Reviving An Ooooooooooold Topic
After posting a couple weeks back about future film plans for James A. Owens' Here, There Be Dragons, I got to thinking of what directors I'd like to see attatched to all these upcoming fantasy pics. And foremost on my mind were the future Chronicles of Narnia installments, books which I fell in love with as a wee little fourth grader, and still enjoy reading today.
That being said, I was mostly disappointed by Andrew Adamson's big screen interpretation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and wouldn't mind another version of it someday. There were some terrible moments, like when Aslan quotes Christ on the cross ("It is finished!") at the end of the big battle, a line which you will not find in the book (I laughed aloud in the theatre when Aslan spoke it). But overall, the film just reminded me too much of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, and failed to hit the right note of child-like wonder and other-worldly adventure found in the novel.
(Then there were children with swords and other weapons, which works in written form, but on the screen was just a little disturbing. It didn't help that the 20 minute final battle near the end of the movie took all of one paragraph in the book. Lewis knew readers weren't going to want to imagine Peter hacking animals with bloodied blade. Adamson overlooked that.)
So here's who I would wrangle, if I were an all-powerful being, to direct each installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. What fun!
Terry Gilliam: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - The first installment needs just the right touch to set the tone for the remaining six books. And Terry Gilliam would be perfect. Don't think The Brothers Grimm, think Brazil by way of Time Bandits. Like I said, perfect.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet: Prince Caspian - I remember Prince Caspian showing oodles more of the peaceful animals and dwarves and manimals (for lack of a better word) of Narnia, and what better director to do that than Jeunet? The director of Amelie would bring the ruins and hidey holes of "Old Narnia" to life in his own fantastical way. Prince Caspian reads like a fairy tale, and Jeunet would be the ideal director to bring it to life.
Alfonso Cuarón: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Dawn Treader is basically a road trip, only with boats. There are some genuinely spooky moments in this book, and it definitely suggests Lewis understood his readers were grower older. From his work on Y tu mamá también, it's obvious Cuarón understands those themes, and his rendition of Harry Potter will most likely stand as my favorite in the series. His panoramic eye is no doubt capable of creating a cinematic feast on the high seas. Dawn Treader would most likely be a breathless film.
Guillermo del Toro: The Silver Chair - I'm basing this pick mostly on Pan's Labyrinth, a film which I have yet to see. But from what little I have seen, The Silver Chair would be the perfect project for Del Toro. I remember getting to the fourth book as a kid, and completely freaking me out. It was so outlandish and fantastic, also, quite possibly the darkest book of the series. Looking back, it almost had a psychedelic bent to it (though Lewis wouldn't have had any of that, seeing as he wrote it in 50s). In a perfect world, perhaps Del Torro would forgo some of the CGI and explore some Jim Henson-ish territory in bringing some of this book to life. Regardless, I'd expect an intense kid-flick.
Tim Burton: The Horse and His Boy - The Horse and His Boy is another fairy tale, and another road trip story, but told in a backwards sort of way. It's the kind of film that horses would make if they ruled the world and made fantasy films with talking boys as side-kicks. Sort of. It's a completely stand alone story, that doesn't follow the chronology of the first four books, which would allow a director like Burton to basically tell this story in whichever way he pleased. Computer animation? Sure! Stop-motion? Yes, please! Bollywood! Why not! I'd just let him run with the thing and pick up the larger storyline in the next pic.
Darren Aronofsky: The Magician's Nephew - Nephew is the closest Lewis gets in this series to sci-fi, with the discovery of dependable way to travel between Earth and other worlds like Narnia. It takes place chronologically before all the other books, and tells the story of the creation of Narnia, yet is set only 100 years in our past. Unlike any of the other books, a good portion of The Magician's Nephew takes place in urban London, and I'd just be tickled pink to see Aronofsky's version of England on the verge of the 20th century. There are some incredibly surreal yet very dramatic moments in this book, and looking at his upcoming pic, The Fountain, Aronofsky looks like he might be the guy to pull them off.
Ang Lee: The Last Battle - The final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia is an epic conclusion that also manages to be incredibly wistful for all that's come before. It speaks of a grand history and the end of an age. In more mundane hands, it could turn into apocalyptic drivel -- stuff we've seen before a million times. It would take a very romantic director to turn The Last Battle into a film deserving its title, and Ang Lee is one of the few directors who could pull it off. There are a number of very sad moments punctuating a story with incredible amounts of movement and evolution. It's a hard book to describe without getting into theology*, and translating it to film would require no small amount of subtlety and humility. Under Lee, it would be the perfect sendoff to a series very near and dear to my heart.
*And speaking of theology, let's just add Susan to the film version, even if she doesn't appear in the book. I understand Lewis' intentions as an author for excluding her, but as part of a truncated version of the original book, I don't think it works. Some fans might cry foul, but if Lewis were alive today, I think he would understand.