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The 7 Deadly Sins of Converting Narnia to Film

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SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular

           So, I had a thought, when/if Netflix does a Narnia film adaptation, what are the things that they might absolutely destroy with the series. So list out your '7 Deadly Sins of Converting Narnia to Film' and we can see if any of ours's line up.

1. That they will make conflict between characters. This was a big problem with the Walden films, we especially saw it in the PC movie, mostly with Peter and Caspian, but also some with Trumkin and the Pevensies. This was also something that Lewis made clear was NOT the case (mostly with Peter and Caspian).

2. That they will inject romance between a lot of characters. This was also a problem with the Walden movies, mostly with Susan and Caspian in PC, which really made me wince, but who knows to what an extent it might be taken with a big name company like Netflix?

3. That they would change quintessential characters. When I say 'quintessential' I am thinking about people like Bree and Puddleglum, people with very explicated character traits, say for Puddleglum, he has a very damp and glum outlook on the world, something I feel like they would nerf. And with Bree, he's quite indignant and prideful, another thing they might take down because it might be uncomfortable. These are the things we love about them!

4. That Aslan would be like he was in Walden. In the Walden films (mostly VoftheDT, some in PC), Aslan was like a magic coregulator, not the divine orchestrator of these fantastic stories. In the two before mentioned movies he would come out of nowhere and say 'Well done children, now you must return to your home...' and that was it! This is a massive injustice to his character.

5. That they would make them into the Hobbit and LOTR movies. These books are more light hearted, less violent, more fun loving, but in no way inferior. What more can I say, it's totally possible, and would destroy these tails. They weren't written to compete with the afore mentioned stories, but in my mind they complement them (and vise-versa).

6. That there would be way to much emphasis on battle/fighting. I love action movies, all three Captain Americas, The Hobbit, Beyond the Mask and Valkyrie are my favorite movies (and of course Narnia), and all action/war films (not so much with Narnia, but you know what I'm trying to get at), but it (Narnia) isn't all fighting, it can be tempting to make it all that, but it is as much about adventure, sacrifice and valor etc., and those values might very well be drown by combat, combat and more combat.

7.That Edmond's betrayal in LWW would be sugar coated. That is what it was, betrayal. He was flat out, blatant turn coat, and it can be tempting to make it less massive and hateful. But think about it, if that is the most fulfilling and important part of the LWW, and that's what made Aslan's sacrifice so awesome, and highlighted the close bond of the four siblings in their forgiveness.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 16, 2021 6:33 pm
Carley, Cleander, Courtenay and 2 people liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

Really well said, @sonofstone. I totally agree with all the points you've made!

I don't know if I can come up with 7 of my own, but just to expand on your number 4 — one thing that would definitely ruin Netflix's version for me is not getting Aslan right. (That was the main thing that ruined the Walden film of LWW for me — the way they portrayed Aslan — which put me off so completely that I've never watched the other two films!!)

Obviously Aslan is going to be one of the hardest characters of all to do justice to, but I think the key to how he needs to make us feel is at the end of VDT. When Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund that they will never come back to Narnia, the two of them are just about heartbroken — and what Lucy then says is very revealing: "It isn't Narnia, you know... It's you. We shan't meet you there [in our own world]. And how can we live, never meeting you?"

"How can we live, never meeting you?" THAT, in short, is how the audience needs to feel about Aslan. I still remember vividly when I first read this book myself, at the age of 7, and when it got to that part, I knew exactly what Lucy meant. I felt exactly the same way about Aslan. And when Aslan tells her and Edmund that they shall meet him in their own world, but with a different name — well, that is when it fully dawned on me who Aslan was and is. (I think I'd already guessed, deep down, but that was the moment when it became crystal clear.) Which I'm pretty sure is the effect Lewis wanted these books to have!

Now I can understand why most mainstream producers, Netflix almost certainly included, are wary of putting anything that looks like an explicit religious message in their shows. But the very reason that the Chronicles of Narnia work as they do is that Lewis doesn't make the underlying message explicit. And that's why it worked for me as a young reader. I grew up in a totally secular society and a very non-religious family (that's how it is in Australia for most people), and although I was drawn to the idea of there being a God, if anyone had come at me preaching openly about This Is Why You Should Believe in God and Jesus and the Bible and All That, I would have been totally turned off.

What C.S. Lewis did, however, was to somehow so infuse this character, Aslan, with the nature of God/Christ, that something in me just responded to that instinctively. Even before I knew for sure who Aslan really was, there was something just so GOOD about him — something I couldn't explain or describe, but I just knew — that, like Lucy, I didn't want to live in a world where He wasn't!

Now I don't know exactly how Netflix (or any other producer) could be sure of making Aslan like that to us as viewers, but that quality is what's at the very centre of these stories, as far as I understand them. If they miss that, that's the heart and soul and the whole point of Narnia gone.

Sorry to have rambled on a bit, especially as I can't think of any other "deadly sins" to add to what you've suggested, but that's just my thoughts on one of them! Wink  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 20, 2021 3:09 pm
SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular

        If you though that the LWW wrecked Aslan, then you would be absolutely horrified what they did to him in the PC and VoftheDT. But, I still love the movies, they are a lot of fun in my opinion, even though the LWW was the only accurate (mostly) one. But more on topic... I think that the character portrayal of Trumpkin especially (and this ties in with my 3rd point) in the PC film was horrible, his voice, makeup and attitude was completely inaccurate to the books. I think that his portrayal (for what it's worth, being an audio book, so there is obviously no makeup, set or clothing they have to get right in it) in the FotF audio dramas was/is much better than the Walden PC movie. What do y'all think?

Child of the King: SonofStone

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 23, 2021 9:48 am
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I might have to come back and update this post to get me up to the full 7, and I think I'm going to try and frame it in the positive  (7 Golden Rules rather than 7 Deadly Sins), but I think I've got a fairly clear idea of what my "list of essentials" would be. 

I'm also going to try and think about this in terms of absolute worst case scenarios for a new creative team coming at this from scratch, rather than taking the Walden movies as the baseline and assuming that the only way is up....

Rule 1 - Keep the period setting. 

The fact that the stories are set in 1940s Britain isn't actually all that integral to the narrative structure of any of the stories, but it's still a huge part of the series' charm, and it helps to set the books apart from other similar fantasy genre novels, so please keep this element.

Rule 2 - Narnia is a real place.

Perhaps it ought to go without saying, but Narnia is a real place. And I mean this in several ways. Firstly that it's not an imaginary land that exists in the children's head, nor a metaphor for escapism - it's an actual place that they actually go to. Secondly, Narnia has a real physicality to it, which (magic aside) conforms to the physical nature of the real world (i.e. it's not a surreal heightened reality like Alice in Wonderland). As such, Narnia should look and feel like a real place that actually exists.

Rule 3 - The children are children.

Again, perhaps it sounds obvious, but i feel that it is important to the quality of the stories that the children are portrayed as actually being children, and not teens or young adults. For me, Narnia isn't really a "coming of age" story, it's a story for children, about children.

Rule 4 - Narnia is a dangerous place

Kind of the amalgam of the two rules above, but the thing I always liked about the Narnia stories as a child was the sense of danger. These are children alone in a land of wolves and witches - there are no adults on hand to save the day. The sense of danger and jeopardy makes the stories exciting. I feel like the Walden movies gave Narnia too much of a clean, polished look, which felt too safe at times.

Rule 5 - Narnia is also a place of joy

Maybe then this is the counter-point to Rule 4, but Narnia is also a place of fun and joy. Again I feel the Walden movies tended to head to the middle of the road in this regard and got rid of all the more whimsical and joyous elements of the stories.

Rule 6 - Problems should be solved with Brains not Brawn

Another fairly simple guiding principle here, but I think it's important that by-and-large when the characters in the story encounter a problem, they solve it with cunning and ingenuity, rather than action and violence.

Again this is partly why it's important to me that the Children aren't aged up into Teenagers or Young Adults, because it means the characters don't then have the advantage of physical strength to simply fight and battle their way through the story. As children they should use their creativity and imagination to solve problems and out-wit, rather than out-fight, the enemy 

Rule 7 - I'll have to come back when I've thought of the last one...

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Posted : April 23, 2021 3:51 pm
fantasia
(@fantasia)
Member Admin

Good topic @Sonofstone. A while back the podcasters did an episode similar to this but I'm not sure I'll be able to find it very quickly. If I do, I'll come back and link it. Smile  

I know my number one biggest concern right now is the current cancel culture over anything that might even remotely portray a group of people in a negative light. There have always been discussions and debates regarding Lewis's portrayal of the Calormen race, and while I don't personally see it as a racism issue (Aravis and Emeth), it's no longer even just the Calormen. My mind in particular goes the Black Dwarfs (often bad guys) vs Red Dwarfs (often good guys), or the fact that all of Lewis's favorite characters have blond hair. Details like this SHOULDN'T make a difference, but will an accurate portrayal of the books be accepted? Or will they be cancelled? We'll see. 

Second biggest concern that sort of piggy-backs onto the above... Anymore, all TV series or movies main characters/heroes must represent a group of people from every single walk of life. Sometimes that's okay, but I don't feel it's very appropriate in Narnia, or at least so far as the Earth children are concerned. And the only reason I say that is because I think there will be a real temptation to throw in an Asian Jill Pole or an African Polly. But at the time these stories were written, there was a definite demographic to England and it would be weird to me to mix it up like that. 

So there are two of my own that haven't already been mentioned (or if they have, sorry, I missed them Tongue )

Posted by: @icarus

Rule 5 - Narnia is also a place of joy

Maybe then this is the counter-point to Rule 4, but Narnia is also a place of fun and joy. Again I feel the Walden movies headed to the middle of the road in this regard and got rid of all the more whimsical and joyous elements of the stories.

*high fives icarus*

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Posted : April 23, 2021 4:08 pm
SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular

@fantasia

       

     I Agree, I think that that the temptation to make Narnia 'Politically Correct' is one which I am afraid Netflix will cave to. I think it will be especially relevant (as you said fantasia) in the Colormen culture and making certain characters Asian, maybe black, changing a few characters to female (I can especially see this happening with Jewel) etc.. That would really frustrated me to no end.

 

Child of the King: SonofStone

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 23, 2021 4:48 pm
KingEdTheJust
(@kingedthejust)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @icarus

Rule 2 - Narnia is a real place.

Perhaps it ought to go without saying, but Narnia is a real place. And I mean this in several ways. Firstly that it's not an imaginary land that exists in the children's head, nor a metaphor for escapism - it's an actual place that they actually go to. Secondly, Narnia has a real physicality to it, which (magic aside) conforms to the physical nature of the real world (i.e. it's not a surreal heightened reality like Alice in Wonderland).

Yes, I totally agree. I have seen in many books that theme where the fantasy world the child went in is simply just a dream. Yet I don't think they will do that. The theme of Narnia is that it is a real place and in the Dawn Treader it also states : 

"Narnia, which was the name of their own private
and secret country. Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country but
for most of us it is only an imaginary country. Edmund and Lucy were
luckier than other people in that respect. Their secret country was
real." -Voyage of the Dawn treader 

They probably wouldn't leave that out when it is something so important. Also I think they would look to the movies for reference where they also make sure that Narnia is a real place for the children. Though I do agree it would be a tragedy if they did make it simply an imaginary place for that would be ruining the whole point of Lucy convincing the rest of the Pevensies in LWW that Narnia is real. 

"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)

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Posted : April 23, 2021 6:24 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I'm glad that so many people have posted in this thread, because now I feel like I can say what wanted to say before, but it didn't because SonofStone is new here and I don't want to hurt his feelings. 

This is a great topic, especially on the off chance that Michael Aldrich or whoever is reading it, but I feel like the adaptation problems with the Walden Media Narnia movies have been pretty well analyzed by fans. We understand that some fans like them and some fans don't (because there are aspects of the books they capture really well and aspects they don't capture at all.) I'm a little sick of the subject honestly. 

Besides which, I suspect that any screenwriters reading this thread aren't going to be convinced by fans' arguments as to what would improve adaptations because fans don't really make arguments, they make assertions. For example, when people talk about how Aslan wasn't powerful and important enough in the Walden movies, they never really address what I assume the screenwriters' objection are: that the protagonists of a story should be the main ones who save the day, not a supporting character, and that an omnipotent good guy renders a story un-suspenseful. (Of course, I'm a fan of the books, not a random screenwriter, so my assumptions are probably totally wrong. It's hard for me to comprehend their mindset. 😉 ) The only time I remember a fan really addressing this was in a recent episode of the Talking Beasts Podcast in which one of the podcasters argued that while Aslan always saves the day, he's "not like a tame lion" and we never know how he's going to save the day. Generally, Narniawebbers just say, "because it worked great in the books!" I agree with them but I don't see anyone at Walden Media or Netflix being convinced. 

So have at it, you guys. I love the points that have been made about Narnia being solid rather than surreal or dreamlike. But I think I'm going to sit this topic out.

This post was modified 6 months ago 2 times by Col Klink

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : April 24, 2021 10:42 am
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @col-klink

Besides which, I suspect that any screenwriters reading this thread aren't going to be convinced by fans' arguments as to what would improve adaptations because fans don't really make arguments, they make assertions.....

....Generally, Narniawebbers just say, "because it worked great in the books!" I agree with them but I don't anyone at Walden Media or Netflix being convinced. 

 

Whilst I agree there is not a lot of value in making blanket decrees that everything should be exactly like the book, or expecting screenwriters to be able to perfectly match the intangible qualities of Aslan's character that you imagined as a child, I do feel it's worthwhile trying to pick out and define what the essential qualities of a story are that make it what it is.

You often see this happen with multimedia properties on which multiple writers over time contribute to a shared universe, that the original creator will establish a "Show Bible" which defines the central traits of each character and defines a set of rules within which to operate - so for example "Batman may break the law, but Batman never kills" or "Spiderman always looks out for the little guy". Or for a non-superhero example: "Homer Simpson makes bad decisions, but he will never cheat on his wife".

I think in the past few years though we have seen quite a few big screen adaptations of major properties which have to some extent violated the elemental rules of their own franchises and in the process alienated vast portions of their own fan base.

So for example; Luke Skywalker declining to help someone in need in The Last Jedi, Batman killing people in BvS, Superman allowing people to come to harm in Man of Steel. Or on a more thematic level, Star Trek, a show about optimism and the future, becoming a show about cynicism and nostalgia.

No-one is suggesting that the screen writers should be handcuffed by the arbitrary whims of the fan base, but there also has to be an acknowledgement that if you break the elemental rules which define what the thing was in the first place, then it is no longer that thing.

 

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Posted : April 24, 2021 11:15 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @icarus

but there also has to be an acknowledgement that if you break the elemental rules which define what the thing was in the first place, then it is no longer that thing.

And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom... oops, sorry, wrong book. Grin  

Seriously, that's a great point and I just hope the Netflix directors and screenwriters will read the books thoroughly, all seven of them, and take really careful notes before they start adapting any of them! 

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 24, 2021 4:16 pm
SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular
Posted by: @col-klink

I'm glad that so many people have posted in this thread, because now I feel like I can say what wanted to say before, but it didn't because SonofStone is new here and I don't want to hurt his feelings. 

      Thank you truly for your concerns, but if that hurt my feelings, I don't know how I would have survived in a family of 3 boys. I am sure this is kinda a dead subject for some of you people who have been on this forum for a long time, but this is the first chance I've really had to talk about Narnia with other nerds, so I am sorry if I am just parroting what y'all have been saying on here since 2003.

      But anyway, I think both you and icarus bring up very good points in what you say, a book can never be accurate in every aspect when turned to a movie, so some change must happen before it can go in a enjoyably and easily from one platform to another. It is also a somewhat cool side note that I was never aloud to watch the LOTR and Hobbit movies until I read the book, and this was because in my head I made a 'movie' of what I though the book should/would look and sound like, things which seeing the movie first destroys. Now, I said all that to the affect that each person that reads these story gets a mental picture of the story, characters and settings, even the directors, and they are simply trying to convey what they think the story should look/feel like.

Child of the King: SonofStone

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 25, 2021 6:20 pm
KingEdTheJust
(@kingedthejust)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @icarus

Rule 3 - The children are children.

I know what you mean here but I feel this rule applies only for LWW.  In the Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader the books are somewhat about the children growing too old for Narnia. I feel that they should add some elements of that because it is an important subject. For example when I was reading the books, I really liked how the children were growing up with me. (typically Edmund, he is the character I most related too. ) In the Book Prince Caspian it says: 

But not Su and me.
He says we're getting too old." - Prince Caspian 

This theme is recurring. It also says in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 

"You are too old, children," said Aslan, "and you must begin to come
close to your own world now."- Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

Lastly I feel that maybe they should be growing up during the movies and maybe turn to teenager, not adults though. I agree with you there, that would make them a little too old. 

 

"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)

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Posted : April 25, 2021 8:26 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @kingedthejust
Posted by: @icarus

Rule 3 - The children are children.

I know what you mean here but I feel this rule applies only for LWW.  In the Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader the books are somewhat about the children growing too old for Narnia. I feel that they should add some elements of that because it is an important subject. For example when I was reading the books, I really liked how the children were growing up with me. ...

Lastly I feel that maybe they should be growing up during the movies and maybe turn to teenager, not adults though. I agree with you there, that would make them a little too old. 

This has come up recently elsewhere, but there is an "official" timeline for the Chronicles (I say "official" in quote marks because although it was written by Lewis, it wasn't published during his lifetime and there are a few inconsistencies between it and the books) — which allows us to work out pretty much the exact ages of most of the central human characters throughout the series.

There's a very helpful summary page of the characters' ages here on NarniaWeb, and the timeline itself can be found here.

So that to me shows how old the various characters should be in each story, and I'm hoping that Netflix will be aware of the timeline and use it as a guide for casting (or for how old the characters should look and act, at least, even if the actors aren't the same age!).

I do agree they shouldn't "age up" the characters too much or add "teenage / young adult" themes that aren't actually in the books — especially non-canon romances, as you've said too, @sonofstone. The only main characters who DO have something deeper going on between them are, of course, Shasta and Aravis, and Lewis only mentions that right at the end, in a very amusing way. I wouldn't object to there being little hints, during HHB, that even while Shasta and Aravis quarrel and fight and exasperate each other, deep down they're starting to feel (possibly without even consciously recognising it) that they wouldn't want to lose each other. But better to keep it low-key, so that it doesn't overwhelm the actual plot.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 26, 2021 4:31 am
SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular
Posted by: @kingedthejust

Lastly I feel that maybe they should be growing up during the movies and maybe turn to teenager, not adults though. I agree with you there, that would make them a little too old. 

      I am going to have to nit-pick you here a bit on what you said about the children ' growing up'. I think it would be a massive mistake for them to turn into 'teenagers' like you said and I tell you why. In my family we never liked or really used the term, not because it is necessarily a 'bad' word, mostly we didn't like it due to the meaning it holds in our culture today, which is (in my opinion, that's all this is, so take it with a grain of salt here guys) receiving the benefits of growing older (i.e. Watching more movies, more freedom, owning a laptop and/or a phone, and even driving) without maturing or proving that you are trustworthy enough for those those privileges. What I'm getting at is that the term is tied to a mentality of entailment, 'I'm 13, so now I get a phone'. Ok, you are 13, an age at which a phone can be (in my opinion) justified, but NOT because you are 13, but because you have proven you are mature and trustworthy enough (and that you actually need one). So what I'm trying to get at here is that the term 'teen' can and might be tied with a sense of immaturity and even in some cases (not always) rebellion. I think if you had to explicitly point out they were 'grow up' then I would use a less cultural idea for that theme. (I really did my best here to not step on to many toes, so I am sincerely sorry if I did, I didn't mean to). In conclusion, I just think throwing the whole 'teen' idea into Narnia would take out the innocence of them as children and the budding maturity of them growing up (I agree that they 'grew up' but not in the same way you were talking about). 

 

Child of the King: SonofStone

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 26, 2021 8:08 pm
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

The period rule is an especially important one imo. If they try to modernize the setting that could very well open the floodgates for all the modern secularist, politically-correct drivel which Lewis loathed. 

I'm not against them having a diverse cast- so long as the actors are cast sensibly and in their realistic settings. So of course, the kids should be white British kids- outside of that, however, I think a varied cast would be fine. (I've suggested in the past that an Asian actress could be good for Jadis.)  

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Posted : April 26, 2021 10:19 pm
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