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All things Narnia

Current plans call for at least dad and son to see the movie tomorrow morning. For commentary about the movie, the NRO site is hard to beat: Frederic Mathewes-Green, John J. Miller, Rich Lowry, Catherine Seipp, and a Q & A with a producer. If you’re left wanting more, there’s James Kushiner at Mere Comments (which will likely have more as more contributors make it to the movie), and Jonathan V. Last.

I’ll let you know what I think (and, more importantly, what other family members think) after we’ve seen the movie.

Update: My son and I saw the movie this afternoon. Both of us liked it a good deal, though not, I think, as much as we liked (and still like) the LOTR trilogy. The de rigeur cinematic bells and whistles were excellent: the natural vistas were beautiful, the CGI battle scenes were impressive, and the fantasy characters were extremely well-done. Everyone says that Tilda Swinton is a magnificent White Witch, and I’d have to agree, though she may scare some younger viewers. (We lost our viewing partners on the basis of her appearance in the trailer; my friend and his eight year old daughter were set to go until she was spooked by the witch.) The child/teen actors are very believeable and effective.

I think that children and parents who grew up with Narnia will be quite pleased with the movie, and so will some others (see John Moser’s comment below). It’s pretty faithful to the book, and captures its message of redemptive sacrifice very well. The bells and whistles don’t overwhelm the story, and (certainly in my 10 year old son’s case) may seal some people’s allegiance to the movie. (He’s already announced that he has to have the DVD when it comes out; I know which parts he’ll watch over and over again.)

Here, however, I must confess that I was not one of those who grew up with Narnia; I came to Lewis later in life, and then through his apologetic writings (which I like a good deal). (I was a Tolkien reader as a young teen, but didn’t then make the bridge to Lewis.) Perhaps that explains my relatively greater affection for the LOTR movies, despite their problems: the Tolkien story is written for a more "grown up" audience than are the Narnia tales. Coming to it as an adult, I don’t find the Narnia story as rich and rewarding as the tale of the rings. As a parent, I see how it works for my children, and I cherish it for that. But as an adult movie-goer, I’m satisfied but not blown away.

I’ll be interested to see whether my response is idiosyncratic. Will the film build an audience apart from families and those who fell in love with the story when they were young? Will it lead more mature viewers back to Lewis’s books? I’m interested in others’ thoughts.

Discussions - 15 Comments

My wife and I saw it this afternoon. I think it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. And I don’t consider myself particularly religious, either.

I have to agree with John. This movie was very good. My husband and I took our 3 and 5 year olds to see it tonight...both were spell bound the entire movie. The highlight was when Aslan came back to life, my three year old daugher yelled at the top of her lungs "He’s Alive!" I recommend all seeing this movie.

Yes, it’s ADORABLE when little brats scream and talk during movies!!! And thanks for spoiling the movie- I didn’t know Aslan was coming back to life, or that he died in the first place!!! :(

Sorry for spoiling the movie, but then if you didn’t want to know, why read this in the first place...

And if you don’t like kids that scream during a movie (which by the way was the only thing they said during the entire movie!)rent the movie at home!

Oh, I see, so we should be deprived of the chance to see a movie in the theater because those who wish to talk have the right to do so! Sorry I was confused about that.

Movie Fan...Chronicles of Narnia is a family movie. If you don’t like children there, then you shouldn’t go to a family movie. Plus, this movie was so good that all of the children there (and it was full of children) were very well behaved.

Professor K et al.,

I grew up on the LWW and had very high expectations. My mom read the whole series to me when I was 2 or 3 and I read them myself at 6. I didn’t fall in love with the LOTR until I was 8 or 9 - but both authors captivated my imagination. I remember waiting late on Saturday nights as a kid for the BBC productions of the first four books to come out - as a kid I loved them.

True, the LOTR is larger in scope. It is a masterpiece - Tolkien is simply genius. But one can appreciate the Chronicles while realizing it is something different. Lewis wasn’t trying to do what Tolkien was. He was writing a story for his goddaughter that would also, as he put it, be able to "sneak past the watchful dragons." I won’t rehash the allegory/non-allegory debate here. It’s not an allegory, but it certainly has Christian themes all through it.

I thought the film itself was fantastic. Kudos to Philip Anschulz for starting Walden Media and taking a big risk on the film. It is a gorgeous flick - extremely well done.

The child actors, especially Lucy, were great - Lucy was perfect. My only two real criticisms. 1) the extra sibling fighting between Peter and Susan - completely invented, I think because a group of siblings that got along as well as these did in the book didn’t seem believable to the filmakers. 2) They did the same thing to Peter that Jackson did to Aragorn - took a noble, fearless character who knew what he was called to do - and presented him as having this great self doubt. We have so lost the concept of a hero in our culture that when it stares us in the face in literature we have to cut it down to size...a sad commentary on us.

Other than that, the ice floe scene seemed contrived and I wanted the wolves to turn into werewolves - but those are minor. I loved the introduction of griffins. Aslan was magnificent - the critics who think he wasn’t awe inspiring are a bit off base I think. The "destiny" line was unfortunately chosen, but the point was true - Aslan, even he, was not entirely in control, and submitted to another’s will.

Ahh, an addendum. To answer the actual question.

I don’t know if it will lead moviegoers who haven’t read the books to do so – but I suspect it will. We’ll see how many books Barnes&Nobles sells in the next few months. I have re-read the books every couple of years already, and each time I pick up new insights Lewis has slipped in (see his space trilogy for the same effect). I don’t know if it will lead past readers back or not...

Caleb,

I never read the books but after seeing the movie I have decided to purchase the books and read them to my girls. They definately made me interested...

Caleb, if you’re a Lewis fan, and enjoy picking up on the themes he "slips in" to the story, you should take a look at ’Til We Have Faces. It’s my favorite Lewis book.

Lori: Wonderful. If my experience is any indication, they will remember you reading the books to them for years.

Fred: I finally picked up Till We Have Faces this summer and loved it. I need to read it again to really get the most out of it, but after just one reading I can see why Lewis said it was his favorite book.

Perelandria has some of the most moving passages I have ever read in literature and "That Hideous Strength," in addition to being the novel version of "Abolition of Man," is a wonderful mix of Arthurian legend and modern technocratism gone bad.

My kids and I saw it Friday immediately after school. We all loved it--though it was a little long for my 4 year old. I agree with Caleb about the tendency in film today to take down the hero (in this case Peter) a peg or two and that was unfortunate. Also, they over-did the role Peter played in Edmund’s weakness, in my view. On the other hand, the girls (apart from Susan’s hesitancy) were idealized and triumphant. Their mistakes were never elaborated or condemned. Also, one of the best lines from the book (about war not being something fit for girls because it makes them even uglier) was, of course, omitted. Still, in all, a fantastic effort.

Just realized that my reference to that line from the book was unclear. Aslan meant that wars were uglier with girls in them, not that the girls were uglier--though I suppose that might be open for interpretation too.

Lori Hahn: "They definately made me interested..."

I just hope you don’t allow your students to misspell "definitely" that way.

Mr Education,

When my students fail to put their names on their paper I don’t care how they spell because I don’t even read it. If you can’t put your real name on something then it goes in file 13.

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