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I saw this flick over the weekend and found it a mild diversion but hardly worth full fare. It is invariably compared to LotR, a comparison that would doubtless annoy Prof. Lewis. Just as the books are meant to do very different things, so the films are two rather different beasts, despite superficial similarities.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie has the same strengths and weaknesses as the book. That is, the book is too shallow to appeal to anyone over about the age of 12 or so; it's an excellent children's book, but can't really hold an adult's interest. That said, the early sequences reminded me why I love the books in the first place: the film captures that sense of entrancing possibility, of what-if, that powers great escapist literature. By escapist, I mean no slight. The Narnia books are about children literally entering the fantastic, and the young actress playing Lucy brings that sense of joy and discovery to the screen. I think her meeting Mr. Tumnus in at the Lamppost and the ensuing scenes are probably the best part of the film.

That said, you've seen most of this movie already. CoN swipes things from better movies, including the steam train across the English countryside and the set-piece battles which have the feel of a cut-rate or Disney-fied LotR. The White Witch's castle looks a lot like the glowing-from-within fortress in LotR (Angband?). Even the giant stones landing during the battle seem strangely … familiar. There's a lot of recycled mythology in the original books as well, so in a sense these visual borrowings are at least consistent with that, but it's still disappointing.

All the huggamugga about the supposedly Christian themes and message of the film are a load of marketing nonsense, meant to part Christians from their cash. The elements involved (sacrifice and resurrection) are so common and so universal that they can just as easily be interpreted as promoting a pagan theme. If anything, the film is more true to a Mithraic interpretation: Aslan is far more a god of war than Jesus is, and the film uses elements of Roman costuming and weaponry, further strengthening the Mithraic slant. Not to mention the use of the setting and rising sun. I was just waiting for someone to wear a Phrygian cap to complete the image.

The most Christian element in the film is the appearance of Father Christmas, and even he appears in secular guise, as the gift-giver. Or in pagan terms, the ring-giver who arms and readies the heroes for their fight against evil. Maybe the Christian symbolism is all too subtle for me, but frankly, it's not what I get out of this film.

The trouble with borrowing elements from pagan as well as Christian mythology is that it opens the playing field for pagan themes to enter your story right along with them. For me, this is a plus, but I have to wonder what the people who went especially to see the "Christian story" thought of it. Maybe the filmmakers pleased two audiences at once. For me, it had a few good moments, but was not compelling. I'll probably skip the next installment.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: ★★½☆☆

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Comments

( 3 sutras — Your wisdom )
loloc
Jan. 16th, 2006 09:50 pm (UTC)
You said that just right.

I was also vaguely disappointed with CoN and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I too really liked the sense of wonder, of being in another - magical - world.

But the rest was a let down.
brainstormfront
Jan. 18th, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC)
Agree with your assessment.

Now off to go write my YA book to corner the market. If Lewis could write fantasy as Christian allegory and Pullman can do it for atheist allegory (or whatever the hell you want to call his stuff), I can damn well do it for the pagans! ;)

SES
snarke
Jan. 18th, 2006 11:29 pm (UTC)
I loved the movie, myself. A friend of mine was planning on giving it a "miss" because he didn't want to be wading in Christian Messages. I told him not to worry, only Christians had any chance of finding Christian messages in the movie without some kind of forewarning or annotated guide. As I recall, Lewis hadn't deliberately intended LWW to be Christan allegory. He did go more "on message" with later books in the series.

But this movie has (to me) refreshingly compelling characters. The kids are all brats at one point or another, and noble too. Peter's trying to be a grown-up, and it's when he realizes he's not, that he is. Lucy's adorable, and I found the actress utterly convincing. Edmund screws up, gets what's coming to him, and is forgiven, but with a couple of caveats here and there, just as family is wont to do. Susan is kind and bossy by turns; quintessential older sister.

They had to have hacked chunks out of the story, unless the book's even shorter than I remember, but I have no idea where; the movie seems seamless. My memory said that we saw much less of Edmund post-Snow Queen in the book than we did in the movie, and much more of Turkish Delight, but I no longer recall for certain.

The special effects are gorgeous, not the least of which because they're mostly utterly subservient to the story, instead of show-off pieces for the SFX department.

Lewis was a brilliant Christan essayist, so rabid Christians cling to everything he wrote and embrace it tightly, but such behavior does LWW a disservice. It's just a good fantasy story; and refreshingly non-Tolkienesqe, to me. I also find it less Christian than Lord of the Rings, and I say that as a Christian (Protestant (Methodist)) myself.
( 3 sutras — Your wisdom )

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