After seeing "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" in the theaters (May 16), Rob Smith said he at one point had a difficult time staying to watch the end because he was so offended at how Hollywood had changed the novel. He stuck it out because he knew he'd be at First Presbyterian Church, Sandusky, a few days later to talk about the anticipated film and compare it to the novel.
Rob is always a pleasure to hear speak, so if you ever have the chance, take advantage of the opportunity. (He has taught "The Life, Religion, and Fiction of C.S. Lewis" twice at Wright State University.) His comments are humorous and usually spot-on.
Rob had so much great stuff to say in our e-mail interview that I couldn't fit it all into my "Cary's Comics Craze" column, which appears every other Thursday on the editorial page (A-4). I thought it would be wise to share his fascinating insight into adapting the "Prince Caspian" novella into a movie:
On Peter, "the worst of the misrepresented characterizations":
ROB SMITH: "As the movie opens, Peter is fighting with other bullies in London's Underground (Strand platform). From this opening scene, Peter is portrayed as angry and restless, a young man who wants to gain back the power he had as King of Narnia. (This is completely off the point of Lewis' theme. In Narnia, the Kings and Queens are servants of Aslan and protectors of the land and its inhabitants. Rivalry is out of the question. In fact, this is why there can be multiple kings and queens in Narnia. Ruling is not about power. It is about faithfulness.)"
Ashby: Given that the characterizations are anywhere from mildly to wildly different, what impact does this have on the storytelling? C.S. Lewis’ vision for the series?
SMITH: I suppose that to heighten the suspense, the film makers considered it necessary to add tension between the male leads, a hint of sexuality, and fantastic battle scenes. Of course, this took major surgery. The first thing removed was Aslan. In the book, he appears early on and guides the steps of the Pevensies as they look for Caspian. On the other hand, if Aslan appeared with the Four Children, there would have been no excuse for the rivalry, ill-feeling, and bloody war! Which is my point exactly. Disney chose to make a very ordinary movie and build it on the reputation of an author who could not defend his intentions. People who have allowed the books to touch them will know that you cannot go into Narnia (and you cannot meet Aslan) and not be changed. The book observes early on that just being back in Narnia was restorative to the children. Even when they were on their own, they sought the way of Aslan. Lewis' biographer George Sayer summed it up (in "Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis" — Cary) by saying: "Modern children are often thought of as rebellious and anarchistic, yet those who read the Narnia stories accept without opposition a hierarchical society. Aslan is not a believer in equality and is of course supreme over all." This was Lewis' vision for the story. It is almost entirely missing from the film. Until the end, the main characters seem to forget what in Narnia is the natural order of things. In the book, they do not.
Now, what do you think about what Rob had to say? (Don't forget to read my column Thursday!) Post your comments here and send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll make sure Rob gets them.
For even more from Rob, check out his blog by clicking here.