Monthly Archives: March 2019

DTV Wonders: Chronicles of Narnia (1979)

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This is the second TV/film adaptation of Narnia and oddly the older they are the more obscure they are.

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The first one was ten episodes in 1967.  Only two (episodes 1 and 8) are not lost. I found them on youtube, and they are low quality, bad music, and mostly this guy pictured above narrating.  Obviously it is…  According to IMDB it is the best of all the adaptations?  Guess I should check it out at some point.

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3rd is what I call the best one (unless 1967 comes through) made by BBC, and the last one is where I was introduced to the series, the Walden film.  I never liked it, as it takes itself far too seriously. Our subject is the second adaptation, an animated film from 1979. It came out two years after The Hobbit.   Since they both are fantasies from 20th British authors with directors best known for holiday shorts I presume this was made to cash in on the Hobbit. Just liek the Walden film was made to cash in on Jackson’s Middle Earth adaptations.  Of note, it is an American film, but for British audiences they made another one with British accents. Normally I would review the original, but the British version is all I could find. From the few scenes I could find with the original cast they are notably better than their British counterparts.

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The opening credits are bland, but based on the parentheses I think they planned on sequels. The only god thing about the prequels is this is directed by Peanuts specials director, Bill Melendez. He is great at children’s entertainment and Christian work. That does not mean he is good at adaptations.  Surely his simplistic style will go well with the tiht budget of made for TV movies.

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The story starts in media res where Lucy tells everyone about the wardrobe and is not believed.  The animation is  not appealing (and Susan gets way taller later), but at least everyone is easy to tell apart.  Unless I say otherwise always assume the animation is really bad.  It is not hideous, but it is not fun to look and no one moves very well either.  Lucy then has a flashback on her bed about being in Narnia, and I think the story is easy to follow. Sure new viewers will not know why they are in a strange house, but I think most children could guess a few reasons.  Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus and gets plenty of rather easy to follow exposition at the beginning of the film instead of the middle of the first act. The problem is Tumnus’s design.

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None of the designs are very good, but this is the worst.  Wait, in the book he actually described very similar to this, except for the green hair.  Like the Walden film the problem is Mr. Tumnus’s scene just drags on and on.  The drill from the original book is kept.  He was supposed to kidnap her and instead warns her about the white witch (I do not think she was called Jadis yet in the book, and I take this as foreshadowing a film of The Magician’s Nephew which was never made), and he escorts her back to the human world.  Edmund always has an angry look on him, and he refuses to believe her. He later catches her going into the wardrobe, and he follows her to prove there is no magical land in the wardrobe. Instead he finds snow and The White Witch.

The biggest weakness in this children’s film is the villain. I never liked the Walden film, but she was done very well there. In there and in BBC she also shows the power of evil as a tempting force that we may think is good until we are in trouble.  Here she shouts everything and is super obviously evil.  She keeps threatening to harm Edmund instead of make him think she is good.  In this scene she hardly mentions making Edmund a king and keeps talking about Turkish delight pushing the part where Edmund agrees to betray his siblings for Turkish delight. The problem is they never mention the candy being enchanted making his reasons less understandable.  Thankfully Edmund’s whining  keeps the scene watchable, as he is the best character in the series due to his flaws, even if this film harms his motivation.  He and Lucy go back and he tells Peter and Susan that there is no Narnia.

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The older two talk it over with the professor who is just dull here (a problem Walden also had).  All four then venture into the wardrobe and find Narnia.  None of his wisdom that mirrors Christian apologetics comes through.  Unlike Walden they do not waste time acting like finding snow is so whimsical and let the plot move forward. Edmund gives his lie away by mentioning pathways, and Peter nearly strangles him.  It took nearly one third of the way, but the film is good now.

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They go to see Mr. Tumnus, but his door is in need of maintenance.  A note says he has been captured by the Queen’s secret police.  Later Peter and Edmund have an interesting conversation that is normally removed from the adaptations. Edmund tells Peter that Tumnus may have been lying about protecting Lucy and he is a villain while the Queen is the hero. Peter is mildly considering it. This would be more interesting if the Witch was not so obviously terrible, but they at least help children realize that who you think is a villain is not always the case.  Edmund’s best point still stands, none of them know the way back home.  They met Mr. Beaver who tells them about them being the chosen ones, and Aslan will help them.  They make a big point about Aslan being the son of the Emperor and that Aslan is very scary even to his followers. That is very accurate to Jesus.  Despite him preaching peace and being based on forgiveness he horrified the priests and the Angels always have to say “do not be afraid.”

Edmund leaves for the witch, and all three adaptations did this scene differently. This film basically copied the book where Edmund has internal monologue, and most of it is exactly like the book. As my brother pointed out most of the best parts of the book is not the plot but the thoughts the characters have, which they would naturally not say to their family.  The film shows them thinking it, which is fine, but that works on paper way better than film.  Walden did this scene the worst by doing what they normally do, have a lengthy scene of characters just walking. BBC did it the best by having Edmund argue with himself in a reflection.  When Edmund mocks a stone lion viewers here will at least know he thought it was Aslan. I also love it how he promises to make roads when he is king.  It shows how he does want to help the land, he still mostly cares about himself, his methodical thinking, and desire for greatness in only one sentence.

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Unfortunately we then meet the worst character, the wolf captain. He just acts so rowdy like he is completely new to being a secret police member when he is supposed to be a seasoned professional.  The witch obviously turns on Edmund and immediately proclaims she will kill them all and the stone Mr. Tumnus cries.  The beavers and other humans flee to a hiding place. They see several animals celebrating that it is turning into Spring and the animation then gets notably better (less bad). They see the witch turn them into stone from a distance, and Edmund is showing way more emotion than anyone else, as he is shivering in fear and looking horrified.  Some grass is also poking through the snow. The problem is the heroes are walking instead of running making this seem less intense than it should when they flee the witch.  Eventually the witch’s sled stops and Edmund finds himself acting as a pack animal.

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The heroes finally get to Aslan and his army. I like the golden design, which makes him look more amazing than the average lion.  You also see their fear when they debate who goes first to meet him.  Aslan instead is welcoming, excited, and warm to them.  I could also hear his concern for Edmund. Sure he shows some of the sexism that was in the original book, but since women only recently started actually fighting regularly in wars I will not fault this much. In a cool scene the army then rescues Edmund from the Witch. The army beats the witch, but she escapes by magically disguising herself as a tree stump. Unfortunately this makes problems later.  Like why she did not try that against Aslan later.

We then get to one of the most iconic parts.  The Queen points out that by the ancient rules made by the Aslan’s father all traitors belong to her and Aslan has to bring Edmund to her. If not all Narnia will be destroyed in fire. Now that the witch is showing the side of evil as a destroyer her over acting is working way better… Until it drags on too long. He is able to get the witch to mysteriously relent. The best part is how Aslan reacts.

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He just looks so irritated with her overacting.  As all who know the story can predict, he then surrenders himself where he is sacrificed on a stone table. The movie shows his sadness and worry like Jesus had at Gethsemane, but he is not beaten enough. He rises from the dead and he does something that I do not think any other adaptation kept, he then plays with the girls.  I am happy to finally see it, as it shows this keeps the original’s mood. Contrary to what the Walden film did Narnia actually had a light hearted tone that was balanced with its religious symbolism. This version succeeds as a micro-adaptation while Walden only worked as a macro-adaptation.  He also says there is a battle going on and they need to get reinforcements by freeing the witch’s prisoners. He wastes time with a speech after freeing them. In a serious work this and the playing is a problem, as that time is best spent on the battle, but in this work it does not detract.  It is not taking the battle that seriously as Aslan already won the battle for good by beating death. Also as shown in the battle the heroes are being turned to stone (curable) not dying. The battle itself is quite Bad. Large battles are hard to animate with a good budget, and this is really bad except for a brief scene where Peter and Edmund are nearly killed by projectiles. Edmund heroically destroys the wand only to seemingly fall unconscious on the spot.  Aslan then jumps on the witch, and she turns to smoke.  It looks more like she teleported to safety rather than being killed.  Melendez is not good at directing battles.

Aslan then crowns the four children kings and they rule a golden age for around twenty years until they go back home.  The professor says “…This is only the beginning of your adventures in Narnia.” I think this confirms my theory that Melendez planned to adapt all seven books.

I think this is the most faithful adaptation. The story is the best part, but the animation really weakens the film.  I still consider the BBC version to be the best, and I am torn on whether I consider this to be better than the Walden film.  The visuals are way worse, and this also has big pacing problems where they move to slow, but the music is better, the dialogue is better, and the story matches the mood better.  Granted the witch and battles are inferior.

As an adult man I would not say I liked it, but I think ten year old me would have liked it.

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DTV Wonders: Ultra Instinct Shaggy

This is actually called Scooby-Doo: Legend of the Phantosaur, but the scene where Shaggy beats up a biker gang is what everyone writes about.  It has become a huge source of memes, and now is the time to decide if the film is actually good or just an interesting scene.

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The opening credits are in a very abstract style, and I like this in spite of Velma and Fred’s weird hair. It helps to stick out from the hordes of Scooby-Doo films.  Some more good news is it has the same cast as the best series, “Mystery Incorporated.”

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The film plot starts with Shaggy violating the laws of physics by screaming for several days in a row, and the doctor is told why.  The gang explains it was only a normal day for them, chasing ghosts. The doctor is skeptical (defeating the Evil Entity did not make the news after all), and he says Shaggy has a rare condition, overactive fear stimuli.  He forbids Shaggy from entering the mystery machine.  Already he is my main suspect. Being good friends they go to “La Serena: The Least Haunted place in America.” I love this reference to Crystal Cove. They head there in the new “The Mustard Machine.”

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They stay with the eccentric Mr. Hubley, who jokes about dressing as a ghost to scare the locals off to buy their land. Safe to say he is the red herring. When getting food Scooby runs into the Phantosaur.

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I find the design lacking, but the atmosphere is silent, which helps the scary mood. Fred, Daphne, and Velma meet some other suspects/characters. like professor Svankmejer.

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Based on her design, which is not obviously evil, but somewhat stuck up looking I guess she is the villain. They also meet the worst character in the film, Winsor. Winsor looks like a male clone of Velma, and they fall in lust, and every scene with them is just slow.  Then the Phantosaur attacks destroying equipment and chasing everyone. We then get a much more intense chase scene than usual, no song and hardly any talking. Shaggy goes unconscious and Scooby carries him away long enough for Fred to ram the dinosaur with The Mustard Machine.  Hubley explains the legend of the Phantosaur. Native Americans made a curse on attacking Europeans by reviving an ancient monster (planing on a bear). It was a large sharptooth who instead drove out the natives and Europeans.

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Hubley then hypnotizes Shaggy into being fearless when he hears the word “bad.” He also accidentally hypnotizes himself into forgetting his own word, and only Scooby is even trying to find out the word.  This plot is dumb, but the mood is not that serious anyway, and it does set up the good stuff only one third into the run time.  Shaggy and Scooby go to an all you can eat diner and make the owner consider bankruptcy.

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Daphne finds off dinosaur tracks, and that is character re-railment.  In the first series Daphne’s main contribution is she was the most observant and best clue finder. It was not until “Mystery Incorporated she got that niche back.  Back with Shaggy he is told “bad” and become the fearless fighter who wipes out a biker gang in a fight.  The great part is the reaction from Scooby and all the locks and wrestling moves Shaggy uses. Then the leader, Tex, comes.

 

While surrounded by his beaten companions Tex challenges Shaggy to a friendly motorcycle race on Dead man’s peak, dead man’s tray, dead man’s bluff, dead man’s curve, and dead man’s avenue.  Shaggy accepts and proudly admits it will be his first ever motorcycle ride.  Tex is enthusiastic about Shaggy’s craziness and promises not to beat him too badly bringing back normal Shaggy.

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Fred and Daphne see two people from a mining company who are obvious red herrings.  They think it is solved except Fred “still hasn’t caught anyone in a net yet.”  Velma is too distracted by Winsor to be of any help.

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Before the motorcycle race Tex brings “other guy” back, and Ultra Instinct Shaggy has a small lead until Tex nearly falls to his death and Shaggy saves him.

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This is where it becomes clear that “Other Guy” is still Shaggy just missing the fear. He is still the same selfless guy, but now more heroic.  The Phantosaur attacks and Shaggy thinks “bad…” meaning Scooby has to save him. The bikers and the rest of Mystery Inc. flood out the mining inc guys and the Phantosaur’s circuits are fried.  The two are arrested and Daphne points out that was solved earlier than usual, as they are only at the 53 minute mark. They go back to Hubley’s home where the holograph technology is gone, and they find velociraptor claw marks and footprints. Then they find…

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Again this is lacking. Their introduction is too quickly paced for any sense of dread, and their animation is stiff. Granted it then gets good with slow, dreadful action and good sounds, but on a re-watch this is weird.  The dinosaurs are overweight college students who are trying to eat people.  They even eat a cake version of Scooby and Shaggy that was quickly made.  The raptors run outside where things are worse (except for the viewers).

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Now this is great. The dinosaur has fire breath, people are in terror, the plot is fast enough for action, but slow enough for the atmosphere.  The design is great.  The raptors get more drool.  Then Tex declares “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s ghost dinosaurs.” The gang tries scaring them off until they eventually leave. They go to the professor who is evacuating, and her students have already left.  Shaggy notices all the cars are still there even though the grad students supposedly just left.  Fred makes a successful trap with flame throwers and Professor and Winsor run away. It was a hologram with heated air.

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The professor found a preserved Allosaurus in the quartz and they needed to remove the town to get it out without anyone else noticing.  The entire crew of students was in on it.  They needed it out secretly and it was under public ground. It was the source of the Phantosaur myth, and they were inspired by the other fake Phantosaur. They use the explanation music from Mystery Incorporated, which I love. They had charges to blow the ground off, but they then go of due to a mistake Daphne makes meaning the cave they are all in is about to be mush.  Thankfully professor says “bad” bringing a new leader to action.

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In the very first episode of Scooby-Doo it was shown that Shaggy is a gymnast champion, and here he is jumping everywhere to get them to safety. He is doing all the work getting all seven out, and this is great. He is then one jump from getting out and getting help until Daphne says “not bad.” Scooby realizes the word but his impediment means he cannot say it or successfully communicate it. Shaggy is now panicking as the cave collapses, but Fred tells him everything Other Guy did is something he can do.  Normal Shaggy goes for it in a surprisingly slow and tense scene. He has to jump, climb, and jump on moving rocks.

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Peter Jackson, you plagiarist.

Shaggy makes the jump and finds Tex. He has ropes to get everyone out. He was there as he knew Shaggy could get out and his men camped at the only exit.

IS this good? In spite of its problems, yes. Like my last review it needed something that The Land Before Time sequels did so well, integrate different elements at the end for unity of plot.  This has really bad unity of plot with two different dinosaur plots and neither are very connected to awesome Shaggy. The pace is to fast at times for the film’s tone and Winsor is terrible bringing down Velma too.

Yet this is the second best Scooby-Doo movie.  Fred and Daphne are great in their limited role. It is nice seeing Scooby be so brave and smart, which are expected for a Mystery Incorporated type show. Shaggy is awesome and never disappointing. While the villains were too obvious Tex was great along with the other side characters like Hubley’s humor and the diner owner’s jokes.  The tone was refreshingly serious, and I like the moral. If you did something great then you can repeat it or something similar.  I recommend watching this.