Friday, December 09, 2005

initial Narnia thoughts

I was lucky enough to see Narnia one night early, thanks to a Christian radio station. Strangely, there were very few attendees. I hope this is a matter of poor promotion and not a harbringer of the movie's popularity.

I was concerned that the station would be giving out Aslan plush dolls and action figures (with computer generated roar), Stone Table playsets, Snow Witch slushy machines and children's sized faux fur coats. Thankfully this situation did not arise (and I did not have to go Oreius Vendor on anyone's ass) .

I have mixed feeling about the film. I will once again show my contrarian streak by not walking lock step with the evangelicaldom leadership in uncritical praise (i.e. The Passion response). However, unlike The Passion, at least the hype did not muddle the entertainment value and message of Narnia. I would highly recommend this film to anyone wanting a highly entertaining romp made for children and young teens, one that clearly communicates the powerful redemptive message of Christ.

First of all, there are some weaknesses in this film...

1. We live in a Post-Lord of the Rings world and this film suffers for it. It is also not at a Harry Potter level either, at least in pure entertainment value, suspense, thrills and special effects. While they were not planned to be as intense at LOTR, there was a level of intensity in the 1st 3 Harry Potters (all PG) which this film could have used. It could have been poor pacing or a slavish devotion to the original book, but this film will be compared to the others. It falls well below the LOTR trilogy and the 3rd Harry Potter. I will not bore you with details that could have been better.

2. Unlike LOTR, this is a family movie and in it must be remembered by every adult expecting action. As I intimated, it is slow at times, yet it does not take that time for character and plot development. I disagree strongly with the BP writer I mentioned yesterday. To fully understand the importance of much of the plot one needs to read the book. There is an underlying sweetness and childlikeness which is disconcerting when juxtaposed against the treachery, blood thirst, sacrifice, violence and mystery of much of the film.

3. While majestic, Aslan does suffer when compared to his description in the book and the imagination of a reader, but this is common. It is impossible to fully do justice to his character. An animated film (PIXAR) would be the only shot, because everyone is computer generated (or a real lion which is an impossibility). In this film he is definitely good, but also a bit tame at times.

4. This is huge-Not enough story development, i.e. understanding what the Turkish delights do to Edmund's psyche; the heroic transformation of the children and their distinct personalities, the importance of the battle and build up to the climactic scene (this is one place it suffers greatly when compared to LOTR). The film lacks suspense and an understanding of whom Aslan is.

5. Like Harry Potter and LOTR, this film needed at least 2.5 hours or even 3 for full development. It is always a compliment to tell a filmmaker, take 30 more minutes (I cannot imagine telling a pastor that).

However, even as Aslan can never reach the epic proportions of the child's imagination, he is still a wonder to behold (I only wish we could have had commercials that only hinted at him, but did not show him). Liam Neeson has the grandeur and tenderness in his voice to give us a lion that is not tame, but good.

As blasphemous as it might be to say this, the film improves on the book in one area. The death/ resurrection scenes (and the fear of the main characters and Aslan's army between these two events) is better than the book. I always felt TLTWATW had one glaring weakness, which was the resurrection. It happens to quick, with not enough grief or time for the toll of Aslan's death to sink in. This weakens the resurrection and its importance. However, in the film they focus a bit more on the death and time before the resurrection, which gives understated power to Aslan's rebirth and last minute heroics.

This reminds me of one reason I like this film much more than The Passion of the Christ. The resurrection is given more than 20 seconds of screen time. I hated that about the Passion (I mean, really hated it). Here we have a Christ figure that does more than suffer and die. He defeats death and its minions. We have a more complete view of the atonement (the death of the innocent in place of the guilty AND the resurrection which defeats death- CHRISTUS VICTOR). This alone powerfully shown makes the movie worth the price of admission.

Plus, The Neo-Cons will love it.


kidpositive said...

i think they should rename the film to:

The Passion of the Lord of the Rings

rudy said...

i think this is a great great review

Bob Robinson said...

Excellent review. I put it on my blog as well (VanguardChurch).

[[I was going to write a review of the Narnia movie, but Rick Bennett's review captured much of my own thoughts. So, I offer it to you.]]