Comics Ate My Brain

November 15, 2005

Take Your Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 1:25 am
If the Chronicles of Narnia all get adapted for film the way The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe has, at some point the producers will have to decide the order in which to film them. If memory serves, the fifth book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, is a prequel taking place a few decades before LW&W. My recent editions of the Narnia books have been re-ordered, apparently in line with C.S. Lewis’ wishes, so that Nephew is #1 and LW&W is #2.

Naturally this brings me to Star Wars, and the opportunity which exists now to watch all six movies in succession. The end of Revenge of the Sith is objectively a downer, but not really, because longtime fans are happy that at last it’s time for the originals. Thus, the reversed order of the movies’ releases makes it impossible for us today to gauge fully the intended emotional impact of Episode IV.

Of course I watched Episode IV not long after finishing ROTS, but I tried to see it through those hypothetical new eyes, which would be making connections from the point of view of the prequels. In that respect it does play out a little differently. At first everything is familiar: there are the droids, still on Bail Organa’s starship, and there’s Anakin/Vader, still in the suit; but hey! that must be Leia, all grown up! Spotting Jawas a few scenes later, the hypothetical viewer might then realize we’re back on Tatooine, and so not far from our first glimpse of Luke.

Thus, Star Wars (the original, that is) still holds some surprises, and some key scenes gain a little weight. Regardless, the tone of Episodes IV-VI is significantly different, and I wonder how much time one should let pass between the end of Episode III and the beginning of Episode IV. Fans of the original trilogy brought 16 years’ worth of expectations to their first viewing of The Phantom Menace. What sort of expectations will those hypothetical viewers of tomorrow bring to Episode IV, having been exposed first to the prequels?

Whatever those expectations are, it’s fairly certain that they won’t have twenty-some years to form — or even the three years us old-schoolers spent stewing over the end of The Empire Strikes Back. I do think a bit of down time — maybe a day, maybe a week — might be in order, just to get one’s imagination flowing about the next installment. It’s nice that the six movies can now be watched over the course of one (very long) day, but I know from personal experience that four in a row is pretty taxing.

Back in 1998 the Kentucky Theater showed each of the Special Editions as Saturday matinees over three weeks. That worked out well, and was eminently appropriate considering the films’ serial ancestry. Revenge of the Sith presents an extensive set of cliffhanger endings, with heroes in exile and twin suns setting on a galaxy in turmoil, but as convenient as it is to salve the hurt by popping the originals immediately into the DVD player, arguably that’s not how they were intended to be viewed.

Today the end of Sith plays on the audience’s memories of the originals. Future fans should allow themselves the time to imagine their own second trilogy, just as we imagined our own prequels.

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5 Comments »

  1. Funnily enough, The Magician’s Nephew was the first C. S. Lewis book I read. In all honesty, I think it works better as a prequel read late in the game. (Or it did for the ten-year-old me, anyway)

    Comment by iamza — November 16, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  2. This debate is getting me in a lot of trouble in college. I’m a rabid supporter of ‘Magician’s Nephew’ being 5th, not 4th. Apparently Lewis himself didn’t care either way, but I still have a lot of fun getting into arguments with people over it.

    Comment by Ben — November 17, 2005 @ 12:42 am

  3. Well I have a feeling that if they do go forward with all the books, they’ll skip the prequels until the end, by that time most of the actors will be older (if I remember right there aren’t a lot fo the LW&W characters in the prequels) and hire new actors for the new parts. Just like they would do if they decided/got the rights to do The Hobbit.As for Star Wars…Thanksgiving my wife and I are going to view them in Sequential order just to see if the prequels shape our perception of ep4-6.

    Comment by Lefty — November 17, 2005 @ 11:39 pm

  4. With regard to the Narnia books, Google yielded this site. I probably should have read it before doing the introductory paragraph, but honestly I was more concerned with Star Wars. Silly me. Should really read the Narnia books again.I too think it works better as a prequel, with LWW as the first book in the series. However, I think Phantom Menace works well as an introduction to the GFFA.I envy you, Lefty. At some point I want to do a marathon of Episodes I-VI, but after writing this I could only jusify a two-day (if not six-week!) affair.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — November 18, 2005 @ 4:01 am

  5. Okay, I won ‘t give away my inner publishing sources, so you may or may not take this with a grain of salt, but the resequencing of the Narnia books was done by HarperCollins with an eye to helping a lesser-selling title (The Magician’s Nephew) sell more strongly in the series. Done, apparently, with the agreement of and perhaps at the instigation of the Lewis estate and heirs, but not specifically with the original wishes of Lewis himself.Witness the similar movement of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s non-Laura book Farmer Boy from #3 in the Little House series to its current position as #2. Ingalls Wilder’s publisher? HarperCollins.Cynical, yes. But that is indeed the way the publishing industry, which I’ve worked in for twenty years, works.

    Comment by Anonymous — November 19, 2005 @ 4:46 am


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