Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Into the Wardrobe

I feel like I missed the blogging boat this week because I completely neglected to talk about the Oscars, but since I hadn't seen and really had little interest in seeing any of the nominated films this year, there wasn't much of a point in even bringing it up. I'm more of a TV person than a movie person. TV seems more like books to me in that there's more time to develop characters and build the plot instead of having to cram everything into two hours, which requires some pretty broad strokes. Movies usually leave me with a vague sense of frustration.

I used to see a lot of movies when I was hanging out with movie buffs, but these days I get around to seeing very few (the box office slump is all my fault, I guess). If I'm really excited about a film, I'll usually see it on opening day. If I don't make it on opening day, I may never get around to seeing it. If I really wanted to see it but didn't quite make it on opening day for whatever reason, I might get to the theater the last week it's playing first run. Some movies I may try to catch at the dollar theater. Otherwise, I just wait for them to show up on HBO.

I finally dragged myself to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yesterday. It was a movie I probably would have seen on opening day if that hadn't been the day after I got back from a trip to New York. Then I got caught up in the book and in life in general. I was afraid that this would be its last week, so I made a point of going, and now I'm glad I did. It's the rare case of the movie being better than the book, and since that's one of my all-time favorite books, that's saying something. The film managed to capture a lot of nuances lying on the fringe of the story that weren't actually in the book.

Really, that book is more of a transcription of an oral story than it is a real novel. It reads like it's a bedtime story or a tale told by the fire on a rainy night. When you're telling a story out loud, you can't get too bogged down with details of introspection or elaborately choreographed battle scenes that would be in a novel. You tell just enough to create a picture in your listener's mind, and the listener's imagination fills in the rest. I re-read the book last night, and I was surprised by the number of things I vividly recalled from reading it as a child that weren't actually in the book. In a way, the movie fleshes out those details that are sketched over in the book. One of my favorite things about the movie is the way that it really uses the WWII setting. It's there in the book essentially as an excuse to get the children into a big, old, unfamiliar house, and Lewis makes no mention of how the war actually affects the kids, what they think or feel about it. It's up to your imagination (especially if you're a kid really into WWII who is living in Europe while reading the books and you have old bomb craters in your backyard) to realize that kids who are in the middle of a war at home, who are in such a dangerous situation that they have to be sent away for safety, are going to react in different ways to finding themselves in another world at war than other kids might. The movie really used that to great effect, with Peter (the oldest boy) noticing the soldiers at the train station, and you could tell he was realizing they weren't much older than he was. If the war lasted much longer, he'd be in it soon, himself. That then resonated in his willingness to fight in Narnia.

Now I'd really love to see what these same people could do with Prince Caspian, another book I re-read last night and realized that most of my memories of it were purely from my imagination. For one thing, Lewis seems to have totally forgotten the war, even though this book takes place just a year later.

My agent has ranted at length about the overuse of portals in young adult fantasy literature, but I think they're a classic for a reason. What kid doesn't long to travel to another world that's full of adventure? It's not nearly as much fun for someone who's used to that world. Half the excitement is seeing the heroes adapt and wondering if you could do the same thing. I think I survived junior high by imagining what would happen if I got sent to another world where I was looked upon as something special. I've actually got a book started that involves kids from our world who have read all the books about portals actually having to deal with one, but I suspect it would give my agent an allergic reaction. That will have to go on my "someday" list of ideas. When I say "so many books, so little time," I'm not just talking about my to-be-read pile!

Oh, and this was the first movie I've been to in years in which nobody's cell phone rang! I did have the person behind me kicking my seat all the way through, so that I eventually moved over one seat when the Glare of Death had no effect, but at least it was quiet in the theater for a change (yet another reason I tend to wait for HBO).

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