Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Seventeen

I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied with how these reviews are turning out, but I’m probably not the best judge of their quality. My mood for the longest has been one determined to take the angst-ridden teenager route, and just assume that everything I come up with is severely lacking in some way.

I guess I only believe that up to a certain point, since I’m obviously still publishing and trying to sell work, but the feeling is there, and nothing I try to do seems to change it.

Boo-hoo.

Life is hard.

People keep telling me I should start delving into more social/political pieces, or to try for something that’s more directly comedic than what I usually do. Those things are tempting. I just keep stalling under the excuse of not knowing where to begin. That might be true, but it’s lousy reasoning nonetheless. I shouldn’t let that kind of thing stop me.

I’d also love to throw on an interview on this thing. My interviews generally wind up at Unlikely Stories, but I’m sure there’s something I could do that wouldn’t necessarily work there.

Anything is possible. Unfortunately, everything also feels like it’s about a million miles away from my grip. All I can do is keep moving along regardless. There isn’t a whole lot else I can do. The creative things I try to do can also be looked at as how I lead the rest of my life. Like everything else, I can only try to continue moving forward, continue doing all that I can. Imagine that somewhere along the line, other things will fall into place, and I’ll finally cheer up a little.

What does any of this have to do with movies?

Search me.

I don’t ramble very much about myself (at least, not in print), and this seems like as a good a place as any to do it.
**********

30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Seventeen: Least Favorite Book Adaptation

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes

Religion just wasn’t a big deal where I grew up in British Columbia, Canada. That’s at least how I remember it. There were churches, people went to them if they wanted, and that largely seemed to be the end of it. I didn’t encounter people screaming about me about their faith (or lack thereof) until I moved to the States in 1998.

I only mention this, because I was roughly five or six when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess I wasn’t a very bright Kindergartner, because the religious allegories of C.S. Lewis’ long-standing classic were completely lost on me until a few years later. I just thought it was a great story. I quickly gobbled up the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and then moved on to other Lewis works (like The Screwtape Letters), and even the live-action BBC adaptations (which have not held up especially well for me).

Eventually, I took on more sophisticated books, but I never forgot how much those books meant to me. A monstrous Hollywood adaption just made sense. All the elements for a great fantasy epic were right there. All it needed to rival Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings was someone to piece those elements together. It’s not a complicated task. The right vision for bringing something like Narnia to life coupled with a great cast would be able to cover things just fine. I was excited by the trailers I saw for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I wasn’t expecting the greatest movie of all time, but what I saw gave me every reason to believe I would at least be entertained.

This probably isn’t the Goat Boy Bill Hicks was talking about.

Maybe I had weirdly high expectations of how much I expected from the concept of entertaining. I don’t know.  I know I was (and still am) baffled by the positive reception this got from a large number of critics and fans. It wasn’t that I went out of my way to dislike The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When it comes to movies I’m not a masochist, and I’m not looking for excuses to complain. There’s better ways to spend almost two and half hours of my life, than to watch a movie I want to hate before the opening credits have even appeared.

I realize a lot of people like this movie, and I desperately wanted to like it, too. The impact the books had on the literary aspect of my childhood was substantial. From Narnia I moved on to countless other fantasy books and authors. I read them more than once and probably liked that BBC adaptation more than it deserved. Those elements seemed like they had a great chance of coming together. The cast seemed fine (especially Tilda Swinton), and they were throwing a monstrous budget behind it. Disney wanted to cash in on the Harry Potter/LOTR market, and I couldn’t blame them. They had the perfect property on their hands. The source material has plenty going for it to create a great adventure epic. What’s even better is that the Narnia books aren’t particularly deep even when you take all the allegory into account (and it doesn’t really matter if you do—You don’t really have to be an expert on Christianity to enjoy Narnia). They’re well-told, earnest but pretty straightforward fantasy stories, and I didn’t see how a film adaptation could completely screw that up.

It’s true, there are some stunning visual sequences, battles and backdrops. It’s also true that Swinton tears the house down, with the best performance in the whole thing (Liam Neeson as Aslan is also pretty damn cool). It just wasn’t enough for me. Compared to LOTR or Harry Potter (and in my mind comparisons between all these films are inevitable), this just struck me as very flat, and devoid of the scope and personality that allowed LOTR and Harry Potter (well except for the first two films maybe) to be more than just fantastic light shows. The source material being straightforward is no excuse for a movie filled with unappealing actors, and a story that’s overlong and poorly told.

There is indeed a lion though. The movie certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front.

I can probably blame the child actors for that. God knows why, but I truly couldn’t stand any of them. Perhaps I’m just not very tolerant of child actors in general. The list of ones I can put up with for more than eight seconds is pretty thin. The kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are nowhere near that list. I found them to be smarmy, obnoxious little twits, who spend the entire movie wandering around, getting into trouble and accomplishing anything useful mostly by accident. Georgie Henley wore on my nerves me more than any of them. Something about her made me want to leave her at a grocery store. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to be engaged by her precociousness, ageless wisdom and cheery pluck. I’m not one of those people.

The other kids bug me, too (as does much of the cast), but there’s something about that particular little scamp that makes me glad I don’t know any English children off the top of my head. It’s probably not fair to condemn an entire country of children over a movie, but the kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were annoying enough to make me want to.

The running time is also ridiculous. Much of consists largely of director Andrew Adamson assuming I’ll be so impressed with the visuals that I won’t notice that most of the time, nothing is really happening. And when something does happen I don’t really care, because everything is so lifeless, so by-the-numbers that I’m really just waiting for Tilda Swinton to say something sinister, Liam Neeson to say something noble or for an extraordinary battle scene to break out. Even those things lose their appeal by the end. All I felt at the end was a completely useless sense of accomplishment. I’ve never walked out on a movie in my life, and I don’t intent to start. Everything I begin will be finished to the bitter, half-awake end.

What does that actually achieve? Probably nothing.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe worked for a lot of people, and I wouldn’t dream of faulting anyone who did like it. I just walked away feeling as though the parts didn’t create the sum of a good movie. Certain aspects of the film are beautifully realized, but for me a great deal of it wasn’t. Most likely there’s a book adaptation I dislike even more, but this one is probably the most disappointing. The books are easy to get into, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to be a dull, completely hollow experience. I left this first film in the series feeling as though I had just seen the same kind of fantasy film, everyone is seemingly trying to do these days. It didn’t feel like the Narnia from my childhood. It was just another empty blockbuster.

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    • Ame Ai
    • February 7th, 2012

    I preferred the original adaptations and never bothered to see later adaptations after I saw the one you referenced.

    In terms of your introductory part, why not put Patton’s interview here since it might not fit Unlikely’s theme and so it’s not outdated by the time it’s released?

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