Monday, December 12, 2005

Narnia - saw the movie, didn't get the t-shirt

After all the media hype about whether the Chronicles of Narnia would be heavily Christian or not, I wasn’t sure what to expect when our family went to see it on December 9.

Though my children loved it, my husband and I weren’t entirely sold.

There are moments of magic such as when Lucy pulls the wardrobe’s white shroud swirling to the ground or when the children back out of the wardrobe through a thicket of fur coats and pine branches and fall into the snow.

And moments of terror: the bombing of London, and the race to an air raid shelter; being chased into the river by the White Witch’s nine snarling wolves.

There’s comic relief – Mister Tumnus furiously stamping his hoofs free of snow on the mat, the bickering banter of Mister and Missus Beaver.

And pathos – when Aslan is mocked, beaten, bound and shorn by the wild crowd around the stone table.

Although these various parts are all good, the whole doesn’t quite hang together.

The movie's story line is thin and lacks complexity, though the book itself was layered so perhaps it was a problem of adaptation. And maybe the message -- if not Christian exactly, then at least moral -- was forced.

A good movie can convey a message but it must be clothed by well-defined characters who do things for clear reasons and who interact appropriately with others.

While individual characterizations are clear, and the children’s family relationship strong, the connection between characters are not. The result is stakes that are not high enough for us to suspend the necessary disbelief of the unfolding plot.

I was left wondering why Pevensie children would engage in Narnia’s battle between good and evil. And without reading into it that Aslan is actually Jesus, then I would have a very hard time believing that this lion would live out the Atonement story.

All that said, the movie is still well worth seeing. My six-year-old daughter loved the lion, because “he’s a good fighter, and he was dead but then came alive, and he can protect children.” My 12-year-old son was moved by the scene at the Stone Table where Aslan is mocked, beaten, then killed by the White Witch. He turned to me and whispered: That’s just like when Jesus died on the Cross, isn’t it Mum?”

So, this may be a case of what C.S. Lewis once wrote to a little boy – that sometimes children see what adults do not.


Anonymous said...

I agree that something didn't quite work about the Narnia movie. It is still worth seeing for the great visual effects--all those cool creatures.

My husband and I felt that is was the characterization that was weak. I did not feel invested in most of the characters--especially Aslan. It was not very meaningfull when he died because I didn't know him very well. Often the characters motivations for doing things seemed weak because we did not know them well enough.

I hope they do more adaptations of the Narnia series. Maybe they will get it right yet.


Deborah said...

Good review! Thanks,

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