Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chronicles of Narnia Movie Tones

Hey y'all. I really need to work hard on posting more. I'll try to do a bit more. My boyfriend's back from his trip, so I'm hanging out with him more.  Naturally.  For now, a rant. Yay for ranting!

Okay, so, I'm hear to talk about the Chronicles of Narnia movies. At this point, I have seen the first two, and I haven't seen the third. It hasn't been long since it came out, so yeah. I'm sure I'll see it at some point, more than likely on my parents' Netflix account. Bad movies tend to come out on there faster than good ones. Yep, I'm already calling it a bad movie. I've seen the trailer. You don't always need to see a thing to know how bad it is. Sometimes it's just incredibly obvious.

So the first movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (or LWW as I will now refer to it) was actually pretty good. I liked it fine. I had some problems with it, namely the presense of the centaurs -- for the love of God make them do something other than stand there like melodramatic statues! The battle scene was too melodramatic as well, and I didn't like the battle involvement of Susan.

Susan in the books was more of a girly-girl, and to make her more tough is cheap and too Hollywood. There are some women in the world that care more about makeup than shooting arrows, y'all. Reality is far more entertaining than feminism. Besides, you've got Lucy, who was plenty tougher than Susan, to go be the woman hero archetype. Sheesh, if you portray women with having one dang flaw then you must be a sexist. Yeah.

Anyway, the movie was actually pretty good. It was entertaining, had a pretty good script, and Tilda Swinton was a great villain. Aslan was digitized well and had a great voice actor. The kids did good, other than Susan being whiny -- though you might blame that one on the scriptwriters. I'm not sure I really liked the waterfall scene, but Hollywood had to have its thing, I guess.

Warning, I'm going to be putting plot spoilers in this rant from now on. But I mean, these books have been around like sixty years, so you're not missing much. Go read the books. They're awesome.

In any case, I was all set up to go see Prince Caspian. Now, as a kid, this book was my least favorite (other than The Last Battle, which I hated because it got rid of Narnia). I was sort of hoping to get through it and go on to better things, but the badness of this movie actually made me realize how good the book was. I mean...this movie was such a pile of drudge. It wasn't entertaining at all, other than a few moments thanks to Reepicheep. It was just a bunch of actors going around and doing really stiff impersonations of characters.

Quick plot summary: in Prince Caspian, the young prince Caspian is raised by his uncle, King Miraz, who, unbeknownst to the boy, has murdered his father and stolen the throne. Caspian always loved stories of the older days of Narnia with talking animals and dwarves and the like, but everyone except his half-dwarven tutor tells him that these things are all nonsense. On the day that Miraz's own son is born, Caspian runs away and must gather the old Narnians to go and fight against Miraz and retake the throne. He is helped by Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, the four heros from the LWW.

Let's get more specific about the problems of this movie. For example, in the movie they get really political. There's so much emphasis on the dull, political nonsense going on with the usurper Miraz that it really detracts from the feel of the original story. Since there's very little real political discourse going on in the book, then all of the political stuff has to be grafted into the movie, something that really can't be done without a properly skilled writer that follows along with politics. Yeah...that wasn't the case here.

A risky choice was to make Caspian and the Telmarines (the race of humans who entered Narnia and took it over), of more or less Spanish nationality. This possibly could have worked out, if the plot were better. My personal objection to this was the rather stuffy portrayal of the Telmarines in the book, making them not look like lively Spanish people. Or maybe the whole "lively" Spanish thing is a stereotype. In any case, the pretentious, dull, and unimaginativeness of the Telmarines as portrayed in the book doesn't really seem to fit with Spanish people, who seem far less uncreative by comparison.  They fight bulls for fun.  Stuffy people wouldn't do that.

Also, when you think of Spanish people, you automatically think of brilliant colors and flamboyant style choices. Why then do the movie's Spanish-based Telmarines dress only in black? This is not only weird, it's downright lazy. All peoples have a culture, and by throwing them all in generic costumes you really detract from the reality of the movie. Come on, if you've got millions of dollars, can't you afford to at least let them wear a few brighter colors? Something that says more than "I'm a random peasant"? The Telmarine soldiers did have awesome helmets though.

I like to think that the Telmarines were based off of a real people group, but that's neither here nor there for the moment.

Friggin' melodramatic centaurs!!!! I swear, Dawn Treader better not have any dang centaurs in it.....

In Prince Caspian, it seemed like nobody could really act. Things happened in sequence....and yeah. I'm really disappointed with Trumpkin the dwarf. He was really lively and fun in the books, and in the movie he was dull, sour, and barely relevant. Caspian was an emo kid, Peter seemed to have made no growth in maturity since the first movie (since it's beginning, no less), Aslan was being a weirdo and not really doing much, and overall there seemed to be no real love for the characters, excepting possibly Reepicheep.

The worst part of the movie for me was this one quote by Aslan to Lucy, something like "if you were any braver, you'd be a lioness". In the book, it was "you are a lioness". This is essentially the symbolism for the movie vs the book: the movie was nerfed, weakened, and expected to just be normal Hollywood schlock. I'm now going to call this "Star Wars Prequel Disorder". The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and one of those evils is stupid movies.

I was hoping that with the change of studios going on for the production of the next movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, would result in a better movie. Nope! No need to see the movie: it's Hollywood schlock. Telling the future isn't that hard, not when it basically tells itself. You don't need to touch the stove to know it'll burn ya.

First of all, they have Tilda Swinton coming back as the White Witch. What the crap is this crap? I mean, it did make some logical sense to give her a cameo in Prince Caspian, despite that being not the greatest scene in the world. Is it because she was the only decent villain this movie series had that they have to keep bringing her back?

I heard that they added some crap about finding these seven swords to go defeat some smoke monster. Why in the world was this plotline added? Just in case you were wondering, this has nothing to do with the book. I mean, at one point they go to this dark island, and I guess that's sort of smokish, but that was more of a phenomenon than a malevolent force or person.

What the real plot was, Caspian was going on a voyage to seek out what happened to seven good Telmarine lords that had left Narnia when Miraz stole the throne. Lucy, Edmund, and their selfish cousin Eustace all appear in Narnia and join in on the voyage. The story goes along several different islands, the adventure of each is different and unique as they discover each lord or what happened to him. This trip takes them to the ends of Narnia, which isn't a round world but a flat one.

The wrongest part of this movie was basically the same thing with Prince Caspian: the movie makers tried way too hard to make the movie an "epic adventure" and "thrilling ride". The trouble with this notion is not every movie is supposed to be an epic. This is especially true of the Chronicles of Narnia stories, as each book is different in tone from the next. Voyage of the Dawn Treader isn't about driving plot, rushing forward to a wild conclusion. It's a dwelling plot, where you learn about interesting phenomenon and peoples all while trying to survive the latest threat to the ship. You're supposed to enjoy each island almost as a separate tale, having fun with characters that were established in the first two books. You'll notice that the only major character in the Dawn Treader who wasn't established in a previous tale was Eustace.

To continue my point that each book has a different tone, I'll go over the others. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was the closest thing to an epic adventure in the Chronicles series. You have new characters coming from the normal world into an unfamiliar and magnificent world where they have to go and save the day. Prince Caspian (the book) is the story of dullness and drudgery overcoming what was once a beautiful place, and good has to retake it again. Imagination and wildness are stifled under dull rule and tedium. Huh, maybe the movie version was more poignant than I thought.

Let's see, after Dawn Treader is The Silver Chair. That one has a special place in my heart. It's the story of Jill and Eustace, who go to Narnia in search of Caspian's lost son Rillian. They are joined by Puddleglum, the Marsh-Wiggle. The three go on an adventure that isn't an epic, but has a very tragic tone as they proceed to screw up just about every instruction Aslan gave them. They finally rescue Rillian, freeing a species of underground trolls from an evil witch as they do so, and Rillian is able to meet his aged father just before the older Caspian dies. The end of the book allows the now dead Caspian to become young again in Aslan's country, and Caspian actually gets to take a trip to England. It's a paralell to real life, trying to find your way and trust God when you make mistakes. Life isn't about getting every little thing right.

A Horse and His Boy, the story of a boy and a talking horse fleeing Calormen for Narnia. This story (based during the time when the four Pevensies were kings and queens of Narnia) really gives the reader a sense of adventure. Not grand, epic adventure, but camping out and surviving, then suriving in a large culture that is strange and does things differently than the reader expects. And then the boy's misadventures gain him information for saving Narnia, but only if he is quick enough. It's the sense of going through hard times and environs to complete a mission that no young man would ever expect to recieve.

The prequel in the series is the Magician's Nephew, a story a boy and the girl that is his neighbor, and they unwittingly find themselves the guinea pigs of the boy's uncle's magical/scientific experiment. In the midst of adventures they discover Narnia. This two is not an epic, not with the subplot of the boy trying to find a cure for his mother's sickness.

Actually, now that I'm going through all of these, none of them are really that epic. They're not about being epic. It's about the normal versus the weird, the boring versus the vividly wild, and oppression versus freedom. It's all about normal things in wonderful adventures, mixing things like children from Britain and practical preparations for what lies ahead with mystical creatures and magical villians. This is fantasy that doesn't hold back from frighting things, like death and cannabalism and creepy gravesites, but somehow none of this taints the sheer magic that is the Chronicles of Narnia. It's not some flight of fancy, it's a dang adventure in the truest sense of the word: hard, bad weather, figuring out how to save the day, and genuine companionship. It's like Tolkien said in The Hobbit. Adventures are more than maying in the sunshine.

I guess the only real "epic" of the bunch was The Last Battle, though you might have a different opinion on the matter. While the plot might have involved more dangerous things - necessary in an epic - the tragic tone of the story really destroys that grand feeling. As a kid, I was so mad when I heard that Narnia disappeared in the Last Battle. I wanted very much to go there myself. Lol, yeah, I was one of those kids.

Look, Hollywood, back off. Don't feel you have to make a movie gratuitiously glam or glitz, or all CGIed up. Two of my favorite movies that recently came out are Gran Torino and Book of Eli, movies that are far more about characters and story than camera angles or fancy bullcrap. Honestly, when you have a really good story, you don't need that much flair. Book of Eli, which I watched again last night with my boyfriend, had a great story and an ending you didn't see coming. It didn't have an overly complex story, a lot of main characters, or a great big wad of computer generated images. It was fancy with the camera, if you like that kind of thing, but that just goes to show that the movie works to show off the characters, not to show off bullcrap stunts and obviously faked violence.

The closer your movie is to reality, even if it's a fantasy, the better your movie is. If you don't have realistic creatures, make them behave realistically. If you have a weird world, make sure that your audience feels that this world could exist, at least in some alternate universe. Reality makes the fantasy more intensifying. When you make big CG dragons and sea serpents, it really cheapens the feel. I dunno, I guess some people like it.

Anyway, that's my rant.  I dunno, I heard the Dawn Treader movie was better than Prince Caspian.  I sure hope so.  I'll be seeing either that or Tron tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes.

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