The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

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The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Col Klink » Oct 10, 2018 9:50 am

For a long time now, I've had a great idea for the first scene of a Magician's Nephew adaptation. It could begin with Uncle Andrew making one of the rings in his study but it would be done in closeups of his hands. The viewers wouldn't get a good look at either Uncle Andrew or the room. Then they would show him touching the guinea pig with the ring but we wouldn't see the guinea pig disappear. Instead they'd cut to Digory, on his way to bed, walking past the door to Uncle Andrew's study and he'd hear Andrew's scream of surprise. That would be a really cool way to begin the story or alternatively begin the whole series if Netflix starts with The Magician's Nephew.

After that, they should do the scene where Digory and Polly meet each other pretty much how it is in the book. But I wonder what the scene after that should be. They need to show the two of them becoming good friends so that Polly showing Digory her secret hideout is believable. The most obvious way to show that would be a montage but that would be both time consuming to watch and time and resource consuming to produce.

They could change the story so that Digory is native londoner who has known Polly for a long time. But I'm not a fan of that idea. The Magician's Nephew has this pastoral element with the city being bad and the country being good. Digory being forced to leave his home in the country when his family's luck takes a turn for the worse is part of that. Besides Polly not knowing Digory makes exposition about his family's situation organic.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Oct 10, 2018 4:25 pm

I love the idea of beginning The Magician's Nephew with the scene where Digory hears his uncle cry out! Especially if it's a dark and stormy night. A great way to pull the viewer in.

If it's unbelievable that Polly would show Digory her secret hideout without showing them established as good friends first, here's one way to get around that: Digory simply follows Polly without her realizing (I can imagine him doing that), and Polly's cross at first when she finds him there but gets over it quickly enough. You'd probably have to change it so that the access point is on the outside of the empty house adjacent to Digory's rather than inside Polly's house, though.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby hiraeth » Oct 12, 2018 10:59 pm

Those are some good ideas, Col Klink. What I like about the guinea pig scene is that it sets up an air of mystery for viewers early on. It also foreshadows what’s going to happen next in the story really well, and would make for a very eerie cold open.

I heard somewhere that the first scene of a film should pretty much show what the movie is going to be about. I don’t know how true that is, but for me TMN is about Digory and his mother, and how much he wants to save her.
So if it was me, I would start out with a scene of Digory watching from the doorway of his mother’s room as the doctor is checking her up. Maybe a worried Aunt Letty standing by. And then the doctor says something to Aunt Letty that Digory can’t hear and leaves, and Digory comes into his mother’s room, and maybe curls up next to her or something. And then you could cut to him running outside and crying, and then meeting Polly.
That way, you set up Digory’s relationship with his mother really early on, not just through exposition, and the climax of the narrative has more emotional impact.

Or you could introduce Polly at the same time as Digory, and maybe cut between the two of them in their houses, with Polly getting ready to go outside, and Digory with his mother. Their houses are next door to each other, so that could make for some cool visuals.

And then I would show a pretty quick montage of Digory coming over for a couple days after that, and then on the third day it starts raining, which drives them inside Polly’s house. Maybe show Polly’s mother asking some questions about Mrs Kirke to Digory, and him looking self conscious. (This could also work in how strict Polly’s mother is, which comes in later). Then Digory could ask Polly what they’re supposed to do while it’s raining, and Polly might show him the attic. Maybe if it is unbelievable that she would show him the attic, she could do it because she wants to cheer him up. I love Rose-Tree Dryad’s idea, though
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby coracle » Oct 13, 2018 1:25 pm

That's an interesting idea for the start. But wouldn't it take away some of the surprise element for when Polly and Digory go into the attic room and discover who is there?

A more conventional idea - but still suitable - is to show the rooftops of a typical Edwardian London suburb, and to zoom down to one row of terraced houses, maybe pan across them until we see Polly's face in a window.. a woman's voice asks if she has a clean pinafore on... she replies yes mother...
then up and over the houses, and down behind them to a back garden as Polly comes out of the back door to play in the garden. She might be doing a bit of digging in a small flowerbed or just playing. After a few minutes we begin to hear the noise of Digory climbing the wall, and she looks up surprised.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Col Klink » Oct 13, 2018 7:01 pm

That's an interesting idea for the start. But wouldn't it take away some of the surprise element for when Polly and Digory go into the attic room and discover who is there?


Not if they use close shots that don't give a really good look around the attic.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Monty Jose » Oct 15, 2018 11:34 am

I love the potential visuals behind all these ideas!

I've thought about this for a very long time. I even thought about writing a script for my own enjoyment at one point XD while the Magician's Nephew is my favorite book, there is a lot of exposition through dialogue. Film audiences tend to want to be shown things a lot, though, not just told what happened.

What if they opened with Andrew receiving the dust for Mrs. Lefay and then the fall of Charn? Both could done briefly, with little or no dialogue, and neither explaining who we are seeing exactly. (That sets up some sense mystery behind two mysterious characters, allowing audiences to piece it together themselves throughout the movie/series.) Then we introduce Digory sitting outside his mother's room, or eavesdropping, as the doctor comes out with bad news. Here you can splice in...
hiraeth wrote:Digory comes into his mother’s room, and maybe curls up next to her or something. And then you could cut to him running outside

... trying to hold it together, and ends up bursting into tears. Polly can either be briefly cut in beforehand
coracle wrote:...show the rooftops of a typical Edwardian London suburb, and to zoom down to one row of terraced houses, maybe pan across them until we see Polly's face in a window.. a woman's voice asks if she has a clean pinafore on... she replies yes mother...

...or afterwards in a similar fashion. Either way I think showing the rooftops of London and zooming down is a good establishment with either introduction you go for first. My only difficulty is giving a reason for Digory to climb over the wall. Maybe Aunt Letty is calling him in and he feels embarrassed or wants to be left alone, so he risk climbing over the wall and ends up meeting Polly in his unsightly state.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 16, 2018 5:39 pm

Col Klink wrote:They could change the story so that Digory is native londoner who has known Polly for a long time. But I'm not a fan of that idea. The Magician's Nephew has this pastoral element with the city being bad and the country being good. Digory being forced to leave his home in the country when his family's luck takes a turn for the worse is part of that. Besides Polly not knowing Digory makes exposition about his family's situation organic.


I'm not a fan of that idea either. Though I like your introduction to MN, I wonder where Digory's mother fits into this introduction. The book starts with Polly meeting with a tear-stained Digory, and his dying mother is why he is where he is, Londoner or not. It is the reason why Polly has any time for Digory and it is his motivation to make some of the choices he does.

Your way of beginning MN sounds a terrifically dramatic way to start a film, I agree. But if Uncle Andrew yelled out about the poor guinea pig, I would have assumed it would cause a bit of domestic hubbub, during which Digory slopes off to bed, himself. I can imagine Aunt Letty being concerned for Digory's mother & shooing off Digory, herself, then getting cross with Uncle Andrew, especially when he doesn't like to explain himself. And I can see him creepily going to bed himself, much to Digory's distaste.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby JFG II » Apr 10, 2019 5:49 pm

Actually, a great way to start 'The Magician's Nephew' would be to show Uncle Andrew as a boy at the death bed of his Fairy God Mother, receiving the Atlantean box of dust, and then lying to her about burning it before stealing it away. This would foreshadow so many elements of the story to come: Meddling with powers outside control; How bad can come out of good and then vice-versa; How Digory and his Uncle are very much alike, and if he's not careful, Digory WILL become his Uncle one day. Young Andrew and Young Digory could even be played by the same actor. Old Digory, on the other hand, should be played by a much different actor than Uncle Andrew's, because of the different choices those two characters made in life. I much prefer this way of opening the story to that outlandish idea that's been thrown around, of showing the fall of Charn in a prologue - something the narrater could NEVER have known about - much less the main characters. Still, Col Klink's own idea isn't bad either. It works, and is mostly cannon.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Monty Jose » Apr 10, 2019 9:50 pm

JFG II wrote:Actually, a great way to start 'The Magician's Nephew' would be to show Uncle Andrew as a boy at the death bed of his Fairy God Mother, receiving the Atlantean box of dust, and then lying to her about burning it before stealing it away. This would foreshadow so many elements of the story to come: Meddling with powers outside control... I much prefer this way of opening the story to that outlandish idea that's been thrown around, of showing the fall of Charn in a prologue


If you think about it, showing Charn’s fall has a similar effect. Because Jadis (and her sister, potentially) meddled with dark powers, it destroyed their world.

Also, in film format, it is always better to show, not tell. Dialogue can be used for exposition, of course, but if they want to sell Jadis as a powerful, evil, ruthless woman, it makes sense to show her dark deeds in action*. Otherwise there is little reason to take her threats seriously throughout the movie/season, especially if The Magician’s Nephew is the first thing we see.

I understand your reasons for not wanting to show Charn, but tell the story effectively to a modern audience in a new format (new in regards to this specific story), I firmly believe this is the best way to go.

*Yes, her powers are displayed to an extent when she meets Digory and Polly, but if she’s to be regarded as a legitimate threat to Narna, than we visually need more.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby JFG II » Apr 11, 2019 10:26 am

I didn’t mean to put others down, I’m just concerned.

Because as a story device, beginning The Magician’s Nephew at Charn is narratively strange. Jadis poses no threat to the main characters at the start because she’s trapped in an entirely different universe, with no chance of escape beyond a twist of fate.

The Fellowship of the Ring movie had to ability to start with a scary prologue featuring Sauron because Sauron is the title character of The Lord of the Rings, and lives in the same world as Frodo, and poses a mortal threat to all good characters in the story including Shire-folk, though only Galadriel knows this (in the narration that is, which is a movie plot hole).

My feeling was if we started in like 1850 with the fall of young Andrew Ketterly (played by Digory’s actor), and then moved in time to 1900 (“This is a story that happened when your Grandfather was very young...”), that would let the audience all they needed to know without spoiling the surprise of whats to come.

If I offended anyone, I apologize. Peace.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Monty Jose » Apr 11, 2019 5:03 pm

I didn’t feel offended. Sorry if I made it sound that way.

I do hear your concerns, for sure. These are tricky books to adapt. The problem is that Lewis created a huge world, but most of his world-building beyond the main story is shown through implications in dialogue and short snippets.

If it is done in a series format, perhaps the best way to show the fall of Charn would be in the second or third episode in flashback form. Otherwise that’s a lot of exposition for a series premiere.
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Re: The Beginning of the Magician's Nephew

Postby Cleander » Apr 11, 2019 6:08 pm

It would be interesting to show Uncle Andrew's "journey" to find how to use the rings, and have scenes where he meets some of the "queer people" he mentions in the book. I immediately thought of something like one of the darker scenes in Charles Dicken's Bleak House, in slimy cellars and dank, junk-filled warehouses run by eccentric old men, like Mr. Krook. It would be a good way to show Andrew's affected delicacy being offended by all kinds of weird people he forces himself to consort with for the sake of obtaining power.
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