Sunday, December 11, 2005

First Impressions of "Narnia"

Remember that unlike "Lord of the Rings" these were written for children and emphasize a child's sensibilities. "Always winter but never Christmas" exemplifies this difference. What could "Christmas" possibly mean to Narnians? Nothing, but it speaks concisely to a child's heart. If you are expecting "Lord of the Rings" you will cringe when Father Christmas shows up in a sleigh with reindeer, but that is in the book. One of the lead characters is a talking beaver, after all.

All this to say, the movie is faithful to the book in both content and tone, and the depiction of atoning sacrifice is clear. Aslan does not fly (as he does in the book) which is probably a good thing. He sounds like Liam Neeson which is OK, but a less recognizable voice may have been better. The talking animals were spotty: the beavers worked, the fox and wolves not as well. This probably has as much to do with the physical structure of beaver and canine skulls and jaws as with the animators' prowess; beaver faces are more human in proportion so their mouths can more convincingly mimic human speech.

The battle scenes also work. The gore of the Middle Earth battles is absent, as it should be in a children's movie, yet the scenes are well choreographed and engaging. The final battle between Jadis and Peter is especially well done, and demonstrates the cold masterfulness of the queen.

Overall, I predict success and sequels. If anything, this movie is more faithful to Lewis' book than Jackson's to Tolkein's.


  1. My thoughts as well.

    I was very impressed with the movie. Though it wasn't as grandly produced as Lord of the Rings, it was still a wonderful piece, and I sat in the movie theater excited the whole through, watching C.S. Lewis' masterpiece on the big screen!

    My parents sent me an interesting review from Crosswalk which sates some very upset complaints from secular critics over the blatancy of the Christian allegory:

    "In a very real sense, Pullman's wretched opposition serves as a validation of the Narnia project. Similarly, Polly Toynbee of The Guardian (London), argues that even as the movie is "beautiful to look at and wonderfully acted," she is appalled by the clear Christian allusions found within the film. The four Pevensie children (the siblings who serve as the human characters in the story) are described as members of a fallen race. The boys, Peter and Edmund, are both addressed as "son of Adam." Likewise, each of the girls, Susan and Lucy, is known as a "daughter of Eve." The redemptive purpose of God is described as "deep magic" which counters the power of evil. Evil is presented in all of its beauty and horror, personalized in the character of the White Witch. Aslan dies as a sacrifice i n order to save Edmund, who has betrayed his siblings for the promise of Turkish Delight, a candy he craves. Both the book and the movie include powerful depictions of Aslan's sacrificial death, resurrection, and victory.

    This theme of redemption is especially offensive to Toynbee. "Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to? Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart."

    Toynbee, like Pullman, hates the books because Lewis made no effort to hide his Christian faith. After all, Lewis had once described himself as "a blaspheming atheist." His conversion--among the most publicized of the twentieth century--became the basis for his telling of the Narnia story. Interestingly, Toynbee takes particular offense at the fac t that Christ is represented by the character of a lion. She would prefer the lamb, "weak, poor and refusing to fight." According to the Bible, Christ is both. As our penal sacrifice, He willingly gave His life as the Lamb of God. Yet, He is also coming in power and in judgment and is described in the Bible as the "Lion of Judah." As Lewis insightfully remarked, Aslan is "no tame lion." "

  2. Though the Bible says it will happen, I'm still continually amazed that people take such offense at the redemptive aspects of Christianity. Your comment and the underlying commentary are good reminders that the gospel is, in fact, offensive in itself.

  3. I haven't been able to see the film yet, but some (presumably Christian?) reviewers seem to think the tone of the film was considerably off:

  4. No, no, the tone was just right, if I recall my first read of the book at something like eight years of age. Prequel! Prequel! Prequel!