When the story world contradicts itself

I just saw Christopher Robin, the new live action Winnie the Pooh movie from Walt Disney Productions. In its way it is a very daring movie, because it violates conventional wisdom about how to tell a fanciful tale.

Story worlds like the ones of Harry Potter or Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings play it safe: They take place in a magical alternate universe, but in a self-consistent magical alternate universe.

In those story worlds, readers or viewers are asked to accept a reality that operates by a different set of rules from our own. Yet once that contract has been made, those rules become inviolable. The underlying reality of such story worlds remains very consistent.

Christopher Robin, on the other hand, is all about messing with our sense of reality, by forcing opposing and mutually inconsistent story worlds to clash head on. We’re not just talking about differing attitudes or moral codes here — we’re talking full-on incompatibility between fundamentally inconsistent Universes.

Which means the story becomes about its own metaphysical inconsistency. The audience is never permitted to forget the deep schism that lies within the very heart of the tale.

To my delight, I felt the filmmakers made it work beautifully. They took a deep risk (particularly given that this is a family movie), and they pulled it off.

You’ve got to admire people who can do something like that.

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