I need to throw out my Narnia review before I forget what itwas that I watched. Let me start by saying that this review has to be in twoparts. Part One is the review of the movie just on entertainment value and parttwo is a review of the movie as a Christian allegory. Also, if you haven’t readone of the greatest works of fantasy of all times and don’t know the story I’mnot coddling you by not putting spoilers in here so stop reading now.
As a Movie
Just as a blockbuster epic movie I think Narnia reallyworks. There are a few places where it might be considered a little slow. It ishard for me to separate my knowledge of what is coming next from the movie. Idon’t do well with books turned into movies (I don’t like the Harry Pottermovies and all of the LOTR movies left me more upset than really elated) but Ifound several moments in this one that were good. Being chased by the wolf wasclassic and the sacrifice of the fox was cool.
This movie also does some really amazing things with silence(except in my theater there were teenagers talking and children crying throughmost of them) and the times when the soundtrack cuts out and we are simplywaiting for something to happen were really good. Of course the costumes andeffects were spot on as well. Asland looks great, but I thought the beaverswere the star of the show. The wolves as well were beautiful with the animationbeing so good that they were able to combine CG wolves with shots of realwolves.
On the negative side, the children have a hard time withsome of the emotional moments they are asked to portray. Lucy is passiblebecause her major emotion is Joy and she does that well. Susan comes off morewhiney than cautious sometimes and
plays the part of the picked on brother well, but when it comes to higheremotions of betrayal, greed, and fear falls a little short. The older brotherdoesn’t do much better. He walks through several scenes holding his sword likea dork and then suddenly becomes an expert swordsman because he fights with
on horseback for10 minutes.
Those small things aside, this movie does everything youwant an epic to do. It invites you into the lives of these characters and walksyou through a story of self-sacrifice and courage to win out against impossibleodds. It delivers on an emotional level that works for children and adults.
Christian Allegory Stuff
Now, as a Christian allegory it works well too, but thereare a couple of things that I wish were a little different. Some of these are acriticism of C.S. Lewis (I know that is close to blasphemy) but most of them arejust the way things were taken on the screen.
The big complaint I have is in how people respond to Asland.I guess my biggest thing is how little people are afraid of him. I mentionedearlier about the whole “Is he safe,” line. And Rich rightly pointed out thatthey do add it at the end, but they change it to “He isn’t a tame lion” andthey are talking about him leaving. So the line suggest that they are upsetthat they can’t make him stay with them, not that they are afraid of him.
I don’t know why, but even when I read the books as a childI got this sense that people didn’t quite know how to take Asland. They lovedhim and they wanted to be near him, but in his presence they were afraid of hispower and in awe of who he was. This is a hard paradox of the Christian faiththat to know God is to fear and love him at the same time, but I always thoughtLewis’ use of Asland the lion got it right. The movie makes him powerful, butfew people are in actual awe of him.
I guess that is another problem I have with the story. Weare forced to simply take the word of everyone that Asland is this all powerfullion. Since no one really acts like they are scared and we never see him doanything before sacrificing himself we don’t get what he is really all about. Idon’t know how to add more of that without showing some of the other stories inthe Chronicles of Narnia, but I kept thinking that if I had no history withthis story I wouldn’t think he was all that great.
One of the best things for me allegory wise was the scene onthe stone table. I think I have some residual memories of that same scene inthe 70’s cartoon, but seeing Asland shaved and bound and being ridiculed waspowerful. The Passion really assaulted your senses. This scene creates somesimilar feelings through a much subtler scene, but the emotions are still high.
(The rest are justgeneral ramblings:)
Speaking of emotions, I don’t know what I would have thoughtif I hadn’t known that he would come back to life again. Knowing that from thebeginning changed my whole perspective of the final battle.
I thought they missed some really good opportunities forstory leading into that final battle. No one said, “Without Asland we cannotwin this fight, but we will fight and fight well and make them remember who hewas” I know that is cheesy, but that sort of sentiment should have beenexpressed. That is what makes the final battle so powerful, that they know theycan’t win, but the fight anyway.
Just on an emotional story level I would have loved for themto be loosing the war and then have Asland show up to save the day (sort oflike Gandalf in Two Towers), and then go back and show the resurrection and himgoing to the queen’s palace. I don’t know if that would work, but it would makea much cooler movie moment for him to appear not above the table, but above thebattle ready to fight. I know the original story doesn’t work that way, but Ithink that is one movie moment where it would be cool.
I do think it is a good story to watch with people who knowlittle about Jesus and then talk about the sacrifice and lead to the story of thecross. It works well to open up a dialog. In the end, spend the $10 and go andwatch it in the theater. It is an experience you won’t get at home and you willget a movie that is worth your time and money.