Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old and the New

"Good," said Aslan, "If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not." 
--Prince Caspian

The first morning of spring break, my little brother asked me to put in a DVD for him to watch.
"Renée," he said, "can you put in the DVD that says 'Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader'?"
I took pause, confused. Then I realized he wasn't referring to the new movies, but to the old-school BBC DVDs.
Those. Those, my friends, were--in a word--magnificent. They featured a buck-toothed young Lucy, amazing sort of '80's-esque hair, the pathetically un-state-of-the-arts animated special effects, and a loveably unfortunate Aslan puppet who couldn't move his mouth.
I have the fondest memories of them. And to be perfectly frank, I greatly prefer them to the newer movies.
Despite the scoffs of my more technological and design-oriented friends, my loyalty lies with these little relics of old story-telling.
Amidst all the slick CGI imagery, and the beautiful graphics and visuals, something is lost. 
The new Chronicles of Narnia don't feel like the Chronicles that I read growing up. 
Some books you read are sensory experiences in the fullest sense of the word: not only do you see and hear the text, there are certain smells, locations, or foods that remind you of the books, or that you experience while reading the books. 
The Chronicles are like that for me-Narnia reminds me of the close, humid Cayman air that surrounded us as my mother read us the Silver Chair; it reminds me of the cozy feeling that Mr. & Mrs. Beaver's little dam house must feeling like.
 These books have an incomparable aura of childhood magic about them. They define childhoods, they raise questions: "What does endless snow without Christmas feel like?" "How does a lamppost look, shining in the middle of the wood?" "What does Turkish Delight taste like?" "Who is Aslan?" 
They are a refreshing and rare mix of simple clarity and gentle spirit; and grand, epic adventures of great heroes and depraved villains. 
Nothing about the new movie imparted the simple, precious "homeishness" of the books I loved. 
But these little relics from the 80's have just that-- they've got the wistful magic of pipes playing the opening theme, rather ordinary young children playing the four siblings, a stiff, but somehow majestic and fatherly puppet-lion portraying Aslan. 
 The countryside looks so familiar, yet strange and fairy-tale-ish nonetheless.

But the greatest difference between the old and the new struck me when I heard Aslan tell Caspian: "If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not." 
That line is so full of Lewis' particular brand of wisdom and insight. 
The new movies lack that essential Lewis-ness. 
Aslan is a weaker character-Father Christmas doesn't credit Aslan for the return of Christmas; the witch doesn't shake with dread at the mention of Aslan's name; Mr. Beaver's line about Aslan not being "safe" is cut, and when the witch cites the Deep Magic, Aslan snarls: "Don't tell me about the Deep Magic! I was there when it was written," as if He was a petulant teenager. 
They've diminished the majesty and the power of Aslan-they've weakened Him. 
And by weakening the linch-pin of that world, they've weakened the whole story.
Part of the story is lost, and I find  that tragic.

And so my baby brother decided to put in the imprimatur-ed, nihil obstat versions of the Chronicles. 
And I was quite proud of him.

1 comment:

  1. Go the old Narnia movies! They're the only ones that my younger sister will watch. She hates the new ones. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate them because I don't, but I still think that the old ones have the true spirit of Narnia and C.S.Lewis.