Friday, December 10, 2010

Back from Narnia

I've been having one of those "can't deal" days, so it was a good one for escaping to the theater. I had some grand plans about going to the theater near the mall and finishing my Christmas shopping and taking care of a couple of errands, but changed my mind rather abruptly this morning. Instead, I decided to walk to the neighborhood theater for Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

If the Katherine Kurtz Deryni books were the "Twilight" of my teen years, the Narnia books were the "Harry Potter" series of my pre-teen years, only without having to wait years between books, since they'd all been written before I was born, and without the sense of everyone else reading them at the same time. I'd read The Horse and His Boy during my horse phase in third or fourth grade, but I didn't connect that book with a series, so my real introduction to Narnia was when I was in sixth grade and for some reason was meeting my mom at her office after school. I already felt very grown-up riding the base shuttle bus from the school to the post where my mom worked, and then when I got there, she gave me a copy of The Silver Chair, I guess to give me something to do until she got off work. It was around the time I'd read The Lord of the Rings, but I don't remember which came first, only that this was what really sealed the deal in making me a fantasy fan. The thing that was so great about Narnia was that it involved kids from our world who got to go to this fantastic place, so that made it possible to imagine going there, myself. Although the books had all been published already, I must have rationed them instead of reading them all right away, because I know I didn't read the last one until sometime the next year.

This all came about at a time when I really needed Narnia. That was a difficult year. The fall semester was just about perfect for me. My teacher was our neighbor, and I loved her. The upper elementary was in the same building with the junior high, so that meant sixth graders got to be in the junior high band and choir. I was in Girl Scouts with my best friend. I was a class officer and generally pretty popular. We had a great house right on the edge of the woods and a lot of kids in the neighborhood to play with. And then in February we moved, and I lost it all. At the new school, sixth graders couldn't be in band, and the choir was already formed, so I couldn't do that (which seems weird for a military base school). We had an apartment in the largest American military housing area in the world, and it was like a tenement area, just miles and miles of apartment buildings all crammed together (and I went back about ten years ago, so that's not just a skewed memory from childhood). The kids in the new school hated me (it turns out that a well-meaning but not thinking teacher had pretty much torpedoed me by the way he told the class they were getting a new student). I was being emotionally and psychologically bullied by the popular group of girls, although I didn't realize that until the next year when they got fed up with me not noticing I was being bullied and got physical with it, so I had to notice. I didn't like them, either, so I didn't much care what they thought of me, and most of the things they used to taunt me didn't actually bother me. The problem was just that I felt like nobody liked me because there was something wrong with me, and I was very lonely because I had no friends. I got home from school and escaped into Narnia, and I imagined what I would do if I could go there. So, yeah, those books hold a special place in my heart, and I spent so much time dreaming up mental fanfic about Narnia that the lines between what's actually in the books and what I came up with are kind of blurry.

However, these movies seem to have come out of my imagination because even when they don't follow the books, they have a sense of familiarity to them, like it was the way I pictured things or it was additional stories I made up in my head. I really enjoyed Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It's been long enough since I read the book that I couldn't tell exactly where they changed the book, but there were quite a lot of moments where I had the "ooh!" reaction when I suddenly remembered something from the book, and I didn't have any major "you're doing it wrong!" moments, so I consider that a success. This one is more of a quest adventure so there aren't any of those epic battles from the first two movies. It's more of an intimate story. I was really impressed with the kid playing Eustace because he went all out with the obnoxiousness, which made his transformation really work. Since my introduction to Eustace was in The Silver Chair, where he was the "good" kid, that's always colored my reaction to him in this book. I could never really hate him, even when he was a jerk, and in the movie he's a hilarious jerk. I do hope they get the next movie made (one reason I went on opening weekend to vote with my dollars), but I hope they wait enough to let him grow up a little because I think he'll make an interesting leading man, and I've liked what they've done in the movies of making the older kids in each film be teenagers and not just children. I rewatched the first two movies this week, and it's a treat to see how the other two have grown up. They did some great casting because Lucy now looks very much like Susan did in the first movie, which made the subplot where Lucy wishes she was as beautiful as Susan even more touching. I think that's a common thing, to have a skewed perspective of your own looks and to forget that the older kids were once your age.

I've not had a great week, so this was a good time for me to escape to Narnia, and I will confess to getting a pang similar to that I got in sixth grade when I found myself very sad that I couldn't actually go to a place like that myself. You know you've got a good fantasy story when it kind of hurts and makes you a little sad to know that this place isn't real. You feel a sense of loss for a place that doesn't exist.

If you read an older edition of the books, you should stay for the closing credits for a burst of nostalgia. They used the original book illustrations for the closing credits, which is a bit disconcerting at times, since Caspian is blond in the book and therefore in the closing credits and is very not blond in the movie.

I wonder what I'd find if I pushed to the back of the closet downstairs. There's probably enough stuff in there to hide a whole magical world ...

1 comment:

Chicory said...

I'm so glad to hear your review. I'm planning to see Dawn Treader as soon as possible, but I've been a little worried because the story seems like a hard one to film (because it is a journey story). I'm so glad they keep the `feel' of the book. I felt like they did a good job with Prince Caspian even when they changed things, so I'm unlikely to be disappointed. :)