Chronicles of Narnia update: Dawn Treader movie heading into troubled waters

It appears that the long-delayed movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia series, has finally wrapped in Australia. And the word is that Michael Apted, who some had feared as a poor choice to direct the feature, has done nothing to prove his critics wrong. Julia Duin, writing recently in the Washington Times, says Apted seems intent on backing off the Christian theme in the book:

“Voyage” director Michael Apted, who has admitted to excising a lot of the religious connotations out of his 2007 film “Amazing Grace,” sounds double-minded.

The Narnia films, he told Rhema FM, a New Zealand Christian radio station, “present a challenge, for me to put the material out there in an evenhanded and interesting way; and not to be, in a sense, narrow-minded about it, either narrow-minded in a faith way or narrow-minded in an agnostic way. I have to open my heart to what the stories are about.”

“Narrow-minded in a faith way”? That’s going to rev up Christians to see this movie.

This truly is disappointing since many fans of C.S. Lewis’ work had been eagerly waiting to see how these literary treasures would be made into movies. When Disney bailed on the series in Decenber 2008 after The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian (which already started to drift from the series’ Christian theme), there was much doubt as to whether the series would continue. Fox picked up the series and Dawn Treader, which was scheduled for a May 2009 release, was pushed back to May 2010. Now, Druin reports, the movie will be released in December. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not that you couldn’t enjoy the movie, it’s just that knowing what the books are like and then seeing the story altered in ways that I’m sure Lewis would be displeased with would be a huge letdown.

As before, my advice would be to find the books. Read them, both for your own sake and your children’s. See exactly what Apted thinks is so “narrow-minded.”

HT: Trevin Wax

Movie thoughts: Can Narnia be fixed?

It took a month, but the Narnia movies will continue under a new distributor.:

Twentieth Century Fox has agreed to co-finance the third movie in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, pending approval of the final script and shooting budget. If all goes as planned, Fox and Walden Media, which controls the movie rights to C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s books, hope to be begin production on “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by late summer so it will be ready for holiday 2010 release.

First, however, Fox and Walden have to hire a screenwriter to do another pass on the script that was last rewritten by Richard LaGravenese, whose credits include “Freedom Writers” and “The Horse Whisperer.” The movie companies are looking to make the film for about $140 million. Michael Apted, who made “Amazing Grace” and the 1999 Bond flick “The World Is Not Enough,” is on board to direct.

Producer/author Mark Joseph has some ideas about how the series can be fixed. One of those is finding a new director since he is not thrilled about the choice of Apted to replace Andrew Adamson:

Some saw hope when a new director signed on to direct the third installment, but this choice only compounded the problem. As head of the Directors Guild, he had proudly led the charge in crushing traditionalist groups who had invented devices that allowed desperate red-state films fans to clean up their favorite movies, then cemented his status as being out of touch with the types of fans who made up Narnia’s base when he seemed to brag to reporters about gutting the biopic of the devoutly religious British lawmaker William Wilberforce of its religion:

“Then this script arrived, which was pretty much a straight biopic of Wilberforce – which probably veered more into his Christian side than it did the political side,” he had said. “So I thought if I could persuade them to put the politics right more in the front of it – to make that the engine of the story, and certainly deal with his belief system and his religion and all that – then this might be something that would really be good for me to do it. So I did manage to persuade that, on all sorts of levels because I said it makes the character more interesting, because his political skills and political achievements are enormous, and we would move away from the idea of kind of making him an artifact, a kind of saint-like figure; it would give him real personality, real dimension.”

Joseph goes on to say that Apted’s reluctance to embrace the Christianity of the Narnia stories would make him a poor choice and lists  10 ways that the Narnia films can be saved. As I mentioned in a comment thread, you would enjoy the movies, but I am so thankful for the books. You would do well for your children and yourself to read them. They are a treasure.

C.S. Lewis was more than The Chronicles of Narnia

\Ligonier Ministries has graciously made available its January issue of Tabletalk magazine, which looked at the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. With Prince Caspian opening this weekend, it is as good a time as any to look at the man whose writing have inspired many people, myself included.

It has been a treasured memory of mine the time I spent reading through the Chronicles of Narnia books (in the originally published order, not the modern order) with my children. First of all, Lewis was a great writer, and it is good for children to hear and read (when they could) what good literature looks like. Secondly, the Christian message is clear throughout the books in telling the story of Narnia, Aslan and the struggle that ultimately ends in the triumph of good over evil.

But Lewis wrote much more than children’s books, and you would be missing much if you didn’t look into his other writings. Books like “Mere Christianity” or “The Screwtape Letters” or essays like “The Weight of Glory” or “The Four Loves.” Lewis is a writer who puts your mind to work and points you to God.

So, while watching a movie is enjoyable, it would also be good to pull out a good book by C.S. Lewis and stretch your mind a little.

HT: Ligonier Ministries