I wish the King Kong movie no ill, and I look forward to seeing it at some point. But I’m also pleased to see that the Narnia movie appears to have had a better opening weekend. It sends a helpful message to Hollywood.
A letter in the current issue of NRODT responds to my recent piece in the mag about C.S. Lewis and Narnia. Kate Hill of New York writes in and suggests that certain books shouldn’t be made into movies: “I am afraid that the inevitable onslaught of action figures, games, and candy will obscure the lessons which [Lewis] tenderly conveyed. … Can we not leave these beloved volumes where they belong: up on a shelf near the fireplace, waiting for young minds to fall under their spell?”
It’s a good question, and I’m a firm believer in the general rule that books are better than movies. I really enjoyed the new Narnia film, but the book is better. Same with The Lord of the Rings. Yet I’m also glad these movies were made. I enjoy seeing how original works of literature inspire new generations of artists — I’m a sucker for productions of Shakespeare’s plays set in exotic locations; I like it when established poets such as Seamus Heany reinterpret Beowulf or W.S. Merwin tackles Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and I’m a big fan of rock bands performing covers. And I can think of no better way to encourage a new generation of readers to pull an old classic off the shelf near the fireplace than by making a first-rate movie of the book. For those who have mixed feelings about the idea of Narnia on film, there’s an easy option available: Go see King Kong instead.