Sunday, December 7, 2008
On Hollywood, Narnia, and the Nature of Stories

So the other night, I rented Prince Caspian.

The Chronicles of Narnia were my first chapter books when I was a kid. I can actually remember when my mom bought them for me. I was outside the Waldenbooks at East Town Mall. She came out of the store and she handed them to me. It was a big deal. I seem to remember her saying, "I think you're ready for these." But I don't know if that is a true memory or not.

I do know that my mom was desperate to get me into reading chapter books. I just wasn't interested. I liked picture books. When we went to the library, I would check out as many as they would let me, then I would take them home and read them all inside a day. Then I would pester her to make another trip to the library....

My mom chose well. I loved the Narnia books. It's safe to say that they have a special place in my heart. It's also safe to say that I might be overly sensitive when it comes to changes made in the story in the process of turning it into a movie.

That said, I liked the movie version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sure, I had some quibbles, and a few things irritated me. But as a whole, I enjoyed it.

But Prince Caspian? Sucked. Sucked to a degree that made me angry. Sucked to the degree that I actually stopped watching the movie.

This never happens. I'm a narratovore. Once I start a story, I finish it. I can count the number of books I've stopped halfway through on one hand. And I can only think of one other movie that I actually stopped watching partway through.

I gave it a fair shake. I watched 40 minutes. Then, exasperated, I pushed the button on the DVD remote that tells me how much more time is left in the movie. The readout said that I had another hour and a half to go. Too much. I was done.

Now I'm well aware that you can't just take a book and use it as a screenplay for a movie. The change in medium necessitates changes in the way the story is told. You can do things in print that you can't do on the screen, and visa versa.

But here's the thing. The rules of storytelling don't change between mediums. Story is story. It doesn't matter if you're singing it around a fire or painting it on a cave wall.

That means that no matter how you're telling it, you need your story to possess certain qualities. You need tension. You need conflict. You need your audience to be emotionally involved. You need good characters and good interaction between those characters. You need verisimilitude, drama, humor....

Okay, you don't need ALL of those. But you should have most of them. And some are absolutely essential.

You know what isn't essential? Scenery. Pretty actors. CGI.

Don't get me wrong. Those things can be great additions to a movie. But they are not the story itself. Nor are they a functional story-substitute. They are the fancy icing roses on the corners of the cake. They only work because the cake is there, underneath. You can't sit down and eat a whole plateful of frosting roses. Well, you can if you're four years old or mentally deficient. But twenty minutes and a pound of frosting later you're vomiting pink foam all over the couch.

Why? Because story is story, and icing is icing. Why doesn't Hollywood realize this?

Now don't get me wrong, I understand how hard it is to tell a good story. There are a thousand things that can go wrong. I learned most of them firsthand by screwing up my own book for years and years until I finally got it right. I imagine it's even harder to do when you're part of a team. Editors, writers, directors, and producers all have their fingers in the pie. I imagine it's a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

But when you're making a movie that costs a hundred million dollars, you think they would take care to get the story right despite all that. The story is the foundation of the movie. It's the cornerstone. It's the key.

Hold on. Two hundred million? They spent TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS on that?

I know where the money went, too. Icing. CGI. Scenery. They shot the movie in New Zealand, Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

And the scenery was beautiful. The CGI was flawless. Fine. I understand wanting to have those things. But why isn't story given the same attention to detail?

Let's say they needed a centaur for the movie, and the CGI people worked for a couple of weeks and then came back with something that looked like it was made from binder twine, turds, and paper mache.

Would everyone just shrug and move on with the movie? No. Someone would say, "This sucks. You fail at your job. Go back and bring me a real-looking centaur."

And so the CGI is great. The scenery is gorgeous. The actors are pretty. And the story is a mess. How does story so consistently slip through the cracks? How can they not understand how important it is?

It's not like they were making it from whole cloth, either. They had the book as a roadmap. A story that worked well. A story with good tension, character interaction, and a layered series of smoothly functioning story arcs. Why did they make a point of changing things that worked?


What really drove all of this home for me was what happened the very next night.

Sarah said, "I've got a movie that I want you to watch."

Me: What is it?

Sarah: Harvey.

Me: [Sigh] The one where the guy has the imaginary friend that's a rabbit? All sorts of people have tried to get me to watch that. It sounds dumb.

Sarah: It's really good.

Obviously I'm not interested, but I can see that Sarah is excited. And she's cute when she's excited. er. Cuter. When she's like that, saying no to her is like kicking a fluffy puppy.

Besides, as a whole, she has good taste in movies. She's the one that got me to watch Fight Club and American Beauty.

So I watch it. This movie is more than fifty years old. Black and white. Probably shot on a sound stage. The sum total of their special effects probably amounted to a piece of string tied to a doorknob. On top of all that, it was fullscreen. Which I hate. HAAAATE.

And you know what? It was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I laughed. I cried. I want to watch it again. The best movie that I've seen in... in a long while.

If they made that movie nowadays, they would get ILM to make a ten million dollar CGI rabbit. Keanu Reaves would play Elwood P. Dowd. There would be a car chase. It would be filmed on location in Vancouver, Prague, and Akron. And it would suck suck suck. It would suck to the tune of two hundred million dollars because none of those things is in service to the story.

That's all. Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. And the next time you're looking for a movie, you should check out Harvey.

Yes you, Hollywood. I'm talking to you.


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posted by Pat at


Anonymous LucidLunatic said...

Thank you, Pat. All of that was very true (except, perhaps, for the bits about Harvey; I don't know, I haven't sen it) and needed to be said. Hopefully sometime soon we will see a return to the film industry of old. But not, perhaps, until there's been some significant change in the mentality of viewers. If I remember correctly, Prince Caspian, in all it's saccharinity (not a word, yet), was a block buster.

Here's a Terry Pratchett quote which should shine some light on the situation: "Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove."

Have you read "Moving Pictures," Pat?

December 7, 2008 5:04 PM  
Blogger Captain Joe said...

Aye, special effects aren't so special anymore. I can't remember the last time I was WOWED by CGI and such.

Heh, I remember getting the Chronicles of Narnia, too, from my grandmother for Christmas in... '94 or '95. T'was most unfair, at the time, as I wanted a nifty instant camera.

I still have those same books though - dog-eared and yellowed. That badass camera would've been long gone.

December 7, 2008 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Chrys said...

Hmmm. Well, on some things I disagree here. Not on loving the books - I honestly don't remember when I read them for the first time, but the last time I read them was less than a year ago. And to be quite honest, it was to remind myself of all that they missed when they made the movie version of Prince Caspian. That said, although they left a lot out of the movie, I didn't think it sucked. I don't think it was as good an adaptation as TLtWatW, but (and here's the kicker) especially toward the later half of the movie, which you had to sit through the first half to get to, it had a lot of the feel of Narnia for me and my partner. I think it could have been tightened a lot, and if they had done that, they could have put in some of the things that I missed. And I do remember making some snide comments during the first half of the movie. But I admit to being a sucker for well-done CGI and pretty scenery. -shrugs- To each his own.

December 7, 2008 6:04 PM  
Anonymous MadRussian said...

I just finished watching Prince Caspian for the first time. Then I logged in and checked your blog.....weird.

December 7, 2008 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Just Kae said...

I rented PC this weekend too for the first time (great minds... lesser minds maybe, whatever...). I thought the first half was a crock, absolutely. I hate it when people gripe and talk during a movie but man I simply couldn't shut up during the first half of the movie. Why on earth would you completely change the whole entire feel of the story when it worked so well? I'll admit that the second half was a little better, except for the fact that it was building off a bad foundation, one that shouldn't have existed. Ergh.

December 7, 2008 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Gryffin said...

Has anyone checked out the British version of Caspian? I haven't yet, but it was in the local KMart, so I was just curious. The effects obviously wouldn't be as good, since it was shot in 1989, but maybe the story would be better since it wouldn't have all the glam. The more style we add, the less substance, right?

December 7, 2008 6:40 PM  
Blogger Pamala Knight said...

I'm giggling at your latest rant which is totally spot on. Hollywood seems to think that it's their mission in life to suck the story out of great books and make the best looking advertisment for tourism that they can manage. *Sigh*

Harvey is one of my all-time favorite movies. I'm glad that you're smart enough to know that the cute woman in your life, knows a thing or two about what's good.

Thanks for the review of Prince Caspian because now I won't bother renting the movie. My own son loves the Narnia books too and would be devastated if he saw too much deviation from the excellent story. Normally I'm a 'see it for myself' kind of girl, but I trust your judgement on this and will spare myself the trouble.

December 7, 2008 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Jana said...

This is why I hate it when they make my favorite books into movies. I feel like the way I see the story happening in my head when I'm reading is just infinitely better.

December 7, 2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger Anniina said...

Harvey is my all-time favorite movie :) You're 100% on the money with the critique of not just 'Caspian', but Hollywood forgetting about story. My screenwriting prof at UCLA used to say the equivalent of real estate's "Location, Location, Location" was "Story, Story, Story". I was already so disappointed with the first Narnia film that I avoided 'Caspian' -- now I'm even more happy that I did. The BBC did a great miniseries of the books in the early 1980s, without huge budgets and faithful to C. S. Lewis. They're worth watching, if you happen to find them somewhere.

December 7, 2008 7:16 PM  
Blogger logankstewart said...

"...twenty minutes and a pound of frosting later you're vomiting pink foam all over the couch."

That is one of the funniest things I've read in a long, long time.

WV: ovideedi --> The love child of Ovid and DeeDee from Dexter's Lab. And Ovid, from, well, history.

December 7, 2008 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I'll admit, I saw Caspian in the theater when it came out. I loved the first one. It caught so much of that magic I felt when I first read Narnia. (Box set from a school bookfair. It's sitting on the bedside bookshelf, still covered in Rainbow Bright stickers.) I wanted to see Caspian because I was hoping for more of that magic. My husband agreed to take me because we had free coupons at the time. At least it didn't cost me anything.

Oh, and good call from the girlfriend on Harvey. It is a brilliant film. It just goes to show that men should always listen to the women in their lives. Our superior minds ensure that we are always right.

December 7, 2008 8:56 PM  
Anonymous nigel said...

Bah! They film movies in Vancouver not to spend a lot of money, but because it's cheap. ;)

December 7, 2008 9:00 PM  
Blogger Malikelm said...

I've long since given up on movies, they don't have the substance in them that books have. I'm not sure why, but movies seem rushed through to me--they finish WAY too fast, and things happen so quickly that they aren't believable. Some things take time to seep into the audience, storytelling is an art in itself, one that seems to be undermined in hollywood. Now its all about the Bang, the hottie and the cool cars.

No thanks, i'll read me a good book instead.

December 7, 2008 9:53 PM  
Blogger Fae said...

Haven't seen Prince Caspian. But I have seen Harvey, and it is a brilliant film. I put it along my feel good movies for crappy days right next to the old Arsenic and Old lace.

When I saw Harvey for the first time I was informed that I'm actually related to James Stewart.
Distantly I'm sure. But still, very awesome.

December 7, 2008 10:07 PM  
Blogger CoxinSocks said...

Hey Pat,

Harvey was full screen (1.33:1) because the movie was shot in 1.37:1.

Showing it in 16:9 (1.78:1) would have meant they would have cut a ton more off.

True, they could have put teensy weensy little black bars on the top and bottom, but we're really only talking about less than 1% of the picture. It's not like preserving something shot in 1.87, where're you're cutting off entire people. We're talking about, maybe cutting off someone's pinky toe.

December 7, 2008 10:19 PM  
Blogger Incubus Jax said...

I love how it's "CGI" now and not "Special Effects".

I'm with Maddox on Special Effects - when they're the ENTIRE movie they're not longer "Special" now are they????

Man, did they spend that much on Jurassic Park? I remember just being enthralled by that movie. I think they used robots.

Yoda used to be a puppet.

Did you see the Final Fantasy Movie? (Spirits Within). In a few years we won't even NEED actors.

"See Tom Cruise like you've never seen him before: Sane."

December 7, 2008 10:43 PM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Oh gosh, I haven't seen Prince Caspian (and probably won't), but this is exactly how I felt about The Golden Compass. It's not that I expect there to be no changes from book to film, but the changes they made were DUMB. They lost all that was brilliant about the tension-building and mystery of the book. Even though I knew the story, they somehow made me lost track of what I was supposed to care about, what I was supposed to be rooting for or hoping for. There was no narrative direction. I think that the book and movie are a great exercise in storytelling choices, for writers honing their craft. What to do, what not to do.

And I haven't seen Harvey. Curious now.

December 7, 2008 11:28 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Cox: Huh. That's cool. I didn't know that. I know a lot of the old musicals were done in extremely widescreen shots, so a lot of them are lost in fullscreen. I assumed the same was true with most older movies.

December 8, 2008 12:14 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

I actually haven't read Narnia and I never, ever, ever watch film adaptations before reading the source material. It's sacrilege as far as I'm concerned.

Sometimes I do worry about you, Pat but I'm glad to know that Sarah has taste. "Harvey" really is one of the best movies ever. It has a brilliant story and delightful acting by Jimmy Stewart. It doesn't have billion dollar CGI, car chases, and a convoluted left wing political message in it. It's just a fun, entertaining film.

All Hollywood pictures now are billion dollar budgets for CGI, a few car chases, things blowing up, and ridiculous stunts.

Transformers, Live Free or Die Hard, Crystal Skull, Eagle Eye, all of those were horrible. Please, please don't even get me started on them.

The worst part is that Hollywood is digging up old movies just to tarnish them. Later this month we get Keanu Reeves in "The Day The Earth Stood Still" and I hear it on good word that they're remaking "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

Still, one final point, despite Hollywood's insane "movies" the real problem I have is that they can afford to spend two hundred million dollars on a movie yet the US government has to give a $700 billion bailout and our economy crashes. People lose their jobs but Hollywood can spend $200 million on a movie?

December 8, 2008 12:49 AM  
Blogger N! said...

I've got to know: what is the 1 other movie and the few books you put down never picked back up?

December 8, 2008 1:44 AM  
Blogger marky said...

I've not seen Prince Caspian. I've never really been interested in watching it. But I am now!

This is like the time everybody said how bad Freddy got fingered was. I immediately went out and hired it. And yes, it was terrible. I just couldn't help myself.

Here are some other old movies you should watch Pat.

1. It’s a wonderful life
2. Arsenic and old lace
3. White Heat
4. 12 Angry Men

December 8, 2008 4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still, one final point, despite Hollywood's insane "movies" the real problem I have is that they can afford to spend two hundred million dollars on a movie yet the US government has to give a $700 billion bailout and our economy crashes. People lose their jobs but Hollywood can spend $200 million on a movie?

Ok, sorry but that's just moronic. How do you expect the economy to improve if every business shut down? Of course they're going to spend millions of dollars in movies, what's the alternative, close down and send some thousands of workers to live under a bridge in a show of solidarity with the auto workers?

December 8, 2008 4:25 AM  
Blogger C. Nickolas Carlson said...

I'm going to admit something which I probably shouldn't: I've never read any of the Narnia books. By the time I learned of them, when I was in high school, (they were given to my sister by one of my crazy religious Aunts as material which would be appropriate for a young lady) I was immediately told about the whole under-running Christian mythos thing, and that put a sour taste in my mouth for some reason (probably my waning faith?). Once I had gotten past that whole phase, I decided they were children's books, and as such, I didn't need to read them.

I've read most of the other "foundational" books on fantasy stuff, even the James Branch Cabell books from the twenties, but Narnia has never drawn me in. Hell, I even own them now. They're sitting on a shelf behind me as I type this. I could read them now. But that would get in the way of reading books I actually want to read. Which is a shitty excuse, but there it is.

Maybe sometime after exams I'll pull out the first one and give it a go. But I have a feeling that Jacqueline Carey's last Kushiel book is going to pull me in instead.

December 8, 2008 6:01 AM  
Blogger sparkly_jules said...

Then you'll definitely want to miss "Legend of the Seeker" based on "Wizard's First Rule," (title only).

Yeah, the title. That's how much it matched. I took it off my TiVo season ticket it sucked that badly.

Terry Goodkind is weeping in his beer, somewhere.

Pat, if they ever make TNOTW into a film or mini-series, promise us, you will maintain creative control. Promise!!

Good on,


December 8, 2008 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Cecrow said...

About not being WOWED with CGI anymore, that's a telling point. It hasn't really happened for me since Jurassic Park (the first truly CGI movie, aside from small examples ... or you might make a case for T2). The audience knows you can show them literally anything now and make it look real, so there's no surprises or sense of awe left. It's almost totally disillusioned me towards big budget flicks, when I know for fact there will never be another experience like the 1977 theatre when a Star Destroyer flies over your head. If you were too young to be there: imagine a real one suddenly appearing in the sky, maybe you can get the slightest sensation of what it was like. All that's left today to wow us is the story, which in a way puts us back where we started. The special effects/CGI honeymoon is over

I don't think Hollywood's noticed or entirely adjusted yet though, since they still make a bundle on that sort of thing. Trouble with movies like Harvey is, for that genre of movie its audience of today *expects* tons of CGI attached or $12+ can't be withdrawn from their pockets. (If it's about aliens, you better darn well show me the alien, etc. Movies like "Signs" would have been better in the "Harvey" era.) If "Harvey" had been released this year, it would have received fantastic reviews from everybody who watched it, and close to 100% on Rotten Tomatoes - but that wouldn't have been very many people (although word of mouth would have resulted in a ton of rentals ... and then we would have had "Son of Harvey".)

December 8, 2008 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Kalligenia said...

Hmmm... maybe I should take Caspian off my Netflix list then. I was okay with the first Narnia film. Maybe if I put it on mute and tell the story myself, it might be better?

The latest book to screen (well, TV screen) I've been horrified over has been Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule. They called it Legend of the Seeker. It's awful. They should include Richard's AND Kahlan's chests as characters because they get a lot of screen time.

December 8, 2008 8:43 AM  
Blogger TK42ONE said...

Pat, I think what's saddest of all, is the number of people commenting on CGI, Prince Caspian, and Hollywood when clearly Jimmy Stewart is not only a better actor, but Harvey is a better story. He was in countless movies that were cheesy, sure, but he was also in countless movies that were awesome!

Rear Window, Rope, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, these are all good examples of a great story.

So I'll challenge everyone out there. How many of you have seen "Only Five Came Back" with Lucille Ball?

Thought so.

December 8, 2008 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Jaimo said...

C Nickolas: I read the Narnia books for the first time last year, at the age of 36...I am very glad I did. I had always meant to read them as a kid, but there were so many other books to read, I never got around to it. If you can appreciate a good fantasy story, you will enjot hese books even as an adult.

I haven't seen Harvey...just added it to my Netflix (the original). There was a remake done in 1999 as well.

December 8, 2008 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Jaimo said...

C Nickolas: Oh yah, about the whole underlying Christian theme in the Narnia books...I too had read known of this before I read the books. Being non-religious myself, I found it didn't bother me.

December 8, 2008 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The annoyance on me is that they make movies with little story last forever, yet so few get the screen time they deserve. Pat, if they make NOTW into a screen project, tell them you want joss whedon to make a series out of it. It's the only way the "feel" of the book will be there.

December 8, 2008 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What you have to remember is that Goodkind's books are god-awful horse tripe in the first place. Seriously, someone cool enough to like Lewis and Pat is actually a fan of those? Come on.

Frankly I'm glad the adaptation (I made myself watch the first two episodes in the premier) is sucking since those books are an abomination of both fantasy and writing in general.

December 8, 2008 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I SO agree about story. I am the same with finishing things, but my 'stop-the-movie' moment was with Eragon... Absolutely don't think they even ready the bloody book, rushed, moshed. It sort of ruins your day, doesn't it? I ALMOST hope they don't make TNOTW into a movie. AND Harvey IS timeless.

December 8, 2008 12:30 PM  
Anonymous pdxtrent said...


As I was reading your post, I thought about some of my favorite movies of the last few years, and barring Mr. and Mrs. Smith(for reasons that have nothing to do with story), none of them are big budget movies.
The reason is simple, a big budget movie is written by committee, and just as no war can be won if run by committee, nothing good was ever written by committee. Just as there are a thousand things that can go wrong in a story written by one author, the number is squared when written by two, and cubed when three people start working on a script.
If you want good storytelling, try Mirrormask, made on the cheap, but the effects add to the movie, not trying to distract you from the flaws.
Another good one recently was of all things a gay zombie movie called Otto, that I had to literally be dragged kicking into. And in places, the movie does fall apart, but even those places are still interesting. Sometimes gross, sometimes creepy, but always interesting.
Of course, this is what indie cinema is for...... story.

Word Verification:
Upsine- Bears on anti-depressants.

December 8, 2008 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent. Never had any other point of view. At least not for a long time now.

December 8, 2008 2:47 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

I tend to just lurk on blogs silently, but i felt this needed a response. The Chronicles of Narnia were the first 'real' books that I ever read. I too was disappointed with the movie, but I would like to note that it was less of a disappointment than either Return of the King or Eragon.

I would also like to mention that I loved TNOTW, it could quite possible be the best fantasy book I've ever read. Thanks Pat!

December 8, 2008 3:12 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I LOVE Harvey, and I second the recommendations for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Arsenic and Old Lace.

If you're looking for other great movies that tell a wonderful story and won't destroy you with CGI, an excellent relatively recent movie is The World's Fastest Indian. If you can find it, Happy-Go-Lucky was recently released in theaters in the U.S. and is also very good.

December 8, 2008 3:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yeah, Pat, what you said. Be glad you didn't finish Caspian; it funded a lot of in-jokes for several weeks. It's either really funny or really bad for one's blood pressure, and I chose to laugh.

Harvey and its peers are great films. All of my most favorite films were made well before 1970. There are more modern films with good scripts, but classics are classics for a reason.

To be fair, the Caspian film is not entirely useless -- it is extremely good material for an MST3K session.

December 8, 2008 4:33 PM  
Blogger Micah Cowan said...

You can't sit down and eat a whole plateful of frosting roses. Well, you can if you're four years old or mentally deficient.

Wait, did you just call me retarded?

December 8, 2008 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Kanna said...

The greatest evil done to Narnia was not done by Hollywood but by the publishers. After Lewis died, the screwed up the order. The first time I read Narnia I was in thrid grade and had gotten a box set from a book order. Naturally I started with the book labeled One on the bus home from school. When I got home and my mom saw I was reading the Magicians' Nephew she nearly fainted. Needless to say, when I reread them in the correct order I loved them.

Eragon is easily the worst book-movie crossover in existance. When I saw it, I almost ran screaming from the theater in pure agony. Barred by the people on either side of me, I sat there wishing they would all keel over dead so the movie would end and trying not to vomit.

December 8, 2008 6:30 PM  
Blogger sparkly_jules said...


I didn't say I was a fan of WFR: I read it, it entertained me in the time I needed entertaining, and I declined to move on to the rest of the series.

The best part of WFR is, WFR itself.

I was hoping that whoever was producing it could make something entertaining out of it. But the show, Legend of the Seeker, is actually worse, a lot worse, than the book.

I read a lot of different books and genres--you never know what you're going to get--and I usually finish them all. I'll stop at book I if I don't feel engaged enough to continue with a series.

I highly recommend Stirling's "Change" novels. Frankly, the best idea for a sci-fi/fantasy novel I've ever seen. Present company excepted, of course. ;-)


December 8, 2008 6:44 PM  
Blogger Jennylee said...

I would def watch prince caspian and the voyage of the dawn treader 89 version i have all of them and still watch them every once in awhile.

December 8, 2008 7:58 PM  
Blogger TheTheory said...

Ok, so I, like so many people, grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia. I've read them more times than I can count. As such, I absolutely abhorred the first movie. Utterly despised it. They got the characters so wrong I almost weeped.

I still went to see the second movie, in the theater, because of my commitment to the books. I figured it would suck as bad as the first one. But here's the thing I didn't count on: Prince Caspian is by far my least favorite of the novels. As such, I found that MOST of the changes (note the "most" and not the "all") actually IMPROVED the story. Still not a movie I would purchase... but it did make me somewhat excited for movie no. 3, whenever that happens.

December 8, 2008 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Wilfred said...

Am I the only one who found the CGI in PC to be extremely lacking?

Especially the centaur's movements were so incredibly off. It was like they had real actors walking around and then with cgi added the horsey bit to it, not even trying to make the leg movements look convincing.

December 8, 2008 8:19 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Okay. I don't want to suddenly change the focus of the thread here but, as I haven't watched Prince Caspian, to support the point I would direct you to "Van Helsing" of a few years ago. Two fulls hours of CGI (most of it bad) and a script that had clearly been penned by an eight year old boggles my mind (and not in a good way). How is it that "professional" film makers, the supposed experts in their field, can't identify a crappy script prior to dumping millions of dollars into it?

Nerd that I am, I watch a lot of Dr.Who. Have done for most of my life, and even when I was 10 I could see that the special effects were low budget crap. But the stories are, and almost always were, finely tuned and well thought out entertainment. Campy, sure, and quirky, but smart.

I hope that I'm not stepping on Pat's lucrative movie deal when I say this, but here's hoping the Name of the Wind never hits theatres. ;-)

December 8, 2008 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Pat for voicing the frustration that we always feel watching our precious text being transformed into 'Hollywood Blockbusters' I would like to also add to this rant 'The Golden Compas' Trashy trashy xx

December 8, 2008 10:39 PM  
OpenID bluharlequin said...

In the grand scheme of things, I didn't think Caspian was all that bad. Yeah, it screwed with some stuff, but have you read the book lately? There's not much there, truthfully. There's a whole lot of time spent on Lucy seeing Aslan while the other kids can not. It's a bit thin.
Anyway, movie not great, but certainly not crap. C+ or B- perhaps.

But American Beauty? Crap. YMMV.

December 8, 2008 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a case of Hollywood butchering the novel and still making a kickass movie is "The Big Sleep."

William Faulkner, THE William Faulkner, wrote the screenplay but had to change a lot about it because the novel involved gay porn, something not spoken off at the movie theaters of the 40s. But by the time the credits rolled, Raymond Chandler, the man who wrote that wonderful novel, was so confused that he couldn't figure out what the hell the movie was about.

But then again, Chandler really loved his whiskey.

December 9, 2008 1:52 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

I haven't watched PC yet as i was so put of by LTWATW i thought it was a quite a boring adaptation, it was an ok film that if it was on tv id probably half watch it but wouldn't go out of my way to see it. I too loved the books as a kid and re read them multiple times. But i have to say i was irratated by them when i reread them when the first film was coming out. I just didn't get that same excitement from them anymore, it was quite sad :( anyways now ive read youd blof Mt Rothfuss i certainly won't go out of my way to see PC. On a side note i think i saw someone earlier mention the old BBC 1989 LTWATW which i have to say i enjoyed a lot as a kid (might have something to do with the kid who played lucy is the doppelganger of my mum at that age!) not sure if its stood the test of time but i think people should check it out just to compare it to the modern film.
anyway great blog :)

December 9, 2008 3:26 AM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

So I'm reading some of the responses which are suggesting that you watch the BBC version of Narnia, which really surprised me. After all, that rendition deviates even -further- from the original story than the newest version. That, and guys in beaver suits just kind of scare me...

Anyway. I'm pleasantly surprised by Prince Caspian. Sure, it's not as close to the book as they could have made it (and the additional scene was a tad unnecessary), but, as a movie, I think it was well done. I don't think a movie has to follow the original source down to the letter to make it a good movie. Is it a poor rendition? Oh yes. But a bad movie in and of itself? Not at all.

Like Lord of the Rings. Good ol' PJ didn't follow the books completely (after all, it would have been impossible to have put everything into three four hour movies), but as far as the movies themselves went, they were great, IMHO. Poor rendition? Oh yes. Bad movies? Oh, Lord, no.

December 9, 2008 7:53 AM  
Blogger TK42ONE said...

Ditto on Stirling's books. Taylor Anderson is good. Kurt R. A. Giambastiani is better. S. M. Stirling is the best.

At least when it comes to the alternate-history genre.

December 9, 2008 8:11 AM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

just wanted to reply to Kenneth,
he said that some people were directing others to watch the BBC version of TLTWATW. Just wanted to say that when i did i made no illusion to it following the book more closely than the recent film. in fact i agree that it deviates as much as the recent film. but as i said i remember (this was over 15 years ago mind) it being good... and as i said i also remember the books being good which i later didn't enjoy. So try both the film and the old bbc version see which one you find better :)
And i forgot Harvey is a brilliant film i remember feeling the same trpedation at watching it but i loved it :) (fingers crossed they don't remake it or if they do please no Keanu Reeves!)

December 9, 2008 10:43 AM  
Blogger marky said...

I hate to be all Movie geek, but they did re-make Harvey. It was a 1972 made for TV release, starring Jimmy Stewart.

December 9, 2008 11:14 AM  
Anonymous jaimo said...

There is also a 1999 remake of Harvey

December 9, 2008 11:22 AM  
Blogger marky said...

Oh my God Jaimo, you are so right. In addition, Leslie Nielsen is in it. I have to see it! NOW!

December 9, 2008 11:45 AM  
Anonymous danna said...

omg. I thought I was the only one who thought Prince Caspian sucked. I honestly think that they totally killed the CGI, though. The special effects stunk. The first movie was brilliant though.

December 9, 2008 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Kaleb said...

I agree with movies based of of books. Has anyone watched Eragorn? That was a stupid movie but the book rocked.
You would think that when they make a book into a T.V series it would be closer since they have more time since there are sometimes 6 seasons. But do NOT watch the Legend of the Seeker if you have read The Sword of Truth series. I could not even finish one hour episode they butchered it up so much. How can they do that to good books?

December 9, 2008 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Timothy said...

Hmmm... I think I disagree with your opinion on Prince Caspian. They did work out a story arc for the characters, and I actually enjoyed Prince Caspian a lot. When was the last time you read Prince Caspian? I think the problem is that a lot of people read it when they were a lot younger, and their memories of it make it much more exciting. I have read them recently, and it was my least favorite book in the Narnia series. In fact it is actually structured fairly poorly in my opinion. I think the filmmakers did an exceptional job of adapting the story to a film.

About the effects, I don't think they were that spectacular. What made it interesting for me were the characters.

December 9, 2008 7:19 PM  
Blogger Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Pat, you had me at "verisimilitude"... but then you had to drag in Akron.

I love movies, even some bad ones, but I do wish a few more dimes would be spent on Story. (sigh)

Dr. Phil

December 9, 2008 11:50 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Harvey is one of my all-time favorites! Glad you liked it.

December 10, 2008 9:55 AM  
Blogger sammy said...

Thank you Pat! Thank you for writing this blog. It saved me the time it would have taken from writing it myself (as I was planning to as soon as I HAD the time in my relatively semi-busy/lazy schedule) since watching Prince Caspian earlier in the week.
I have always been a fan of alot of older movies because I feel people have settled for amazing special effects in exchange for poor acting and poor presentation.
I am glad you liked Harvey. I saw it first on stage in high school and when I found out it was a movie it went in my top 25 movies of all-time. Well, definitely in my top 50. heh. anyway, thanks again.

December 10, 2008 11:21 AM  
Blogger Weasel said...

This post has been removed by the author.

December 10, 2008 11:34 PM  
Blogger VMc said...

glad you enjoyed Harvey, Jimmie Stewart made some terrific movies.

December 11, 2008 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Likana said...

Your post reminded me of when I went to see Prince Caspian in the theater--the dollar theater of course, I'm a cheap grad student. Luckily I have the habit of always bringing alcohol with me to the movie theater. Unfortunately, this particular time I choose to bring beer without the bottle opener. About 20 min. into the film I was in a panic because the movie was lame and I couldn't get to my alcohol! I finally figured out a trick to the get the cap off and more or less enjoyed the movie after that from a drunken (and at times dizzying) haze. After all, it was pretty and I had plentify libations!

December 11, 2008 9:43 PM  
Blogger logankstewart said...

Just curious. Does Sarah talk in purple?

December 14, 2008 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have to agree, caspian was terrible, especially since Reepicheep was my favorite character, and this movie ruined that.

BUT, Harvey has been my favorite movie of all time since I was about 6. Definitely recommend seeing the play.

Want new book now please, can't wait till April.

December 15, 2008 3:25 PM  
Anonymous mama.thunder said...

I also grew up with the Narnia books, but reading them as a child - did not see the "christian-ness" of the books. As an adult - reading them again two years ago, I did. It didn't bother me. You can take it any way you want.
Just like in the Golden Compass Books. My neighbor won't let her 6th or 7th grade kids read those books, because of what she's "heard" about them. (that's a whole other blog topic, I'm sure). I won't see PC now for sure. TLTWATW wasn't a bad adaptation. But the Golden Compass!?!?!?!?!? How dare they!!! I was sooooo MAD when I got to the end of that movie. They did so so the first 1/3 to 1/2 and it just went into a totally different story after that. If they could manage to put Harry Potter onto screen in the same basic outline as the books - why couldn't they do it for these cherished (or sometimes hated) books we read as young adults?

If you want to read a book then see a movie that I personally felt was like taking the story out of my imagination and putting it onto the screen...then first read, then watch, "The Green Mile" (with Tom Hanks and I forgot the big burly black man's name) I was so thrilled to see a movie that was THE. BOOK. Period.

There was another one I was going to mention, but now I can't remember it.

Harvey has been my grandfathers' FAVORITE movie forever and ever. I didn't get the Harvey jokes and references till I was about ten or so - but he can watch that movie every day and still laugh as hard as the first time he saw it.

BTW - did the monkey in GC seem anything like the one you had imagined from reading the book? I think they got the Polar Bear right - and the Texan Air Balloon Pilot - but the story they put together for the movie and how they changed things that certain characters did - just ruined it for me.

Make a movie out of a book - and leave out details that you don't have time for - or imply it from certain scenes, but don't create something totally different and call it the same exact thing. (or give it a new name, and say it was inspired by a certain story....then we know to expect something different) I don't even think the Golden Compass itself was what was described in the books. Who knows what they will make the Amber Spy Glass look like!

Pat - I can't wait for your next book. And now my mom can't either. She just returned my TNOTW. I'm not big on re-reading anything, but I think I should re-read this one. (after I finish the Lord of the Isles series I'm reading). Thank you for writing something so wonderful, entertaining and page turning.

(and I will not be seeing twilight, no matter how handsome that young vampire man is, I loved the story and I want it to stay that way in my head.)

December 28, 2008 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are totally right, I hope you won't let one of this idiot from hollywood make a movie of the "Name of the wind" look what they did to Harry Potter, what a shame the only thing they did good out of a best-seller book was The Lord of the rings it diserves every penny they payed for it.

December 30, 2008 4:57 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

I don't know, Pat. I went back and re-read Prince Caspian after I saw the movie, and that story stank like old socks. I'm a big fan of Lewis (especially Mere Christianity), but Prince Caspian... The characters were secondary to the story. If Aslan was just going to show up and put a smack down on the Calormenes, why did he make four lil' Brits walk across a whole country to do it? How can those people keep feeling good about snuggling with large cats while other people are fighting and dieing?

February 6, 2009 10:21 AM  
Blogger April said...

I saw a link today to an article about how Spielberg is remaking Harvey. I then thought of this post, since after I read Name of the Wind (fantastic, BTW) I had to come check out your blog. Here's to hoping he doesn't cast Keanu Reeves.

August 2, 2009 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG. Spot on. Car chase, indeed. And on top of that, one of my favorite movies, going back all the way to my childhood in the colder regions of northern Europe. Love you, Pat.

August 15, 2009 9:27 PM  

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