Friday, June 20, 2008

I wish he had far less didactic lecturing and far more armored bears, which are exceptionally cool.

While psychologists may argue the opposite, I’ve taken to seeing movies by myself on days when I’m sick/fake sick in the name of mental health. Usually, they’re matinees of the type of films that the G would normally avoid like Frankenstein avoiding Dracula because the vampire intends to use the monster’s re-animated body to give enliven his poorly CGI-ed horde of demonic progeny. She has notoriously poor taste.

My latest solo adventure was Prince Caspian. And because she said was unaware it was even out in theatres, I didn’t feel too bad about leaving her out.

The film’s about what you’d expect if from a book you last read 20 years ago. A bunch of bearded yet unspecific Mediterranean-types invade a magical realm and it’s up to the beardless yet handsome Prince Caspian to take it back. He’s aided by various pagan creatures, a rat that they try to pass off as big mouse, and the gaggle of gap toothed British kids from the first one. Also, the lion is Jesus.

My recollection of all the books is pretty spotty with all seven running together in my memory. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the one where they go on a boat but it may be the one where a lady turns into a green snake. But what I did know was that this wasn’t the last book where almost everyone gets goes to heaven. And that’s what made viewing this one interesting.

You see, as the books progress, the older characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe get written out. While the second one features all four of the British children, the third one only has the two youngest. The fourth one doesn’t have any of them. I’m not sure how they plan to address this as the movies progress – especially the sixth one which is actually a prequel to the first movie – but I’m guessing by the time they get around to making them they’ll be straight-to-video anyways. Or the Disney Channel will just air them directly after High School Musical 10: Reunion! (It’s the one where a faded Zach Efron hooks up with one of the unpopular girls after she drunkenly admits she always had a crush on him. She gives him the clap.)

What I found interesting was the way they handled the maturity of the oldest girl, Susan. It’s obvious that the actress playing Susan has developed into adolescence since the first film and they treat her budding womanhood accordingly. She preserves some of the innocence that allows her sister to maintain her belief in talking lions but still makes googly-eyes at the devilishly handsome/Eurotrash Prince Caspian. They even share a kiss at the end.

In the context of the film, this doesn’t seem that notable. But it is interesting in the context of the whole series. In the final book, all the characters that have visited Narnia from Earth are led into Heaven by the Jesus-lion Aslan. All the characters except Susan. The reason given:

“She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”

In a book filled with allegory and symbolism, it’s hard not to criticize Lewis for this passage. Many a reader has inferred that Susan doesn’t get the elevator pass to the afterlife for having become a sexualized woman. Defenders of Lewis claim that this passage, taken in context with the rest of the book, merely shows that she has actively purged the childhood memory of Narnia from life and therefore has squandered her shot at the ever-after. I lean toward the former. So do many others. And some folks will even write a whole new series of books about it.

This familiarity is what makes watching Narnia more curious. Susan’s reaction to the boys in her life, either Caspian or another one she meets in a tube station early in the film*, was either a conscious effort at foreshadowing or a short-sighted bit of story advancement. Movie Seven won’t be out for at least another decade (if ever) but its going to be intriguing to see how they deal with Susan’s unholy interest in pantyhose.

PS – This entry’s title is a quote from an fabulous book-on-tape called Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature. Its author, Michael Drout, has an equally awesome blog. At least for those who like their LOL mixed with Beowulf.

*This setting is noteworthy too since the reason everyone’s going to heaven is they’ve all died in a train accident.

No comments: