There are a few things that I very nerdy about. King Arthur, Sherlock Holmes, history (particularly the West), trains, tall-ships, the works of Tolkien, animation, Robin Hood, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and the works of CS Lewis.
Obviously, there are more things I nerd out about, but this is the core group. Sad, right? This post, however, is devoted to one particular facet of my nerdy core- The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. As an aside, I’m very curious and intrigued by the reboot that will be done soon, with a lot of input from the Lewis Estate.
I decided the other day (well, it’s been a few weeks now, these things take time), because I am a nerd like that, that I was going to watch the versions of the Narnia Chronicles that came out in the 2000’s, but also watch the older BBC versions, to see how they compare. Because I’ve read the series so often, I feel like I can compare them to the book as well.
Basically, I love to watch movies based on beloved books, and compare them to each other and to the book. It’s my idea of fun.
So, without further ado, The Narnia Chronicles!
First of all, if you’re going to base this on sheer accuracy, the BBC versions would win any contest, hands down. In many places, the dialogue is ripped right out of the book.
If you ask any bookworm, we will tell you that this is how we prefer our film adaptations.
The only way that the new Narnia movies might possibly win any contest is when you compare the Lucys and Edmunds. Don’t get me wrong, I love both characters in both adaptations, and they are my favorite characters in the series, and both for different reasons (but that’s another post). Even in the last two movies (ugh, so bad), they made it bearable.
I loved Georgie Henley’s wide-eyed innocence and the wonder she was able to convey; she just seemed like Lucy to me (also, I loved that the kids were all different ages. In the BBC one, I kept thinking Susan was the oldest and Peter and Edmund were twins).
I also really loved the way Skandar Keynes played Edmund. I can’t think of any other way to say it other than that it seemed like he stepped off of the pages of the book. His early, bratty behavior, his redeemed self, the undercurrent of snarkiness…all of these are things were present and great.
Even when things were different than the books, he was still the character. Same with Georgie Henley as Lucy. I felt like they got it, and that was neat.
In the BBC versions, the actors were great too, but they didn’t quite match up with what was in my head, and I do like the actors in the new version as well. In the BBC version, Peter and Susan more on point, but the Lucy and Edmund fell a little flat for me.
The first movie, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, looks pretty good on both sides. I mean, the story feels better adapted in places in the BBC one, but the new one isn’t bad, and it gets points because of the new Lucy and Edmund, as well as the special effects.
Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader, however, are a different story. The new ones, I watch and find myself annoyed. There are parts I like, of course. I was disappointed to not have the “Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance” chapter in there, but I liked what they did with it, particularly in relation to the character of Edmund. He has the best lines.
My problems with the new ones were as follows: I wish that Caspian had been younger, I hated the love story (the Star’s Daughter! Plus, book Caspian would have fallen for Lucy. Nothing against Susan, that’s just what I think), and that stupid fight in the castle was out of place. Susan fighting didn’t bother me too much (any irritation was due to the fact that in the books, it was Lucy who would fight with the archers, not Susan, but I’ll give them that one).
However, Peter Dinklage is wonderful as Trumpkin, and the BBC Trumpkin is also wonderful. Basically, that’s another character that I love equally in both films. Both men are able to convey the correct level of skepticism that makes Trumpkin such a wonderful character.
When it comes to Prince Caspian, for a blockbuster action movie, the new one is good. For a Narnia movie, it feels s a little out of place. The BBC version, however, old-school effects aside, is fantastic and follows the book wonderfully.
For the BBC productions, I appreciate how Caspian and Dawn Treader were on the same disc. Since Caspian is, I would argue, no one’s favorite book in the series, pairing it with Dawn Treader, my personal favorite, was a stroke of genius. I also like how in the beginning of Caspian, they are headed to their respective adventures in Treader. It’s a nice cohesive move. Well done, BBC, well done.
Overall, I love the BBC Prince Caspian. Caspian is a better age in this version, and they do a better job, I think, of setting up the story of Caspian. Not to say Ben Barnes didn’t do a good job, but this kid had, I think, a better script (at least when you compare it to the books. Which I do). Plus, Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance!
When it comes to Dawn Treader, the BBC film is long enough to put all the wonderful things that got cut out of the new movie (rant points pending below). The only thing is, I really don’t like the BBC Caspian in Dawn Treader. His acting is good, but he never looks like how I pictured Caspian to me.
Two of my favorite parts in the book are the Deathwater Island scene and the Dragon’s Island scenes, and although I thought both the new and the BBC versions of them got the spirit of both scenes, I wasn’t thrilled with either.
In the BBC Deathwater scene, Lucy got involved in the fight and it actually becomes a fight. I did like the Deathwater scene in the new one, because even though there were differences from the book, I thought it was acted in a way that conveyed the spirit of the scene. However, it also turned into a fight.
The scene also continued in the trend of the new films to make conflict between Peter and Caspian (Prince Caspian), and Edmund and Caspian (Voyage of the Dawn Treader), over leadership roles. Another thing added with the stupid subplot of trying to find the missing swords to save the people from the green mist, but that’s another story.
However, while the dragon scene was good enough in both, the BBC one had a better representation of the transformation, but the new one had a better dragon. Despite that, I missed the interaction between Edmund and Eustace, and had looked forward to seeing the transformation of Eustace from dragon and back to boy. On the other hand, at least the BBC Dawn Treader had things in order. The new one just moved things around and changed things. I was equally disappointed in both versions.
Also, the new Dawn Treader had that stupid thing with the green mist and the swords, and, honestly, I stopped paying attention after a while because there was so much new stuff. I got annoyed, I just wanted to see stuff from the book that I loved, so I decided to read the book instead.
This is how you tick off fans and lose the rights to your story.
I get that they were trying to make the story flow together in a more cohesive way, but the book was tied together in a cohesive way; the search for the seven lords and the adventures that they had while searching. There was no need for an added conflict; Lewis wrote conflict enough in the book already. Combined with the adventure, it remains a wonderful book.
Having never seen The Silver Chair before, I was really excited and, like all the BBC Narnia movies, the only way it disappointed was in the outdated special effects and Caspian’s hair. I’m just impressed that they got to make The Silver Chair, less people probably call it their favorite than Prince Caspian.
Overall, both series have their good points (one is better at story and one is better at special effects). While I realize that the BBC version was groundbreaking in it’s day when it came to special effects, the new movies just look so good! Except for Dawn Treader. No amount of special effects can make me like that movie.
I want to take the script from the BBC version (or something similar to it) and have it made today, with the same special effects budget that the new versions had. This is what I’m hoping we get in new films.