A friend linked to this article, which suggests that fantasy films, shiny and pleasing to look at as they may be, can have a deleterious effect on the imagination.
Instead of my imagination being engaged in a unique relationship with the imagination of the author, everything is provided for me by the intermediary–the film director. My imagination is unnecessary, for every detail down to the last scale on the dragon’s back is served up on the big screen larger, more completely and vividly than I ever could have imagined myself.
If this is so, then films of children’s fantasy stories, while very entertaining, may be counterproductive. If they stifle the imagination, then in the long run we will have a population that continues to have a great appetite for entertainment, but little agility of imagination.
Is the author on to something? His argument is persuasive. I know that my experience of the films he mentions (the Harry Potter movies, the Narnia films, and Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings fanfic) has been: “Hmm. That is not at all how I pictured it.” I’ve started avoiding movies based on books I enjoy, because the things the film gets wrong (from my point of view) start to supercede the images I have in my own mind, and then I start imagining the movie versions while I read and it just makes me crabby. (For instance, when I first read Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy was a blond. I know! Every single film version makes him dark-haired, but in my mind, he was definitely an icy blond with a pointy nose–Malfoy-esque, actually. But now that I’ve watched umpty-bajillion film versions of the story, I have trouble reaching for that image, and am left with an actor stand-in instead.) Possibly this is a.) not a problem most people have and b.) not the point the author of the article was making.
But is he right? And I wonder: do animated movies have the same stultifying effect? (Drawn animation, I mean, not CG.) Because a drawing, or a painting, requires interpretation for our brains to make sense of it, which would be more work for the imagination, I should think. (Less realistic/naturalistic = more work for the imagination? Does stop motion count? If you have to make your imagination work to believe that a man in a suit is a monster stomping on Tokyo, is that better than having a lovingly-rendered CG monsters? I have no concrete data here.)