Geek Smithology

December 30, 2005

Review – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 6:53 am

Disclaimer: I have not read any Narnia book; I walked into the theatre armed only with a few trailer viewings.

With the impressive fantasy film success being enjoyed by Warner Bros. (Harry Potter) and New Line (Lord of the Rings), it was inevitable that Disney would paw through literature for its own cash cow. Having decided to milk CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, it is now up to the audience to decide if this film can command the same kind of success.

A straightforward fantasy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the story of four children sent to the countryside during World War II to escape the bombing of London. While playing a game of hide-and-seek one afternoon the youngest girl, Lucy, (Georgie Henley) finds an old wardrobe. When she hides inside she finds a doorway to a magical world called Narnia. She meets a Faun [1] named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who is surprised and somewhat afraid to run into a daughter of Eve. Lucy comes back to England after a spot of tea and finds out no time passed in the real world while she was away – very convenient.

There is a short and undeveloped period where the other children find no magical world, but soon enough the younger boy, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) passes beyond the closet and meets the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). She is obviously evil but the boy is so easily bribed with candy that he doesn’t notice. No points for guessing that the destiny of the four children involves freeing Narnia from evil and the witch will try to kill the children. They team up with a menagerie of talking animals lead by a lion named Aslan (Liam Neeson) to thwart her plans and take their rightful places as the kings and queens of the land (while a brother and sister being king and queen may be innocent enough in theory, it seems creepy to my 31 year old mind.)

However, this movie was not made for 31 year old minds that have not read the books. Yes, the film is whimsical. It is well made. It is even fun. I dig the talking animals. I chuckled at Santa Claus handing out weapons and potions. I can get behind the fantasy of four children destined to rule a mythical kingdom. But something keeps me from gushing.

It is certainly not the execution. The film looks great, the special effects are as seamless as can be achieved by current technology, and the actors do what is required to carry the story. It is not because of the underlying Christian allegory. So what is the problem?

I will allow that my expectations were incorrect but this movie does not feel epic. It is a children’s story played out in a saccharine playground of immature drama and I was never absorbed. Perhaps this has less to do with the source material than decisions made for the screen but hear me out.

Nobody dies in this movie. Aslan is sacrificed but comes back to life (dying for Ed’s sins and all.) Everybody “killed” by the White Witch is not dead, but merely waiting to be raised by the feline Christ. When Mr. Tumnus is turned into a statue, there is no emotion comparable to Boromir dying in Fellowship of the Ring, because he is simply revived later. There is no blood, either. Not during the sacrifice. Not when Edmund gets stabbed. Not during the massive battle. I am not condoning gratuitous violence, but to have the two armies clash without a single drop of blood is too conservative. The decision was no doubt made to maintain a PG and make sure the intended audience could fill the theatre, but the movie suffers as a result. It feels too clean, too sanitized, too Disney.

The movie is obviously hitting the right notes with a lot of people as only King Kong was able to best it at the box office – maybe the inevitable sequel can up the ante. If you loved the books as a kid (or are a kid) you will see this movie regardless of anyone’s opinion and enjoy it. For the rest of you, even if I cannot cop to enjoyment, I will confess to appreciation and recommend checking it out.

three star

[1] Think dude with goat feet but not the devil.

3 responses to “Review – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

  1. Ken Liu says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that the White Witch was killed in battle.

  2. jennifer says:

    I agree with Ken Liu. The witch does die. Christians understood the point of the story. You do NOT need to see blood shed to feel the impact of the movie. The movie was amazing and very chilling. It shot to the core of me!! I know that it went to the core of others as well if they know God. The movie was intended to show children at a young age that God can be with you in a time of horrible things. The whole basis of the story was about 4 children who went to the country sides to get away from the city of London. The reason they left was BECAUSE OF WAR. It’s very obvious why there was no blood shed. When a REAL artists sits down to create a movie about something that could have possibly happened during a war was the fact that children at that time were hearing stories of their families and friends dying. The last thing that was on that producers mind was blood. That is what is wrong with the world today, blood. Why does it even have to be shed in movies? Just to entertain you? That is SATAN! I am a christian, obviously, and I do not agree with your review simply because you seem to be a follower and well, you think in the box.

  3. Nathan says:

    Jennifer, I would say that you are the follower, and you are the one who thinks in the box. To say that this movie “shot to your core” and the “core of others” because you know god (er, God, sorry) is not a comment on the quality of the movie, but a comment on the fact that Christians will defend it regardless of it’s quality as a film, praising the heavy-handed allegory.

    Blood is NOT what’s wrong with the world today, and it is not satan (er, SATAN, sorry). The fact remains that even in the Christian milieu, the blood of Christ is an incredibly important symbol, and to have the Christ figure die a bloodless death in this movie lowers the stakes significantly. I appreciate your comments, but stand by my review, this movie not great but merely adequate.

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