Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tread Lightly...

...On the next page she came to a spell 'for the refreshment of the spirit.' The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, "That is the loveliest story I've ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years"...
-Lucy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Like many, I had a very active imagination as a child. Books like those in The Chronicles of Narnia, then, were the perfect escape for a young mind sometimes burdened by the hardships of youth. One gets the sense that Mr. Lewis wrote his books just for that very purpose: a literary city of refuge for children who haven't quite discovered who they are. The message while there, though, is that the real world is worth returning to.

I watched the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this evening. Setting aside, for a minute, the unforgivable massacre of the plot, this movie is a total betrayal of the essential beauty of the novel.

Dawn Treader, like all of the Narnia books, springs out of the idea that the minds and imaginations of children are not just silly things; they are, on the contrary, a crucial part of maturation. The worlds we create as children are vital in that we learn how to see ourselves living, acting and choosing for ourselves. We go away to search for buried treasure, climb an impossibly high mountain, or explore a distant planet. But as we go, we are anchored to our real lives by story elements that are familiar to us. We may be suddenly ripped from our delicate reverie by a call to dinner or the end of a chapter, but joy from that world is still with us, and it may even help us deal with reality, however harsh it may be.

I didn't really expect the movie to explore any of that stuff, but I was holding out hope that it might somehow hit on the nature of childhood or simply show Narnia through the eyes of an awe-filled child whose dreams are boundless and bold.

Instead, the director, writers and producers chose to rearrange it into an unnecessarily high-paced barrage of special effects and regurgitated sci-fi/fantasy plot devices. A once-delightful story with complex and conflicted characters, unexpected twists and an interesting theological foundation has been lobotomized and fluffed.

This is the third movie in the series, and each has strayed further from the path. Since I have played out these stories in my head countless times, I suppose no movie could compare to what I've been able to conjure. Having said that, such an admirable and noteworthy set of writings is deserving of a more substantive attempt. Children are meant to enter Narnia for the nourishment of their souls, and, instead, this movie simply primes a baser desire for flash and swashbuckling.

Of course even this cinematic travesty can't ruin what lives in my mind and heart. I'm content to, every once in a while, return to the Narnia of my dreams. To slip away to a place in my mind, even if only for a few minutes, to a safe place where where colors are more perfect, breezes are always warm, and happiness is something that is easily accessible to all who yearn for it. It isn't an escape or even a respite anymore; it is a nostalgic pause that reminds me of who I have become and what steps it took to get here. Moreover, I can be encouraged by the fact that adventures aren't just for children's books and that we all have the chance to be the hero of our own story.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. The scene where Lucy reads the gospel story was probably my favorite scene in the book and I was disappointed it wasn't included.