The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 2005-12-23 and 2006-01-11
The best adaptation I've seen to date - much better than the 1970s cartoon (mentioned below, which seemed so much better in the seventies but I managed to see a snip of when it was shown recently) and the 1980s BBC adaptation (which I had thought was okay, but never brilliant).
(adapted from quick and dirty gothintra.net review)
Okay, I was introduced to the world (or should that just be land) of Narnia about twenty-five years ago. As far as I can tell I saw the 1978 cartoon adaptation when it first came out (which incidentally is being shown on Christmas Day, for those of you based in the UK). After that I read the entire seven book series, though possibly not in order. That was it until the eighties-tastic television series version, but I didn't think that was so good (probably because I'd already read all the books and grown up a bit by the time it came out, not that that stopped me watching all the series they managed to put out, and I still think it's a pity they didn't get all the way through them). While looking for the details for those two versions, I was surprised to see there's already a page for the 2005 adaptation on dvd at amazon.
Okay, quickly then - the obvious thing is how much of the Christian allegory did they get into the film? One person's review (can't remember who, unfortunately) said they over-egged it a little, but I don't think it was ramped up any more than in the original books. For those who don't know - Aslan (son of the king over the ocean) is Christ, the king over the ocean being JHVA (or G*d to his friends), though not sure where that leaves Jadis - Lilith perhaps - there's all that garden and fruit stuff in The Magician's Nephew, after all?
Bits I liked: The parallels between the German bombers and Narnian eagles;
The professor's house - huge and rambling, just as it should be. And all those beams - I wanna live there!
Jadis' castle - I always imagined the courtyard to be outside, but this ice palace did everything right.
Bits I didn't like:
Aslan's death - it was over too fast! Couldn't we have got his eyes, full of pain then slowly shutting, and maybe his heartbeat, and some Hollywood producer saying'twas beauty that killed the beastor something? The lack of the professor - he should have been in more scenes! And he should have said things about time moving at different rates, and not being able to return by the same route in more than one book (er, or time period, or whatever), and how adults can't go there, and how he used to go there when he was a kid, and how the wardrobe was made from Narnian wood (sapient pearwood, isn't it? ;)
Bits I'm ambivalent about:
Father Christmas - it was always going to be difficult to get that character in and still keep it real. A bit cringe-worthy, but at least I saw it with some of my younger relatives who I assume still believe, and they seemed to enjoy it all.
Bits I would have changed (probably in direct contravention of the source material)
That bit below the waterfall? I'd have had Jadis re-icing as she went along, ironically saving the Pevenseys, even as she seeks to destroy them. That would have been cool, yeah. Though the waterfall breaking through and sweeping away the wolves was good too.
Moral lessons to be learned: if a naked man with really hairy legs comes up to you in the middle of the woods and invites you back to his place for tea then that's a good thing. Even if you're a seven-year old girl on your own. Uh, actually scratch that lesson and don't go off with strangers, kiddies.
I also wrote this, upon finding that sequels to Narnia have already been green-lighted:
Disney has given the green light to the second Narnia adaptation - Prince Caspian. I'm hoping it isn't too long before Magician's Nephew gets an adaptation (not made it to the screen, large or small before, to the best of my knowledge). Though I'm also hoping The Hobbit will get done sometime too (link to the graphic novel adaptation, which has pretty good artwork, though I can't remember what the storytelling was like - have to locate it when I get home).
Re: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - I'd imagine that making it to the screen in much the same way that the Harry Potter films have (which, after all are selected segments of the school year).
Pet hate: children's books done up as adult's books. If you're going to read fiction intended primarily for children then do so, don't hide behind an arty cover that's pretending to be a historical novel, or a post-modern romance. You're reading about teenagers and adolescents playing with magical wands and flying around, however monochromatic the cover is. It should perhaps also be noted that I don't like the modern covers they've put on the Narnia books - keep to the traditional, forty-years-old-if-they're-a-day covers please (and the same with Famous Five books). If you're going to read about a group of upper middle class children with outdated attitudes towards race, gender and class then don't pretend the adventures (or should that be jolly japes?) take place now on the cover. Fifties style cover versus yoof version. As when I was eight years old - I want to live in Smuggler's Top - for the uninitiated, a rocky promontory, a la St Michaels Mount / Mont St Michel, but surrounded by marshland instead of sea. As an aside - anyone else ever wonder why two such similarly formed landmarks have such similar names too?