When I was a sophomore in high school, I was convinced I was the most legit sixteen-year-old I knew. Why, you might ask? My college-age sister took me and my sister backpacking, and we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail together. We were cold, we had very questionable supplies made for car camping, I almost fell off a precipice when my knee gave out, and it was the coolest thing I had ever done.
Every single time we arrived at remotely rocky terrain, we turned to each other, looked one another in the eye, and said, “I said to myself, I said, TREACHEROUS.”
To the average human, this is nonsense. But to a family such as ours who delights in obscure references, this allusion to the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was perfect. It perfectly captured the youthful adventure we were on. You read that correctly. Not the 2005 Disney cinematic experience starring Tilda Swinton and James McAvoy, but the crusty 80s version of the same name.
It involves full-grown men wearing beaver costumes, animated ghosts, and a giant lion puppet. In other words, it’s perfect in every way.
Movies based on books are too often a disappointment. I spend years pouring over the pages, falling in love with the weird thoughts of the characters, and enjoying the well-thought-out endings. Then I go to the theater and find that they aged the main character six years so they could cast him as a hot dude and that they transformed the ending so it could involve cooler CGI effects.
It often feels like the life of the story has been sold out to grab attention and make money. Thus I find myself wanting to throw my nine-dollar bucket of popcorn at the screen and storm out of the theater.
This particular version of the Chronicles of Narnia falls into none of those movie-adaptation stereotypes. It’s more like poorly funded fan fiction than anything else. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s full of all the love and attention of someone who adores the original novel for what it was, and it’s unencumbered by the need for cinematic glory.
After all, the original series of books are good because they dwell in the slow and tiny moments that are important in life. As puppet-Aslan breathes kinda weirdly and his lips fail to match up with what he is saying, you can feel the warmth and presence of the book Aslan. As the camera pans to Lucy crying one too many times, you can feel how overwhelming the death of Aslan would be for a child. The only thing the movie is trying too hard to do is keep original lines from the book, which can be forgiven in a heartbeat. Altogether, it feels as though it is the world as a child might envision it in a dream: a mishmash of animation styles and costume quality acted out by little-known actors.
As much as I want you to go straight to your computer and watch these yourself, I worry that it may be hard for you to enjoy these movies if you didn’t grow up watching them. They are slow-moving, they have absolutely ancient special effects, and the violence is non-existent despite the fact that a literal war occurs in the film. But I think it’s worth noting that there are movies out there that are not just trying to sell something.
The best kind of movies exist for the love of stories themselves. They dwell on the painful slowness of human experience and emotion. And sometimes they sacrifice a bit of thrill for a more genuine feel.
I will never get sick of hearing that perfectly scored French horn theme cranking through my speakers as Edmund is being carried away by a hand-drawn griffin. Sure, it’s nearly suffocatingly influenced by nostalgia. But it’s the kind of movie that you dream of coming home to throughout your Divine Comedy exam at the close of your first semester at college.
Susannah Boersma graduated from Calvin University in May of 2020. She studied secondary English education. She lives in Grand Rapids and works at Carson City-Crystal High School as an English teacher.