Monday, May 19, 2008

Prince Caspian and The Critics

I just finished reading a particularily heart-breaking review of Prince Caspian. Literally- it made me both indignant and want to cry. And that's not the only one. So I thought I should put out a few more thoughts about this movie- why I loved it so much- and why others (with valid reasons) don't.

First of all, I want to say that I did not love this film because I am a huge Narnia fan and followed the making of it on Narniaweb for over two years. I did that with LWW too. And, as I said before, I was furious with that script's inability to use any dialogue from the book. Now, as a scriptwriter, I know that dialogue often must be changed- but all of it? Insane. I also was disappointed by how whiny both Peter and Susan were. And the White Witch's costumes really bugged me. Still, it was entertaining and sweet and worth watching.

But the script was bad. It was almost scene for scene from the book- but definetly a million miles away from word for word. So, after a couple months of digesting this, I completely wrote off Prince Caspian. I knew it wasn't going to live up to any expectations I could have (and it never was my favorite book anyhow). So, at that point, it would have taken very little to create a film that I would have loved.

As the first production news came trickling in, it seemed that my fears were confirmed. So I made a decision. I wasn't going to gripe about the differances. I was going to love this movie for being an entertaining film- I was going to embrace the changes precisely because they were new. (Even though I still think Lewis made it clear that as golden haired and English speaking, Caspian was NOT of Mediterranean descent.)

As the trailers came out, I started becoming much more involved in this production. I read just about every article that came out on Narniaweb, became obsessed with creating costume replicas, and planned to attend the midnight opening. And I began to be secretly worried that this film would never live up to my now rising expectations. I remembered the lame humor and just plain bland lines of LWW and- even though everything else looked great- feared that the script would sink the ship.

Even after I had evaluated all the supposed changes (including the C+S romance) and decided that, after all, they were probably going to be for the best, I was still worried about the dialogue.

But I didn't have to. As I said in my review, it totally rose above my expectations a thousand times over. And I fell in love with all the changes- especially because so many things were not nearly as drastic as I had prepared myself for! Everytime there was a nod back to the book- whether visual or audible, I silently cheered and and smiled. And, as I said before, I fell in love with this movie.

That, my friends, is why my review ignores so many things that other views are grousing over. I digested and dealt with them months ago. Otherwise, yes, I would have been unprepared and possibly fustrated with some things.

Possibly. I still think that most of the changes were made for the better- and that the script (dialogue particularily) was much, much better than LWW.

I am a book purist. Ask any of my friends- I have a reputation for inciting loud groans while critiquing a film's literary faithfulness. Yet I think that, as far as films go. this version of PC did a remarkable job of pulling all the elements they had to consider together. And yes, it is easier for me than for a lot of other critics because I have read all the interviews- and I do understand why they made the decisions that they did.

That's a weak point for the movie, though. The unprepared book purists will have problems...especially the theologically concerned ones. (Hey- I don't really get the complaints. We got a lot more of the book's message than I think we actually had a right to expect, all things considered). On the other hand, those not familiar with the book will miss out on the joy of familiar lines and will grow fustrated with plotlines (such as the C+S) that were not fully developed because they weren't in the book.

In the end though- it's just a movie. We can love it, we can dissect it to pieces- but should we really waste our energy tearing it down- especially when, as far as movies go, it's actually pretty good? (It's clean, it's fun, it's deep, it's entertaining, it's gets kids reading...)

One of my main fustrations with movie critics is that sometimes I think they forget how much work goes into a film. I've made three films- two of them were year long processes and though they were still a far cry from Hollywood, I really understand the backbreaking work and heartache that goes into creating a movie. Years and years of people's lives go into these things, and unless it's really, really horrible, I think we should be very careful about what we say. I'm not perfect at this myself. In this very post I bashed the LWW script. That was my personal opinion. I know a lot of people that loved it. And even that, as far as scripts go, was decent. Just not as good as PC.

Now one final thing. This particular review I read (I'm not linking to it because it was just too wrath inciting- particularily since I usually have a decently high respect for the reviewer) did sort of bash Douglas Gresham. I'm not going to say that the reviewer is completely wrong- I've certainly had some of the same feelings. But I think that kind of extreme blame laying is a bit out of line. Yes, I think there are some things that Gresham has allowed that were a bit inappropriete. But here's the thing (and I've read this in other places- it's not my own) that I've come to understand. We fans tend to be more protective of Lewis's stuff than he is himself. In some ways, we compare him to Tolkien, who obsessed over maps and languages and geneologies. But the truth is, Lewis really didn't have that kind of deep attachment to his writings. I could be wrong (I'm not a certified Lewis historian!), but I believe that Lewis was open to discussion about changes. And therefore I don't think Gresham is completely out of line in allowing them. If anything, I think changes should be minimal out of respect to the fans, not necessarily Lewis himself.

Okay, I would totally be interested in discussing these points, if anyone wants to post a comment...but I want to be quite clear that I really do love this film and I'd rather not spoil that by pointless arguing. If you are going to disagree with something I said, please count to three and make sure that it's a productive discussion point, not a destructive one. (I really should post that somewhere on this site as a disclaimer...people can get so defensive online and I've seen waaaay too many arguements over pointless things...have been guilty of inciting them, I'm afraid. I don't want that happening here. Constructive discussion, though, is more than welcome...)


Josh said...

Dear Elenatintil,

This is a very interesting subject but one that I strongly dislike to even get into. I hate arguments.

I am not really angry at the reviewer. I think he maybe should have thought his review through better. I think he attacked people who honestly were trying to remain true to the books but were under a lot of other pressures. Also, one person commented that Lewis' works are not scripture. I couldn't agree more! I don't know that Lewis would have taken offence at the adaptations of his story.

I have things that I wish could have been part of the film, but I rejoice in the things that they did get right.

I think we need to take it not so seriously. It is only a movie.

Patrick Roberts said...

the makers of Prince Caspian kept to the original story better than i would have expected... i heard they were going to make it into a silly pure-action flick, but thankfully this was not the case