I’ve always been a big fan of the movies. If I find anything charming in a film at all on the first viewing, I won’t blink at watching that same movie two or three more times. I realize that this isn’t the best use of six hours, but I suppose we all have our own favorite ways of wasting time. Anyway, all of those repeat viewings of films from all different genres, categories, and length classes (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I’m looking at you) are bound to unearth a surprise now and then. For me, it’s rather rare that my opinion of a film will change radically upon a subsequent viewing, but every so often, giving a film another shot does help me see it from a new angle, or appreciate something in it that I hadn’t noticed before. Examples of these little cinematic surprises can be found both in my childhood memories and offerings from the more recent past.
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Technically, I have not seen the original Disney film version of this as an adult, but I did see a stage adaptation that stuck very closely to the film, even down to using the introductory voice-over from the movie, so I feel satisfied that this one counts. I do not actually remember how I responded to this movie when it was first released, but going into the story for a second time, I made one grave miscalculation: I underestimated it. I mentally placed it in the category of “kid’s stuff,” and expected to be essentially immune to its impact: it would be cute, certainly, and even entertaining enough, but I was far too old now for it to really affect me. I don’t know if the fact that the stage version was live action had anything to do with it, but by the end of the play, I was genuinely choked up. The quiet, beautiful simplicity of the story took me off-guard: it seems that a story about isolated people slowly and cautiously learning to open up and let love into their lives has the same impact on the human heart, whether said heart has been beating for four years or for twenty-four. Looking back, I feel silly for ever believing that a story that explores such delicate facets human existence would fail to touch me—even if it did involve dancing toast and a man dressed in claws and fur.
- Aladdin (1994)
I’ve already praised this film pretty highly in a past post, and if my memory serves, I was fond of it even as a kid. The surprise in this one came much later, when I watched it again remembering having enjoyed it at the age of eight, but not expecting it to hold much charm for me as an adult beyond the draw of nostalgia. I may not have expected much, but when I did decide to try it again, I was surprised to find myself just as drawn into the story at age twenty-three as I had been at age eight, and in some ways even more so: for example, I didn’t know enough about Islam at eight years old to catch the subtle references to Muslim and Middle Eastern culture that the filmmakers included in the dialogue and action of the film, and my background in history as a college-age viewer made the beautiful employment of that setting even more interesting. I never felt as though the content were “talking down,” to me, and I found the cast of characters so well developed that you could transplant their story from animation to live-action without making many major changes. Overall, giving this film a second chance resulted in one of the most pleasant helpings of crow that I have ever eaten.
3 .The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).
When I saw Caspian in the theatre for the first time, I cannot say that I hated it, but I recall being less than impressed: all I could really remember after seeing the movie was a battle scene that went on too long. Even so, I somehow convinced myself to see it again recently, and was treated to little treasures that had escaped my memory over the past three years. In particular, I had been too distracted by that over-long battle scene to recall how beautiful that film is. Caspian has arguably less character development than either of the other two films in the series, but it is filled with lovely, realistic sets, and little quiet moments that help create a subtle, gentle, mobile-painting of a film. (And, of course, it is fun to see familiar and well-love characters back in action, even if some of them did change a bit between films one and two). After waiting three years to give Caspian a second look, I’m now looking forward to a third round. Maybe I’ll notice something else that I did not see before; but even if I don’t, at least I can enjoy those stolen moments from C.S. Lewis’s and Andrew Adamson’s beautiful dreams all over again.
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)
As a proud Potter nerd, I was as excited for the release of the Half-Blood Prince film as anyone else: in fact, it was the only Potter movie to date that I’ve ever seen at a midnight showing. When I walked out after the movie at 3:00 A.M., though, I confess that I was not sure how to feel about the newest installment in the film series. There were plenty of things that I had liked about it, but also a few that had thrown me a bit (for example, that scene of Harry flirting with a waitress nearly threw me off the bus in the first fifteen minutes of the film). My initial love for the Prince was lukewarm at best, but it was still strong enough to give the movie another go when the DVD was released a few months later, and I’m still glad that I did to this day. It wasn’t long before I learned to live with the more annoying and unnecessary changes (*cough cough* fanfic Harry *cough cough*) and grew to love the Half Blood Prince for what it really is: a realistic, atmospheric, shadow-drenched imagining of a fictional world that, for better of worse, occupies a little corner of my heart.
Although I might extend the gesture too liberally at times, some films really are worth a second look. At worst, a repeat viewing of a film that really deserves it is a little vacation in a well-built world of the imagination; at best, it is a walk down a welcoming path that is both familiar and full of surprises.