Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lord of the Wardrobe, or Disney's not-Lion King

I had the opportunity to see “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” yesterday. For whatever reason, I really wasn’t in the mood for it. As this blog seems to be an exercise in selfishness, I’m going to say that the movie didn’t change my mood a whole lot. But it was nice.
We (and by that I don’t mean the ‘royal’ ‘we’, I mean our family unit) have watched several series’ of pictures, lately – the”Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars”, “Back to the Future”, etc. I couldn’t help but think, while watching this movie that they’d just suited up a few hundred of the extras from Lord of the Rings for these battle scenes. Lewis and Tolkien were friends – perhaps Narnia is just over the mountains from the “Shire”. There wasn’t any mystery involved -- everyone’s been reading the book in anticipation of this release. It was rather more like seeing a play that you’ve seen three or four times before, looking to appreciate the performances as much as the play itself. The performances were fine, but none extraordinary, with the possible exception of the computer-generated lion. This story is Christian allegory, and the strongest imagery is embodied in that of Aslan. I shuddered in my seat, thinking what it might be like to actually stand before my Savior, one day, to be deemed worthy or not. To be forgiven. To hear him say, “What’s past is past.” That got my attention. The rest of it, again with the exception of Aslan’s “deep magic” disappearance at the end, and vague promise to return, was what has become pretty predictable fantasy fare. The “coronation” scene looked just like a “Star Wars” movie ending, or was that a “Star Trek” movie. . . or was it “Shrek II?” I am a believer in “archetypes” – and I certainly think that there’s no better introduction to them for young children than the writings of C.S. Lewis. Although I’m glad that Peter Jackson didn’t direct this picture - it would have taken two more hours to tell the story - there might have been a bit more passion, though. It is a well-crafted movie; my criticism is that, unfortunately, nearly all of the themes have been theatrically pounded into the ground at this point – which is truly too bad for this particular story.
To be fair, this was not made for me. There was certainly applause at the end, most of it, I think, from children in the audience. That it was picked up by religious groups and deemed worthy of their support speaks more to me about those waiting for permission, and those feeling a need to give it, than it does for the content. There’s as much religion in “The Wizard of Oz” as there is in this film, unless you’re already a believer. That’s the way Mr. Lewis wrote it, thank God (and thank you, Mr. Lewis). I won’t mind sitting through 6 or 7 more of these with my children, truly, as long as they enjoy them. There should be enough parental/authority death to deem them Disney-worthy, and I’m pretty sure that the Mouse will market what follows as effectively as they always have.
In the interest of journalism, Sam liked it very much. Emma fell asleep about the time the other three on-screen children fell through the back of the wardrobe, and snored through the credits. I only napped through what must have been the first expository section in the Beaver’s home. I tend to hold a special, personal value in those kid’s movies that I can sleep at; this film met that criteria too, minimally. I think it held Vicky’s interest, and, as she was holding Emma, she had nothing better to do. There’s little to dislike here, and talking animals and children who rule over dumber adults are always winners. To say that I’m quivering with anticipation for book 3 would be a bit of an understatement, but it’s a safe bet that, nap-worthy or not, it’ll still be a good time.