26 December 2005

Movie Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I do not venture into a movie theater very often, especially now that we have an infant in the house. Nevertheless, my wife and I joined a friend today to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I can heartily recommend the movie.

Some Puritan hotheads have already vented their complaints about the supposed blasphemous nature of the movie and C.S. Lewis’s heretical Christianity, but I am not impressed by their arguments. If Lewis’s Narnia series cannot be considered wholesome Christian literature, then I do not think there is much to read beyond the Bible and the Nicene Creed. It is a view of culture that I do not think is warranted by the Bible, since it leads to cultural withdrawal and monasticism.

The movie—the cinematic portrayal of the first in the series—is a great success. It is a sound product on various levels. The special effects are wonderful (done by the same crew that worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings), the casting is spot-on, and the movie is very faithful to the book.

That is not to say that one could not split hairs about some things in the movie. I will not render a verdict on the question whether it is theologically sound to have Christ portrayed as a lion. This allegation, from the conservative quarters mentioned, hinges on the supposition that the Narnia series are a straightforward allegory of the gospel and that author wrote it as an evangelistic tool. Seeing as C.S. Lewis categorically denied the accusation of allegory, I do not think we need go any further into this argument.

Of course, for those who carefully pick their theater visits, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will be compared to Lord of the Rings. In that comparison, the latter is decidedly the better production. But it is important to realize that this is an unfair comparison. The Tolkien trilogy is a whopping one thousand pages, written primarily for adults, whereas Lewis’s Narnia series is a much lighter creation, aimed at children. If printed in comparable lettertype, all of Narnia is about a third the size of the Lord of the Rings.

Thus, it must be accepted that the Narnia series does not have the same realistic depth as Lord of the Rings. Indeed, the characters in the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, are not as well-developed as those in the Ring movies. Others might also cavil at the looser relation between book and movie, but one really must make allowances for the ‘padding’ the producers had to employ to make a feature-length movie out of a 100-page children’s book.

The great compliment that can be made in view of these minor defects is that Narnia really comes alive. What we meet really is the Narnia of the books, the Narnia I was longing to see. The stern rules about faithfulness to the book imposed on the producers, and the intimate involvement of Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, in the production, has paid off.

Anyone who, when seeing the film, does not have the feeling of meeting old friends and having come home, has been splitting too many hairs.

1 comment:

Joe said...

You might want to read back through this post and correct the "more looser" construction.