On Monday evening, my daughter Sophie and I went to a screening of Prince Caspian, the new Chronicles of Narnia movie that opens tomorrow. Sophie is nine, and she had just read the book a couple of weeks ago; no sooner had the film started than she turned to me and whispered, "They left a lot of stuff out."
I was willing to take her word for it because, if truth be told, I don't remember many of the details; I read the Narnia books a long time ago, when I was Sophie's age. But the film was pretty good, I thought -- fast-paced, nicely constructed ... until, that is, the last 20 minutes when Aslan saves the day.
This has always been my problem with the Chronicles of Narnia, the way Aslan is so often absent, until, after 1,000 years or so of suffering, he decides to step in and make everything right. I understand the metaphor, understand C. S. Lewis' notion of faith and Christian humility, but (without getting into theology), I think it's a poor narrative device. What kind of beneficent force is Aslan, when he's so often negligent? And what does it do to the human agency of the characters that they get bailed out by this external power, rather than having to work things out (or not) themselves?
Sophie had a different issue. Although she liked the movie, she found its at-times-relentless violence off-putting; it's more fun to read, she told me, because you imagine what's going on in the story for yourself.
Yes, I thought, that's it exactly. No external agency.
David L. Ulin
Photo credit: Disney/Walden