17 May 2008

Review of Prince Caspian

How dare they?

That’s about all I can say to begin with. I am flabbergasted. I really don’t know how it could have been much worse. I wept for quite a while afterwards, in the theatre, in the car on the way home….

OK, Michael Ward, so you certainly got your Martial movie: brawls, fistfights, arguments, battles, battles, and more battles. And plenty of trees. The trees were good. And the sense of antiquity associated with Mars. Yes.

But that’s about it. I mean, seriously, how could a movie adaptation go that wrong? The plot was not even remotely the same. Some plot changes, I expected. Some theologically skewed implications, I anticipated. Some lines misspoken, even to the extent of obscuring Lewis’s meaning, I was prepared to handle. Even the stupid and malapropos romance between Susan and Caspian need not have ruined all [wonder how Lucy will feel in VDT when she watches him fall in love with Ramandu’s daughter? Awkward!] But this was over the top. This Prince Caspian does not deserve the title, for it is not the same story.

And I believe it is blasphemous.

I have authority for that claim. Lewis himself wrote in a letter to a woman who wanted to make Narnia into a radio and television series: “I am sure you understand that Aslan is a divine figure, and anything remotely approaching the comic (above all anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy” (Letters vol. 3, p. 491, 19 June 1954; emphasis mine). Basically, don’t mess with Aslan, because He is a representation of Christ. Well, Aslan was totally messed with in this appalling film. He wasn’t made comic, thankfully, but He was rendered irrelevant. And the children’s carefully deployed responses to Him were altered beyond recognition. Peter, deciding not to wait for Aslan anymore, to go it alone, to reject his Saviour? That’s not the Peter I know, nor the one Lewis wrote.

Nor was this Lewis’s Aslan, nor a parallel to the God of the Bible. This Aslan was an absent, passive, weak figure who did not belong to the story. It seems that the Disney/Walden people, without the clear death-and-resurrection myth around which to center the plot, simply didn’t know what to do with Him. So they decided to write a new story, one about doubt and distance and only dreaming your faith is true. That story, they must have reasoned, is more relevant to today’s society. And they couldn’t have Aslan telling Lucy she’s a lioness; maybe that would be like saying someone is justified by faith in Christ alone! They could only have Him say that if she were any braver, then she’d be a lioness. That is more like a “works doctrine,” in harmony with all of Disney’s other “believe in yourself” messages. And it fits nicely with that other heresy: Lucy’s idea that “Maybe we need to prove ourselves before He comes to help us.”

What was Douglas Gresham thinking? Didn’t he read the books?

And what’s with the total Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Pirates of the Caribbean rip-offs? Edmund putting a Gandalf expression on his face and falling backwards off the tower into the claws of a griffin [eagle?]; orderly troops [clones?] marching in formation across a field; a drop of human blood to bring the dead back to life?!?!?!?! Hello! I think I stepped into the wrong movie theatre. Is this some kind of parody of the great fantasy films of the century?

This rant isn’t to imply there weren’t beautiful moments. The film is something of a visual feast, with lovely soaring griffins, flights of arrows, luscious costumes, some impressive architecture, and beautiful landscapes (New Zealand; again, stolen from LOTR). I liked the additions about how it feels to go back after 1300 years. The paintings on the walls of Aslan’s How were a nice touch, and I must admit I liked the wall of ice and the ghostly Witch. I hope they remembered that Queen Jadis in The Magician’s Nephew is the same witch and had Tilda Swinton sign a three-movie contract. The single combat was pretty good. It was nicely filmed, and had some good details in it, such as Peter “using his enemy’s arm as a ladder” and so on. It wasn’t played in a roped-off area of the field, but it was fairly well regulated. Trumpkin was well cast, but we didn’t get to know him much. The River God—now, that was great. The moment when we saw through his eyes was fantastic, as was the fact that he was pouring or flowing all the time, like a solid, animated waterfall. His head wasn’t “weedy” as if should have been, but he was still very good. The Centaurs were impressive looking, but their movements were unnatural. Can’t we do better than that with CGI? I mean, come on, you just take a picture of a horse and a picture of a guy and you glue them together, right? Sigh. But some of the cinematography was good, the music was nice, and the four Pevensie actors are still spectacular. Not to mention gorgeous. Those boys sure turned out hot. Caspian wasn’t bad either, but Peter gets my vote. I’ll miss him in the next movie. If I go to see the next movie. Maybe I’ll stay home and read the book. Maybe that way I’ll avoid ulcers. And I’ll escape getting tomatoes thrown at me by the other movie-goers who want to watch their flick in peace without my sobbing and shouting.

See, the main thing is—well, the main thing. The kappa element. The “atmosphere” or “feeling” of the story. They got the military aspect, that’s for sure. But they missed the entire theological character of this volume, I believe. This is subjective, but perhaps verifiable. There’s a feeling of loss throughout the book. There’s a feeling that without Aslan everything is kind of scattered. All the bits and pieces of history and society need to be pulled together by Him. Other elements are important: suppressed history, faith without sight, and the gradual revelation of Aslan’s plan. But in the film, everything was more chaotic, more fast-paced, and more physically dangerous than spiritually dangerous. There was a lot of doubt, to be sure; too much! But Aslan’s delayed entrance, and [most of all] Lucy’s only dreaming that she saw Him in the woods, made this a different story. And a nasty one. That horrible massacre in Miraz’s castle belongs to the kappa element of The Last Battle, not Prince Caspian.

Finally, where were Bacchus, Silenus, the Maenads, and the Dryads? Prince Caspian has always been my least favorite of the Narniad, and the Bacchanalian bits saved the story for me. And they are so well suited to a visual media! Why, oh why would they leave out the wild young god of wine and his fierce dancing girls, the drunken old man on a donkey calling out for “Refreshments! Refreshments!” and the beautiful tree-people? Those are quintessential Lewisian moments.

But since Adamson or Gresham or whoever changed the entire plot, altered the characters, distorted the theological message, and imitated other more popular fantasies, I guess it’s only consistent to leave out the most imaginative and representative aspect of the book.

It breaks my heart.

~ Sørina

10 May 2008

Art, Beauty & God: Recurrent Themes in Theological Aesthetics

Comment Magazine (in which I have published an article and a photo) recommends the following:

Comment author Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin will teach a course called "Art, Beauty & God: Recurrent Themes in Theological Aesthetics" this summer at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.

"Since the early church Christian thinkers have been ambivalent about art and beauty. Some reviled them for their supposedly seductive or idolatrous nature, others revered them for their apparent capacity to serve as steppingstones to a higher, spiritual reality. Although since modern times art, beauty and religion stood in a troubled relationship to each other, both beauty and religion have made dramatic comebacks in recent discussions about art, as have art and beauty in theological debate. Co-taught by a theologian and a philosopher, the course will explore the relationships between: art and beauty; beauty and God; icons and idols; art and worldview; theological and philosophical aesthetics.

"The course will examine recent developments in theological aesthetics with a view to identifying which theories hold most promise for a holistic contemporary Christian aesthetics."

"Art, Beauty & God: Recurrent Themes in Theological Aesthetics" runs June 30 - July 11, 2008 at the ICS Campus. Registration deadline is June 21, 2008, online ( or by phone (Robbin Burry, Registrar, (416)979-2331 x234).

05 May 2008

May poem of the month

Please consider purchasing a copy of
with cover photography by Rosie Perera.
Sørina’s book may be pre-ordered online by going to Finishing Line Press, clicking on the “New Releases and forthcoming titles” link, and scrolling down the alphabetical list. Your copy will be shipped to you on 8 August 2008. Please assist with early sales by ordering this book soon. Tell your friends! Order multiple copies as gifts!

I'm thankful that this poem of the month, with the accompanying photo by Rosie, is no longer relevant! This year, unlike some, we have a beautiful spring with flowers and not a hint of snow. It's been rainy some days, but today is just a day of May perfection. Enjoy!

Photo by Rosie Perera

There is Heartbreak in Heaven
Meditations while listening to Chopin in the snow

I know what a heart feels like when it breaks.
I once knelt in a tiny chapel in the dark, under arched
stained glass, shaken with the kind of weeping
that is red like the inside of a broken body,
gold like threads of life unraveled, shaped
like shattered windows or unfinished songs. Lovely,

and unendurable. This day is nothing like it: lovely
with a gentle kind of comfort, but the beauty breaks
my heart nevertheless. It doesn’t take much: trees arching
over the path, heavy with sparkling winter, weeping
willows dripping into their own shadows, disembodied
cries of hidden kingfishers—the sounds and shapes

of a February run stretched out and quietly shaped
by a river curling its path to lead to loveliness
unbearable, out into solitude so silent I fear to break
the softness with my double tread. Larch
and lilac, sleeping: the very whiteness makes me weep,
as does the music of my pulse: the beauty of a body

that is young—yet knows the intimations of the body’s
coming age. I would not lose my memory for my shape,
would not lose ideas in exchange for imaginary love,
yet wonder how the mind goes on in broken
flesh, wonder if an ugly figure feels the archetype
of what it should have been. I should not weep

on such a day for thoughts; yet I am weeping
to the music that I wear close to my body
in my very ears: a study in the colors and shapes
of sorrow. Each stricken string a single tone of beloved
melancholy. I wish I could stop the breakneck
pace of snowflakes: slow them so the gothic architecture

of each microcosm lifts its tiny architraves
and crystal naves against the silent sun and sweeps
the sky with leaded glass. I believe anybody
could pray in a cathedral made of ice, a shapely
sepulcher of frost. If that is so, more lovely
still the vaults and domes of unbreakable

splendor where I will break my heart on every archway,
dance and weep inside a body formed of perfection,
heal the shape of inside wounds, and laugh for love of sublime sorrow.

-- Sørina Higgins