REVIEW: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", C. S. Lewis/Ann Peacock/Andrew Adamson
- VDLNWTWR.RVW 20051220
"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", C. S. Lewis/Ann Peacock/Andrew
%A C. S. Lewis
%A Ann Peacock
%C New Zealand
%E Andrew Adamson
%I Walt Disney/Walden Media/Lamp Post Productions
%P 140 min.
%S The Chronicles of Narnia
%T "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
Somebody's been watching too much "Lord of the Rings."
I have, along with lots of other people, been eagerly awaiting the new
version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," C. S. Lewis'
classic story. I'm the prime target audience: I've always loved
Lewis' stuff, I'm a Christian, and I'm even a fan of fantasy. It's
been very interesting reading the initial reaction of critics and
reviewers. And I finally got to see it.
I hope you will be willing, for a moment, to put up with the rather
self-referential practice of reviewing what other reviewers had to
say. It has been intriguing to see the number of (obviously non-
Christian) critics who object that Aslan can't possibly represent
Jesus Christ, since no self-respecting Christ would encourage his
followers to participate in battles. I say that it is obvious that
these people are non-Christian, since they plainly haven't read the
Bible: it's full of bloodshed. (Those semi-familiar with Christian
theology who would object that the wars were in the Old Testament and
that nothing like that happened in the New, clearly have never heard
of the cleansing of the temple.)
A reviewer in the Vancouver Sun noted that it was ironic that the
movie had no soul. I quite agree. The soul of the book is, of
course, Aslan, and Aslan is introduced far too late in the movie
version. I'm not talking about Aslan as an analogue of God or Jesus:
I'm talking about Aslan in the story. The book notes a reaction by
the children to the very mention of Aslan's name: the children in the
movie merely look blank. Edmund's drawing of glasses and a moustache
on the stone lion makes little sense until you know that he thinks the
lion is Aslan, and is mocking him: in the movie Edmund doesn't know,
at that point, the form Aslan takes.
A friend stated that there was no magic in the movie. That's true as
well. The special effects are a triumph--but they are *too* good.
Aslan looks like any tame lion (which is ironic in itself: he's too
fat and sleek to be a wild lion). The beavers look like beavers.
They are even the right size for regular beavers, and any devotee of
Narnia knows that talking beasts are closer to human size than the
natural variety. It is strange to say, but this special effects
extravaganza is much less magical than the cheaply animated Children's
Television workshop version, with its 70s American children, or the
BBC version with its low budget Dr-Who-esque costumes and effects.
One of the stories that I read made a big deal about one particular
line that was modified. That article certainly gave the impression
that the book was being followed to the letter. It definitely isn't.
I last read the book about 30 years ago (to my young sisters) but even
I can see things that are missing. Of course any book, even one as
short as this, contains too much to put into a movie. But it isn't
what has been taken out that is most upsetting, but what has been
added. The gratuitous bombing scenes that begin the movie, the broken
window that gets the group into Narnia, the silly chase scenes (an
attempt to turn Lewis' rather slow and philosophical work into an
action flick?), and the extended battle scene. (Lewis spends very
little time and detail on the battle itself, and rather more on the
Tilda Swinton has been quoted as saying that she doesn't see any
spiritual content to the story at all. It is therefore intriguing
that she probably does the best job of any of the actors involved:
she's pretty much the perfect witch. (A bit too brave for the actual
story.) Jim Broadbent's Digory Kirke is somewhat too eager for the
part: he should be a bit more restrained in his enthusiasm for Narnia.
Yes, he knows that you won't get back to Narnia that way, but he's had
many years to know it and cloak his own experiences. The actors
playing the Pevensie quartet can't be expected to be great actors yet:
I think we have to attribute their sometimes un-credible performances
to poor direction.
Given Lewis professional work in medieval literature, it is
interesting to note the medieval tone and style. Even James Cosmo's
Father Christmas is medieval, although the idea of Father Christmas
(as opposed to Saint Nicholas) postdates the medieval period. But the
style of the battle and Cair Paravel (and particularly the swoop up
the slope as we see it in detail for the first time) are pure "Lord of
the Rings - The Movie." Somehow the witch has gotten hold of orcs,
the good guys have eagles as bombers, and one almost expects the
oversized elephants to show up on the battlefield.
I was very enthusiastic about this movie. Given the clear indications
that this is a test run to see what the reaction is before they take
on the rest of the chronicles, I'm not so anxious to see this crew do
"The Magician's Nephew" and "The Horse and His Boy," although they
might make a reasonable job of "Prince Caspian." And I'd hate to see
what they make of "The Last Battle."
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2005 VDLNWTWR.RVW 20051220
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
To take a man's past and demonstrate its inherent logic is a
fascinating pursuit--to prove to one's own satisfaction that the
past could not have been otherwise than it was, being a necessary
development from that which had gone before, this is gratifying
to man, for he can thus look back upon human history and regard
it as in a sense his own creation and can then praise its
- Norman H. Baynes `Constantine the Great and the Christian Church'
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade