Wed, December 14, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Differences between the book and the movie

Having now watched the new movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe twice in the same number of days, I decided it would be worthwhile to write down the changes I noticed. A more thorough analysis will be possible after the movie is released on video, but I hope this will be helpful in the meantime. I should say up front that I enjoyed the movie, but as a fan of the book, I was disappointed by many of the additions, omissions, and changes.

Warning: the following contains numerous spoilers. If you have read the book, but want to be surprised by the film adaptation, read no further until you have seen the movie. If you have not read the book, what are you waiting for? Go read it now, especially if you intend to see the movie.

What I love about the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (TLWW) book is its truly beautiful and enchanting story containing a Christian allegory. The movie falters in those moments where it robs the story of its purity and truth. As a child reading the story—or having it read to you—you are taken from an ordinary world into an extraordinary one. As Lewis wrote in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” the reader of a story like TLWW “does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

I felt like the movie struggled to make the characters more real, more believable, and more like children of our world. This seems a fundamental flaw of the film. In his dedication, Lewis makes clear that TLWW is a fairy tale. I feel the movie almost tries to eliminate the magic of it.

In an interview, the movie’s director Andrew Adamson says “I want it to feel real and for kids today to actually relate to the children. So I’ve really tried to make the story about a family which is disenfranchised and disempowered in World War II, that on entering Narnia, through their unity as a family become empowered at the end of the story.” As admirable as it is to elevate family harmony in a world of broken and hurting families, this is not the main theme of the book. While repentance leads to improved relationships, perhaps most obviously in our families, the film seems more focused on the relationships than on repentance and redemption.

For those that had hoped for a movie more precisely like the book, another interview with Adamson is more revealing: “I actually set out really not to make the book so much as my memory of the book because I realized in reading the book as an adult that it was kind of like the house that you grew up in, much smaller than I remembered. And I wanted to catch the more epic story that I remembered which I think was expanded by my experiences over 30 years, by the fact that I had read all seven books, and that the world had actually expanded C.S. Lewis in writing all seven books.” The option was there for Adamson to hook into the allegory and expand in harmony with it instead of expanding the story to make it more like his memory.

Despite the differences, the movie clearly follows the scenes and plot of the book. I’m saddened that the differences could have made it a more powerful and deeper film, but instead the changes generally do little to advance the plot or enhance the characters, but mainly try to make the film more exciting. Even with the changes, the movie is true to the book and for that I am thankful. I hope that it is very successful and increases interest in all of the Chronicles of Narnia.

In future installments I will talk about the specific changes made between the book and the movie. I expect I will discuss the following (not necessarily in order):

  • Expanded Beginning
  • The Children
  • Edmund’s Journey
  • Aslan
  • Characters and dialog
  • New scenes
  • Omitted scenes

Aslan is on the move     Narnia: An Expanded Beginning