoyed it immensely. However, we also winced a lot at the changes. E.g., when Aslan uttered the "We will never know" line, I turned to DH and said, "Aslan would never say that!" It really bothered me.

I also greatly missed the wonderful scene from the book where the kids and Trumpkin are following Aslan up the precipice--after Lucy has seen him the second time--and one by one the others see him too. As SDG notes, this is a very visual, cinematic scene, so it's nutty to omit it from the movie and to substitute verbal comments instead. It's also central to the book's theme, fer cryin' out loud. Dare we hope that it will be restored in an extended director's edition on DVD? (Somehow I get the impression that this hope is as forlorn as Fr. von Bathasar's hope that "all men will be saved.")

My DH and I agreed on the following:

First third of movie--pretty faithful to the book; really moving and compelling and engrossing

Second third of movie--total travesty; much less moving and even a tad boring

Third third--pretty faithful to the book; goes back to being moving and engrossing

Overall, we liked the movie very much. We just wondered why Hollywood always has to change stuff. As my older son put it, "Do they think they'ree smarter than C.S. Lewis?"

One change I did like, though, was the scene with the White Witch. I thought it was cool that Caspian and (to a lesser extent) Peter were tempted to go over to the Dark Side (oops, sorry, wrong movie series ;))...and both struggled and resisted, but then it was the former traitor Edmund who finally put a definitive end to the temptation. (Kinda like Gollum in LOTR...OK, too many mixed movie metaphors.)

Diane

Catholic Mama

The mention of Aslan's divinity brings up something I remember thinking while reading the series of books a long time ago, and it struck me again as I watched Prince Caspian for a second time this weekend. (Loved watching it both times, and hope to see it again.)

The children are from the real England, circa WWII, and hence would be Christian, presumably. When they go back to Narnia, they essentially worship Aslan -- who may be a symbol of Christ to readers of the books, but from the characters' point of view, as humans from the real England, he is a wonderful, magical talking lion who is omniscient and omnipresent, essentially, "god". As such, being Christians, wouldn't worshipping this talking lion be idolatry? On this level, it could conceivably be argued that it can be analogous to Hindus worshipping the elephant god Ganesh, or the monkey god Hannuman?

Anyone have any comments on this?

Shane

Catholic Mama,

In Lewis' writing, Aslan is not understood to be a symbol of Christ, but to be an actual manifestation of Christ in Narnia. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he actually appears as a lamb and tells the kids that although they will not return to Narnia again nevertheless they will know him, because the very reason he brought them there in the first place was so that they could come to know him "by another name" in their own world.

In other words, Aslan is Christ. Now, you do raise an interesting point insofar as that the kids didn't know this until well into their adventures. Presuming they were actually Christian in the first place, the dynamics of the situation and whether or not they actually would have been guilty of idolatry is an interesting question.

SDG

In Lewis' writing, Aslan is not understood to be a symbol of Christ, but to be an actual manifestation of Christ in Narnia. At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he actually appears as a lamb and tells the kids that although they will not return to Narnia again nevertheless they will know him, because the very reason he brought them there in the first place was so that they could come to know him "by another name" in their own world.

In other words, Aslan is Christ. Now, you do raise an interesting point insofar as that the kids didn't know this until well into their adventures. Presuming they were actually Christian in the first place, the dynamics of the situation and whether or not they actually would have been guilty of idolatry is an interesting question.

It's always seemed to me, Shane, that the very passage you cite from the end of Dawn Treader suggests that the Pevensies do not yet know Aslan by the name He is known by in our world, i.e., Jesus.

I think it's reasonable to presume that the kids are probably Christians in an ontological and general sense (i.e., they've probably been baptized and probably been to church, at least on occasion), but it also seems reasonable to suppose that they are no better catechized than the children for whom Lewis was writing, and whose imaginations he hoped to baptize by these stories.

Lewis never shows the children in the Narnia stories citing Christian principles or language, the way he has, e.g., Ransom in the Space Trilogy (Perelandra?) identify himself as a Christian. In The Silver Chair Eustace rejects the idea of trying to call on Aslan with magic circles and spell-like incantations, not on the grounds that it violates the commandments, but simply because he has a feeling that it's "all rot" and Aslan wouldn't like it. Of course Eustace's wretched modern upbringing is surely less grounded in reality than whatever the Pevensies have received, but the differences Lewis highlights have to do with grounding in things like decency, kindness, fortitude, respect and so forth.

Confronted with a Being who manifestly demands adoration, they adore Him. The intellectual problem of how this is to be reconciled with the First Commandment does not occur to them, and so there is no sin, objectively or subjectively.

diane

And besides...doesn't Lewis's portrayal of Christ as a Lion (the Lion of Judah ;)) follow from the Scriptural testimony that God does in fact sometimes appear in other guises? On the road to Emmaus, Christ's own disciples do not recognize Him; and in the Apocalypse, He appears at several points as a Lamb (at one point as a seven-eyed Lamb!), and no one thinks twice about adoring Him.

So, I guess I don't entirely see the problem. ;)

Diane

Catholic Mama

SDG writes: "Confronted with a Being who manifestly demands adoration, they adore Him. The intellectual problem of how this is to be reconciled with the First Commandment does not occur to them, and so there is no sin, objectively or subjectively."


I am not entirely convinced that this is the case in reality, especially if we assume they are probably baptized yet uncatechized (as you also concede). But it does seem to be what the books are saying. And if we continue with this logic, then we could further presume that all baptized, yet uncatechized young persons who encounter false idols whom they feel worthy of adoration and so procede to do so, are also not guilty of the sin of idolatry. And this is the very point I was asking about -- that on this level, the Narnia stories could almost be an apologetics for Hinduism or other religions which worship animal idols. I don't believe that this was Lewis's motive at all, but perhaps Hindus might read it otherwise. Does this point make sense?

SDG

And if we continue with this logic, then we could further presume that all baptized, yet uncatechized young persons who encounter false idols whom they feel worthy of adoration and so procede to do so, are also not guilty of the sin of idolatry.

I'm not sure this adequately accounts for the fact that Aslan is not just a Christ figure, but God Himself, fictionally portrayed. I said "there is no sin, objectively or subjectively"; in the case you cite, of an uncatechized young person who adores an idol he feels worthy of such, there is certainly objective (material) idolatry, whether or not there is subjective (formal) idolatry.

In the Gospels we meet people who fall down at Jesus' feet and worship him. Nearly all of them are Jews who know that God alone is to be worshiped, and probably few if any have at that moment an adequate grasp of the incarnational and Trinitarian theology needed to explain why their actions are not idolatry. Apparently it does not bother them at that moment, and rightly so.

Those who dream or are drunk may imagine themselves awake and sober; the wakeful and sober know that they are not dreaming or drunk. Those who worship creatures may imagine that they worship rightly; those who worship the divine know that they are not wrong.

And this is the very point I was asking about -- that on this level, the Narnia stories could almost be an apologetics for Hinduism or other religions which worship animal idols. I don't believe that this was Lewis's motive at all, but perhaps Hindus might read it otherwise.

While there is no reading so far-fetched that someone can't be found to defend it, I imagine that the overwhelming monotheism of the Narnia stories would be even more clear to readers who are not themselves monotheists than to many Christian readers.

In the Narnian world, only Aslan is to be adored. Not all animals, or all lions, or any other lion, or any other animal. Not even the mythological gods who romp about the Narnian countryside, Bacchus and Silenus and so forth. All creatures and powers are subject to Aslan; He is unique. (In principle, there is also his Father, known as the Emperor-Across-the-Sea, though Lewis only gestures at this figure.)

Aslan creates the Narnian world ex nihilo. Like Yahweh in Genesis 1, he does so effortlessly, deliberately and without struggle, in contrast to the haphazard, often bloody creation-stories of pagan mythology. Like Eru (the One) of Tolkien's mythology, also known as Iluvatar (All-Father), Aslan sings the world into existence.

Aslan's omnipotence never meets any obstacle, certainly not in any figure of evil pitted against him. In every confrontation with the White Witch and other figures of evil, there is never any question of Aslan's complete control of the situation.

Good has ontological priority over evil in Narnia, another unique feature of Abrahamic monotheistic faith. The good Aslan creates Narnia good; evil is weaker and secondary, and must be introduced from outside. Ultimately, evil is judged and dispatched by Aslan at the end of Narnian time, after which the old Narnia passes away and there is a new and eternal Narnia.

David B.

Like Eru (the One) of Tolkien's mythology, also known as Iluvatar (All-Father), Aslan sings the world into existence.

Whoa. How did I never see this before? That is really quite interesting. I'd love to know whether Lewis influenced Tolkien that time!

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