I’ve mentioned before that I usually prefer the book to the movie (see The Faramir Rant). The Beloved Husband usually rolls his eyes when this topic comes up and quietly excuses himself because he knows that this is one debate that I will throw myself into wholeheartedly.

The base of my argument is this – most of the time, the book came first. The author had a specific story that he brought to life through the printed word. It contains a complete plot-line with twists and turns, climaxes and points of exposition that flow with each other and are tied together by the author’s overarching vision. Tampering with that plot-line changes the story. And, if readers have fallen in love with that story, those changes can be rather jarring.

One of the most recent examples is the movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I’ll add the disclaimer now, that Dawn Treader is my favorite Narnia novel, therefore, anything other than pure adherence to the book was going to tick me off. Knowing this, the Beloved Husband and I decided to skip seeing it in theaters while I prepared myself for disappointment.

All prejudice aside, the movie wasn’t that bad, but there were two changes that made me growl. The first being that the makers of the movie made the Dark Isle the main evil. The Dark Isle was barely a full chapter in the book! It was a stepping stone to getting the last lost lord – that was it! None of this “spreading and taking human sacrifice” nonsense. The second change that infuriated me did so not only because it strayed from the book, but also because it strayed from the time line established by the other movies! The seven swords given to the seven Telmarines  by Aslan in Narnia’s Golden Age… urgh!

My problems with that particular change are as follows:

  • The Telmarines did not exist during Narnia’s Golden Age. That belonged to Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter.
  • The Telmarines, in fact, effectively ended the Golden Age by taking over Narnia and driving the indigenous magical peoples into the forest or, worse, making them forget they were ever magical at all (I refer to the talking beasts who forgot how to talk).
  • The Telmarines had never even seen Aslan. They regarded him as a myth or a monster to frighten children.
  • The second movie, Prince Caspian, establishes this timeline and holds to it. Now we have a discontinuity within the movies as well as between the movie and the book.

Now, I understand that the original Dawn Treader was just a series of adventures, loosely tied together by the overarching plot of “Find the seven missing Lords because they were nice to my dad and it’s safe for them to come back now”. The need for a villain to tie everything together in the movie version is pretty evident. The Dark Isle wasn’t even a bad choice – it added the theme of overcoming temptation to the story, which was pretty cool. It was the stupid swords! They never had any reason to exist! Oooh!

When it comes to the changes between book and movie, one of my friends once said, “To omit is to say ‘I don’t have enough time”, which is okay. To add or change says, ‘I can do better’ which is inexcusable”.

I’d have to agree. Omitting plot points (like Tom Bombadill in Lord of the Rings) simply comes across as “there’s too much that needs to be here; I need to cut what I can out”. While disappointing, it’s tolerable to the literary fan. Adding or changing plot points seems like arrogance most of the time, since what the director is doing is saying, “My vision is better, and this is what must be done to make it my vision”. The problem is, the story was never his vision, it was the original author’s. If the director or screenwriter liked it enough to make it a movie, wouldn’t they want to stay true to the story they loved?