No rambling, poorly-connected rambling lately, so here goes.
Over the last couple of months, I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter, who is a very precocious girl of almost five. I have been reading them to her not in the chronological order of the stories themselves, starting with Book 1, The Magician’s Nephew, but rather in the order of their publication, starting with Book 2, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She loves the stories of the Pevensie children and their adventures in the enchanted land of faeries and magic. Having never read them myself — which is astounding even to me, given my childhood love of fantasy stories — I am enjoying them at least as much as she. As an adult I can appreciate the underlying allegory of the stories, whereas Evie takes them at face value, as excellent children’s stories where good triumphs over evil and we learn simple lessons of sacrifice, friendship, and love.
I haven’t made any plans, though, to see the new Narnia movie. I think it’s a noble endeavor for it to be made at all, but I suspect (unlike the global juggernaut that is Harry Potter) they will never make the entire series — especially not if the reins are handed off to hack directors used to dealing with technical CGI films like Andrew Adamson. I liked Shrek as much as the next guy (or kid), but it was far from a work of art. And although the Narnia books are not, by and large, some of the greatest literature ever produced in the English language, they are about a large theme and deserve to be treated as such.
This is the key behind the success of Peter jackson’s The Lord of the Rings adaptation — recognition of its large themes. The whole script development on those great movies demonstrated willingness to bypass weaknesses in the literature to satisfy the requirements of cinematic language and thematic structure. The advance reviews I’m reading of the Narnia movie seem to confirm my suspicion that this film — and possibly the series it heralds — was a response to Rings and not an endeavor undertaken on its own merit. And because of that, no one dedicated themselves to preserving the larger themes of friendship, sacrifice, and love, and making the movie about those themes rather than about reproducing in as much CGI grandeur as possible the great visuals to which the book alludes.
I plan on reviewing Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy before I let Evie anywhere near it. I heard good critical reviews about it, but I am a little disturbed by strident (and frankly off-putting) statements I read from the author some years ago that he wrote it as a form of attack on the Christian overtones in Lewis’ Narnia series. No matter what your personal beliefs, Lewis’ work holds up as good, solid fantasy works. If you like the overtones, more power to you, and if you don’t, you can ignore them. Or better yet, simply appreciate them for what they are and the depth they lend the story and emotion.