I am going to go on a brief hiatus from my hiatus here because I had the great privilege yesterday of seeing the highly anticipated The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from Disney/Walden. I haven't been so eager to see a film since The Passion of the Christ, nor felt the same sense of relief and joy!
The movie is lovely. The print we saw had some special effects still in stages, but it didn't detract from the stunning vision the movie radiates off the screen. England is musty and dreary. Narnia is a wonderland. Tke kids are going to love it. They are going to want to walk through that wardrobe with Lucy time after time.
But best of all, contrary to Peter Jackson's agenda-aversion manhandling of Tolkien's classic, here, the tone of LW&W is as close to the book as probably could have been achieved. All the lines the Christians are worrying about are in there. All the scenes you want to see are here and lovingly rendered. So everybody can relax and get ready to enjoy, and we can all take the Wonderful World of Disney back into our hearts -- and save the studio for 2005! Truly, our forgiveness is completely saving...
People particularly want to know if Aslan comes off as a Christ-figure, or just some warm and fuzzy magic lion. Well, I personally cried every moment Aslan was on the screen. But then, I walked in with my character development done by my Jesus thing. I so wanted to be Lucy and Susan, with their heads resting on his body on the stone table. I wonder if people who don't love Jesus will feel the same? So, I am going to say that Aslan is absolutely discernible as a figure of Jesus -- for those who have eyes to see.
Which is a way of saying that this movie may have a little of The Passion problem. Madeleine L'Engle says in her book on writing, Walking on Water, that we Christians should live in such a way that our lives wouldn't make sense if our Faith wasn't true. We tell our Act One students that they should write that way too. Their stories shouldn't make sense unless they begin from Christian presuppositions. C.S. Lewis' Narnia books are very much like that.
So, this adaptation of his books on the big screen - in being true to their source material - will be tremendously, heart-fillingly comprehensible to those of us who love Jesus. And probably a bit strange to those who don't. But whereas The Passion was disturbingly incomprehensible to non-believers, this film will be fascinatingly so. I want to be clear, there is plenty of stuff to love and enjoy here for non-Christians. But they aren't going to get why we Christians are going to be in ecstasy here , any more than the pagans got why we cried copious tears at The Passion. What I am saying is, be prepared for this new Narnia film to be foolishness to the New York Times, and a stumbling block to Daily Variety.
But I have to return to the look of the film here. Whereas Jackson's Middle Earth was mostly dark and dripping, with the battle scenes looking like collisions of filthy, toothless Viking corpses, this movie is much more resplendent and ethereal. The battle scenes here are not gory and disgusting. They look like a dream of Medieval Knights with red flags flapping and silver armor shining...and, you know, charging unicorns and fawns and things.
There was a discussion afterward as to what ages of children could see the film. People were saying 8 year olds could handle it fine. I agree. But I also think littler kids should go. I never buy into this idiocy that we are supposed to protect kids from our own faith story. I remember folks saying that about Prince of Egypt - that the scenes of the Israelites in slavery were too impressive for young kids. To borrow from Anne Lamott, I think this kind of weak-kneed semsitivity makes "Jesus want to go lap gin out of the cat bowl." The vision of Aslan getting shaved and killed is no harder to take than Jesus being scourged and crucified. A generation of children protected from these things breeds a generation of little unmotivated narcissists.
Bring your kids to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! Bring them again! On opening weekend! This movie is deep magic.