Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (film)
Andrew Adamson, C. S. Lewis
Walt Disney Video, 2005.
DVD Release Date: April 4, 2006
Run Time: 134 minutes
Suggested DVD retail price: $29.99 (US)
This movie had a lot to live up to. The works of C.S.Lewis have been a prevalent source of inspiration andimagination throughout my life, as is the case ofprobably hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- ofothers. The Chronicles of Narnia were cherishedstories to me in elementary school. In Junior HighSchool, I stumbled upon Mr. Lewis' poetry in thelibrary, which in turn inspired me to turn my ownwriting to a religious bent. Soon, as I progressedinto high school, I dived into his other works fromThe Screwtape Letters to The Pilgrim's Regress to TheGreat Divorce to Till We Have Faces (perhaps myfavorite), to a whole library of his lesser knownworks, biographical materials and essays. He became myfavorite, and most read, author in high school. Andthen, here in my early married life, I find myself,following the tradition of one my favorite stage playsShadowlands, writing a play about him. There are few,if any, other literary authors who have profoundlyeffected my life so much. So, I've been immersed inLewis' world of imagination and faith for quite sometime-- which, if it had been placed in lesser hands,could have ruined this movie for me.
However, Adam Adamson (surprisingly, the director ofShrek and Shrek 2) delivered a powerful interpretationof this beautiful, Christian-themed story. Firstly,one of the most important roles a director has isfinalizing a powerful cast, and we find few, if any,disappointments here. From the very approriatelycasted child actors (the young girl playing Lucy isadorable!) to a charming, winsome Mr. Tumnus to awarm, humorous pair of cockney beavers to a chillingrendition of the White Witch by the talented TildaSwinton (who reflects a certain comparison to LadyMacbeth) to the gentle, yet powerful voice of LiamNeeson (one of my favorite actors) as the Christfigure Lion, Aslan.
With that cast in place, we are immediately drawn intothe movie, with the inclusion of some added World WarII material, immediately making the comparison of thebattle against evil in a more modern time. We beginfrom the get go to receive additional layers to thecharacters of these children, even beyond what C.S.Lewis includes in his books. In this, although goingbeyond Lewis' narrative, they keep faithful to thecharacters, while adding wonderful insights whichcould only before be found in the subtext. There area number of "additions" in the movie, actually, yetinstead of being the film maker's personal "claim" tothe story, they are instead completely in keeping withthe Spirit of Narnia and the characters involved.
Visually, this movie is a wonder. Yet, perhaps not somuch in an epic way (although the movie certainly hasbattles of a grand, thrilling scope), as in a moreintimate, personal way. When we come upon a strangelyplaced lamp post (see The Magician's Nephew), Mr.Tumnus' cozy house, a very convincing talking fox(voiced by Rupert Everett), a very classic version ofSaint Nick, or the penetrating, emotional eyes ofAslan -- we are not over-awed by the spectacle of itall, but instead drawn into the inward world ofNarnia -- and the inner world of our own souls.
Although it has taken many comparisons to The Lord ofthe Rings (which is interesting since Tolkien andLewis were good friends -- Tolkien played a key factorto Lewis' conversion to Christianity -- and doublyinteresting since Tolkien tried to convince Lewis notto publish the story because he thought people wouldlaugh at him), I still find Tolkien's hobbits quite adifferent beast from Lewis' Aslan. The Scope ofTolkien here is replaced with the intimacy of Lewis --which is fitting, since Lewis always seemed to preferthe simple life.
The magic this casts is not sung by the booming,majestic chorus of Peter Jackson. Here, it is playedenchantingly, intimately, beautifully on the pipe of afaun. Which to me, is perfectly appropriate to thespiritual message of Narnia -- that of our intimaterelationship to Aslan -- to Christ.
The enchanting cinematography, the bewitching music,the honest performances, the elegant designs -- theyall lend to this very personal magic of Narnia.
Mahonri Mackay Stewart
© 2005 Mahonri Mackay Stewart &