Friday, December 9, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Daughter Claudia (age 12) and I snuck out to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Her verdict: two thumbs up. I'll add my two to that and make it four.

I thought it was a delightful and satisfying adaptation of the book by C. S. Lewis. The leisurely pace at the beginning lets us get to know the four children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter. While some people found them homely and boring, I was grateful that Disney found young actors who were true to their characters and were believable as ordinary, British children during the War years (that means no orthodonture). They aren't pretty in a Hollywood way.

And since one of the main ideas of the book, as I understand it, is to show relatively unexceptional children grappling with great moral issues like loyalty, courage, sacrifice, and forgiveness, these kids worked for me. The most engaging (and homeliest) of the four is Georgie Henley as Lucy, the youngest. Her eyes are a window onto wonder, love, joy, and pain.

But my guilty pleasure in this movie is Tilda Swinton, who plays the White Witch, Jadis. She delivers the role with a subtle and restrained sense of camp (though perhaps a bit less than Lewis originally wrote into the character), and with a truly outstanding wardrobe (no pun intended). If some are put off by the fact that the movie makes her an expert sword-handler with moves that Russell Crowe would envy -- well, this is 2005. Swinton fully communicates the Witch's sly delight in wickedness and cruelty.

Mr. Tumnus is sweetly and wistfully played by James McAvoy.

The digital effects and creatures were more than adequate, and sometimes quite good, especially the beavers, the centaurs, and the griffins. I found the battle scenes to be somewhat less busy, and therefore more satisfying, than those in the Lord of the Rings movies. And the Lion, Aslan, is animated beautifully and voiced well by Liam Neeson.

The theology of the books gets backpedaled a bit, however. The movie does not emphasize, as the book does, that Aslan can defeat the Witch because he knows the deep magic from before the dawn of time, which is a broad hint that he is not only one of Narnia's great powers, he is its creator. And Aslan gives considerably less moral instruction in the movie than he does in the book.

But in 21st century America, we don't really like someone telling us how to act -- even if he is the Creator.

1 comment:

Scott Carson said...

You might be interested in some of the discussion about the "theology" of the Narnia books in places like Disputations (hosted by a friend of mine, Tom Kreitzberg, a Third Order Domincan).