“I don’t see people or the world in terms of good, bad, those polar opposites,” explained British actress Thandie Newton. “I keep trying to restore the correct view of things after my kids watch Disney movies: ‘Is he a baddie? Darling, there is literally no such thing.’” Newton is portraying Condoleezza Rice, in Oliver Stone’s film “W,” about the Bush administration.
Newton will have much to explain to her children if they see the new Disney film, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” because it boasts both good and bad characters.
Conversely, someone who would probably love it would have been Ronald Reagan. His mother, Nelle, raised him on similar stories.
”My mother always came into our room at bedtime and wedged herself between my brother and me to read us a story,” reminisced Reagan about his childhood. Sometimes the hero in the story was a knight in shining armor, willing to fight for God and the king. Many of the stories had great moral lessons, and it was through literature that she taught them her principles and values. One of her favorite themes in books and plays was that of the eventual triumph of good over evil. This theme was later to be played out in President Reagan’s presidency with his “Evil Empire” speech and the eventual downfall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Examples include King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the Three Musketeers, David and Goliath, and Queen Esther.
All are examples of heroes -- some real, some fictional -- that have inspired people through ages. Their stories are full of honor, courage, and self-sacrifice. These are the types of stories that people want to hear over and over. It is always good to see Hollywood tell one of these timeless stories with timeless truths. That is exactly what we have in “Prince Caspian.”
As a movie, it contains all the cinematic elements needed for a good show -- exciting action, beautiful scenery, a great story, and even well timed comic relief. However, it is the virtues contained within that make it a truly great movie, which will stand the test of time, not to mention the summer blockbuster season.
The movie is based on the popular children’s story of the same name by C.S. Lewis, one of the most influential Christian writers of the twentieth century. It should come as no surprise that a movie based on his book is filled with the same qualities that made the book a classic. Yet Hollywood seems to be in the habit of making movies that appeal to the worst in human nature rather than the best. Thankfully, Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’ step-son and heir of his literary legacy, produced the movie and was intimately involved in every step of its making. He knew what made the book great and made sure those elements were incorporated into the movie.
According to Mr. Gresham, “The underlying message is what Jack (C.S. Lewis) put in there. Faith, truth, justice, courtesy, chivalry, honor, personal commitment.” It teaches chivalry when Peter spares the king after wounding him, while Hollywood teaches ruthlessness to reach one’s ends. It teaches faith by showing how Lucy seeks Aslan, while the rest try to win using their own strength. It teaches truth rather than the easy way out when Edmund shatters the icy door to the White Witch. It shows love based on self-sacrifice when Reepicheep’s fellow mice-warriors are willing to chop off their own tales as a symbol of solidarity with their leader. Meanwhile traditional Hollywood can’t do much more than confusing love with lust.
What a breath of fresh air to see a movie with these messages!
Since the beginning of human history, people have told stories about heroes with these sorts of virtues. Not surprisingly, this is also what people want to see at the movie theater. Family value-oriented movies consistently do better than movies filled with explicit sex and gratuitous violence. Despite this fact, Hollywood continues to churn out the worst, even when sales statistics argue for the best. We need to continue to support movies like “Prince Caspian,” if for nothing more than the hope that Hollywood will recognize their complicity in causing the moral decay America currently suffers from.
We all want and need to be inspired, and classic stories are great vehicles to deliver messages of admirable virtues through entertainment. Hero stories teach the valuable lessons of praiseworthy behavior, and when the stories are told well, the time goes by quickly. Our whole family was amazed to find out that over two hours had passed since the fast-paced Prince Caspian had begun. When it was over not only did we leave the theater feeling good, but we felt that the price was well worth it. What a marketing concept!
We feel sorry for Thandie Newton. Her children will have trouble telling right from wrong and discerning good from bad. We are thankful that our mothers were more like Nelle Reagan, who worked to instill the value of virtue with awesome tales of heroes.