December 9, 2005

POUND STERLING:

A Winter Wonderland: Those Who Don't Believe in Fantasy Will Thaw at 'Chronicles of Narnia' (Stephen Hunter, December 9, 2005, Washington Post)

Andrew Adamson's sterling version of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the perdurable C.S. Lewis classic of children's fantasy, is well told, handsome, stirring and loads of fun. [...]

Taken at face value, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" decodes into a kind of dashing view of colonialism for the pre-pubescent set, an empire-and-faith fable set in a fantasy world whose relation to the real one will be, for adults, its most fascinating element. For kids, the pleasure will be in some of the best special effects of the year. And for both, the overarching endearment will be a narrative that speeds through its two-hour-plus running time.

The movie has attracted some pre-release pub because it is famously a "Christian allegory." And yes, it's true, Lewis was a well-known adult convert to Anglicanism (from the intellectual's fashionable atheism) who wrote much about his faith in God. Maybe too much; some find him a bully on the subject. Whatever, it is true that the plot he engineered for the first of his seven "Chronicles of Narnia" reenacts the march to Golgotha, the ugliness enacted thereupon, and the good news three days hence, when someone powerful arises and gives hope to a death-haunted world. However, in the role of Jesus Christ is a lion named Aslan who, no matter how holy he may be, is still a lion, and when he paws an enemy to the ground, he then bites its head off. That's pure big carnivore and a long way from Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek.

The fantasy seems just as, if not more, plumped up with symbols of that other modern religion, the state. You can feel Lewis the professional writer cleverly pandering to his readership of patriotic, well-educated middle-class English adolescents of the '50s. It's a veddy British Isles kind of thing, with a lord of all being the majestic lion, symbol of Britain on the royal shield, along with the unicorn, the heraldic symbol of Scotland, and then the unicorn shows up as a steed upon which a valiant young knight charges into battle. Lions and unicorns, oh my! There are so many other Britishisms it's almost unsporting (and certainly dull) to list them all, from landscape to culture to gear to weather. It climaxes in a giant, linchpin-of-history battle so familiar to the Brits, as they rarely lost one (the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Battle of Britain). But more important, there's a kind of empire assumption underlying it all.

The movie is really another in a long line of unquestioning colonial morale-raisers, so necessary for the maintenance of empire, circa 1950, when the book was published: It's about the arrival in a troubled land (Narnia, in whose syllables may be heard a faint echo of "Britannia") of white Britons of noble visage, pale beauty and steely bearing in the middle of a war of darker creatures. Our boys and girls immediately move to center stage -- indeed, it turns out that their coming has been foretold -- and they are quickly appointed to leadership positions. The boys get to be knights, the girls princesses, every British boy and girl's fantasy. Thus elevated, they lead the darker masses in battle to victory, and stay behind to rule magnificently and justly. Talk about Kipling's White Man's burden!


MORE:
Tempted: A bigger but still faithful 'Narnia' (Ty Burr, December 9, 2005, Boston Globe)

Take a deep breath and relax. Aslan doesn't spout blood from his paws or perform the miracle of the loaves and (talking) fishes. Nor have the Pevensie children been outfitted with iPods and Big Gulps in an attempt to woo the Nickelodeon demographic.

''The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- the first in what production partners Disney and Walden Media pray will be an ongoing franchise -- arrives as a solid, reasonably close cinematic approximation of C.S. Lewis's beloved children's book.


Lions and Witches and Wardrobes — Oh My!: The fusty, frostbitten pleasures of The Chronicles of Narnia (ELLA TAYLOR, 12/09/05, LA Weekly)
While pundits and the press witter on about whether C.S. Lewis’ ageless tales of Narnia are too Christian, or not Christian enough, or the wrong kind of Christian, children the world over will yawn politely and read on. I must have devoured The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at least 10 times while growing up in an aggressively Anglican culture, and it never once occurred to me that Aslan the super-lion died the death of Christ and was similarly resurrected. Nor would it have bothered my little Jewish soul had someone set me straight. The thrill of Narnia is all about a fusty old closet that turns out to be full of frostbitten foliage and possibility, in which your drab brown life, with all its vague fears and longings, gives way to a sparkling white alternate universe where kids just like you take tea with those of cloven hoof and warm brown pelt; where good and evil (give or take the odd Judas within your midst) are more cleanly defined and divided than ever they are in life; and where freshly minted heroes do battle to defrost the world for freedom.

Lewis may never have mastered fantasy like his friend and rival J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings was a special-effects bonanza waiting to happen. But Lewis understood far more clearly that character drives even the most supernatural of stories, and Shrek’s Andrew Adamson, who has never made a live-action movie until now, honors that old-fashioned insight while proving himself a fine director of flesh-and-blood kids to boot.


Lewis Scholars Laud ‘Narnia’: Pre-screening Produces Academic Praise (Leah Acker, December 09, 2005, Grove City College)
Grove City College’s pre-screening of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on Dec. 8 proved C.S.Lewis wrote more than a children’s story. Along with about 800 college students, several Lewis scholars viewed the film and analyzed Disney’s adaptation.

Experts praised the film as true to Lewis’ book and, in parts, even stronger.


Two Wars of Good and Evil (A. O. SCOTT, 12/09/05, NY Times)
It has never been a secret that C. S. Lewis, who taught that subject and others at Oxford for many years, composed his great cycle of seven children's fantasy novels with the New Testament in mind and with some of the literary traditions it inspired close at hand. To the millions since the 1950's for whom the books have been a source of childhood enchantment, Lewis's religious intentions have either been obvious, invisible or beside the point.

Which is part of the appeal of allegory, as he well knew. It is a symbolic mode, not a literal one - there are, after all, no talking beavers in the Bible - and it constructs distinct levels of meaning among which readers travel of their own free will. An allegorical world is both a reflection of the real one and a reality unto itself, as Lewis's heroes, the four Pevensie children, come to discover. The story of Aslan's sacrifice and resurrection may remind some readers (and now viewers) of what they learned in Sunday school, but others, Christian or not, will be perfectly happy to let what happens in Narnia stay in Narnia.

The supposed controversy over the religious content of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" may be overhyped, but a particular question of faith nonetheless hovers around the movie, which was produced by Walden Media and distributed by Disney. Anyone who grew up with the Narnia books is likely to be concerned less with Lewis's beliefs than with the filmmakers' fidelity to his work, which was idiosyncratic and imperfect in ways that may not easily lend themselves to appropriation by the shiny and hyperkinetic machinery of mass visual fantasy. But if a few liberties have been taken here and there, as is inevitable in the transition from page to screen, the spirit of the book is very much intact.

The movie, directed by Andrew Adamson, does not achieve the sublimity of, say, Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (which had the advantage of working from a richer allegory by an even more learned Oxford don), but it does use available technology to capture both the mythic power of Lewis's tale and, even better, its charm.


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Andrew Adamson (Bill Wichterman, Townhall)
As a die-hard C.S. Lewis fan, I was ready to be disappointed by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I knew Walden Media intended to make a movie that faithfully portrayed Lewis’s 1950 classic children’s story, but I wasn’t sure they could pull it off.

I doubted a film could capture the fantasy world of Narnia with its fauns and centaurs, dryads, talking beavers, and a lion incarnating the maker of the universe. I expected Hollywood’s insatiable desire to be “edgy” to propel the film into the violent and macabre, inappropriate for the school-aged kids for whom Lewis wrote his masterpieces. And most importantly, I doubted that the essential story of betrayal, sacrificial love, and redemption would survive Hollywood censors.

I was very wrong. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is magnificent.


With reviews this uniformly good, this flick's going to be a huge success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 9, 2005 8:08 AM
Comments

This review fairly drips with race-hatred and rejection of the ways of the ancestors. We know folk-enemies and culture-triators when we see them. Bad as witches, I should say.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 9, 2005 8:21 AM

...the first in what production partners Disney and Walden Media pray will be an ongoing franchise...

Mission accomplished.

I predict that we'll see at least three of the books filmed, and probably more.

Lou, I didn't get that sense, more just a gentle mocking of the zeitgeist of Lewis' times.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 8:38 AM

And ours? Seems that we have the white man's burden bit played out again with the US leading the kicking and screaming little brown brothers of the Middle East to the glorious future of democracy. No matter that the majority of the brown brothers of the Middle East are happy about the democracy. That doesn't figure in the scenario painted by the WaPo. We have seen the zeitgeist and it are us. Plug this review into the normal stance taken by all sections of the WaPo and see if I am not right.

Posted by: dick at December 9, 2005 8:47 AM

"It's about the arrival in a troubled land (Narnia, in whose syllables may be heard a faint echo of "Britannia") of white Britons of noble visage, pale beauty and steely bearing in the middle of a war of darker creatures."

So how will they review Prince Caspian, in which the white-faced European types are removed from power and the land given back to the "darker creatures"? Will Lewis then be tolerant, instead of racist? Will he be hailed by the feminists for his portrayal of the Tarkheena in Horse and His Boy? Will he be praised for his stand against slavery in Voyage of the Dawn Treader? I think not. To point those examples out would not serve the crusade against the religious.

Posted by: Jay at December 9, 2005 12:05 PM

I caught a midnight showing last night--it's a fine, fine movie. Wonderful, even. Far, far better than any of the Harry Potters, and only inferior to LOTR if you consider any children's story inferior to a story for adults. Small quibbles (sub-Gollum CGI & a couple favorite lines missing) melt away like the witch's snow.

The theater I was at had to add another midnight showing at the last minute, which implies very good things about the money it will make. I hope they make all seven--it's going to be like printing money.

And I must laugh at "That's pure big carnivore and a long way from Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek." Apparently someone has only read the Cliff Notes version of the Bible, Shelby Spong Edition.

Posted by: Timothy at December 9, 2005 12:47 PM

Reviews are nearly meaningless in general, and completely so for a move that has been seen as a "cultural event" for a year or so already. The hype will drive it for a few weeks, and what will keep it going (or not) will be word of mouth...

Posted by: b at December 9, 2005 12:53 PM

The current group of faith-based folks want to latch on to this popular fantasy as their own; but, death of the king and redemption are very old stories.

Of course, that doesn't mean the current popular faiths can't enjoy their connection to this old, old story line.

Enjoy, ya all!

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 9, 2005 2:19 PM

ok:

Indeed, it's the story. More important is that your ilk enjoy it vicariously.

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 2:26 PM

ok:

A shadow is always shaped like that which casts it.

Posted by: Timothy at December 9, 2005 2:48 PM

OJ:

Golly, even A.O. Scott appreciates it. He was unable to overcome his anti-religious bias in reviewing Signs and The Passion, so a positive review of this film tells us it either departs greatly from Lewis's book (unlikely) or it is so good that even nonbelievers can't help but like it.

Sounds like this one wasn't biffed. I think I might go see it tonight with a buddy.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 3:07 PM

Timothy:

I'm curious, per your previous comment, whether you were ultimately as disappointed by the latest Harry Potter flick as I was (assuming you read the book and have something to compare it to).

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 3:08 PM

Matt:

A man-date!

If I didn't have to take the toddlers to Santa and his fire truck tonight, I might go, too. It looks like a wonderful film.

I'm hoping Mrs. Claus doesn't scare the kids this year - last year, she was a little too much like the old woman in Hansel and Gretel and my daughter cringed and trembled when she hovered.

Posted by: ratbert at December 9, 2005 3:53 PM

Yes, I was disappointed in the most recent HP. It slipped back into all the same flaws of the first movie (ie, a bizarre drive to include as many of the book's many scenes as possible, instead of just telling the main story). The directing & particularly the editing was also abysmal. Azkaban was far better, but LWW is far beyond any of them.

Posted by: Timothy at December 9, 2005 4:35 PM

ratbert:

Dammit, I need to watch my words more carefully around here. OJ will be asking if Bart wants to come along any second now...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 4:46 PM

If you're going out with bart we definitely need to talk.

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 4:51 PM

Timothy:

After my post on the film, I was going to put up subsequent commentary but couldn't figure out how to do a drop-down box. My feeling was they left out some stuff that was important (just a few extra lines would've cleared this up in most cases) and included stuff that was unnecessary (i.e. 20-plus minutes on the love lives of the characters). Many of the theaters here in Omaha showed the film at midnight and I can't be the only person who figured it wasn't worth staying up so late to watch.

You're completely right about the editing. Having Harry see Mr. Crouch lying in the woods without any further mention of the matter was particularly atrocious.

I'd evaluate them as follows:

HP & SS: Okay film -- a good time-passer.

HP & CoS: Horrid.

HP & PoA: A very enjoyable film. (Let Alfonso Cuaron direct them all, I say!)

HP & GoF: Quite disappointing.

Narnia sounds like fun, I'll be seeing it before too long.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 5:07 PM

OJ:

I suppose I just swooned for his relentless bashing of Catholicism. Stockholm Syndrome?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 5:54 PM

Matt-- That sounds exactly like my take on the films. Except that I have completely avoided seeing #2, for the very reason you put forth.

We're getting waaay off topic here, but I wanted to note my favorite example of neglecting to explain anything in GoF--when Harry notes that his wand went all crazy when it hit Voldemort's, which makes no sense unless you've read the book, Dumbledore looks like he's about to explain, but then goes off and says something completely unrelated. It was really dowrnight funny.

To get slightly back on topic, I didn't notice anything like that in LWW, though I was likely enjoying myself to much to do so in the first place.

Posted by: Timothy at December 9, 2005 6:14 PM

Matt:

Pity?

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 8:16 PM

OJ:... What is my ilk?

John

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 9, 2005 8:58 PM

ok:

Secular atomists--those so estranged from their society that they wish to see it pulverized and mankind reduced to its constiuent particles so they can be left utterly alone, except for their resulting dependence on the State..

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 9:14 PM

si

Posted by: lonely kayaker at December 9, 2005 10:16 PM

Timothy:

Yeah, the nonexplanation of the reverse-spell effect was yet another thing I noticed. I too was looking for an explanation and instead Dumbledore told Harry that he must have seen his parents that night. And that was all there was -- I couldn't believe it.

After speaking to some others who have seen the film, my impression is that people who hadn't read the books were utterly confused by it, and I can't say I blame them.

By the way, I just saw the Narnia film. Wow.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 10, 2005 2:52 AM

OJ you left out "hatred of their father" and "hiding in basements". You've been making changes to the strawman. It's an encouraging sign, there may be hope for you.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 10, 2005 11:30 AM

Robert:

It partakes of various psychological disorders.

Posted by: oj at December 10, 2005 2:04 PM

Atomists... yes. Secular Atomist...redondent!

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 11, 2005 5:12 PM

Western European civilization has witnessed a sort of atomizing process, in which the individual is more and more set free from his natural setting in family and neighborhood, and becomes a sort of replaceable unit in the social machine. His nearest neighbors may not even know his name. He is free to move from place to place, from job to job, from acquaintance to acquaintance, and -- if he has attained a high degree of emancipation -- from wife to wife. He is in every context a more and more anonymous and replaceable part, the perfect incarnation of the rationalist conception of man. Wherever western civilization has spread in the past one hundred years, it has carried this atomizing process with it. Its characteristic product in Calcutta, Shanghai, or Johannesburg, is the modern city into which myriads of human beings, loosened from their old ties in village or tribe or caste, like grains of sand fretted by water from an ancient block of sandstone, are ceaselessly churned around in the whirlpool of the city -- anonymous, identical, replaceable units. In such a situation, it is natural that men should long for some sort of real community, for men cannot be human without it. It is especially natural that Christians should reach out after that part of Christian doctrine which speaks of the true, God-given community, the Church of Jesus Christ. We have witnessed the appalling results of trying to go back to some sort of primitive collectivity based on the total control of the individual, down to the depths of his spirit, by an all-powerful group. Yet we know that we cannot condemn this solution to the problem of man's loneliness if we have no other to offer. It is natural that men should ask with a greater eagerness than ever before, such questions as these: "Is there in truth a family of God on earth to which I can belong, a place where all men can be truly at home? If so, where is it to be found, what are its marks, and how is it related to, and distinguished from, the known communities of family, nation, and culture? What are its boundaries, its structure, its terms of membership? And how comes it that those who claim to be the spokesmen of that one holy fellowship are themselves at war with one another as to the fundamentals of its nature, and unable to agree to live together in unity and concord?" The breakdown of Christendom has forced such questions as these to the front. I think that there is no more urgent theological task than to try to give them plain and credible answers.

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), The Household of God [1953]

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 5:18 PM

Wrong again. One can be a humanist without all the organized religious trappings.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 11, 2005 8:46 PM

Hypocracy

Is a theocracy that advocates hatred, imprisonment, torture, suicide bombing at the direction of the theocratic clerics promising their vision of a heaven.

Is a so-called democracy that advocates hatred, unlawful detention, torture and warfare at the direction of the leaders promising their vision of a democracy.

And in both instances, the young impressionable minds are the victims carrying out the orders of the real hypocrites.

What Narnia and other fantasies do is try to take out the hyprocracy. Thats why they are fantasies.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 11, 2005 8:54 PM

OK,

Your comparison between terrorist religious-based government and democratic government was so poorly veiled that I can only assume it was in fact intentional. In which case, I'd like to call for you to lay down your cards and say what you mean, in plain language. If you really want to compare religiously-based terrorism to a democratic governments response, then do so. Say that hypocracy is radical (insert religion name here) and that hypocracy is (insert country name here). To give these great ambiguities shows that you have neither strength nor substance to your argument; you are reduced to flinging platitudes and maxims in an attempt to appear wise.

You mention spreading hatred and unlawful detention as though they were proven facts. At what point was this democracy told by its leaders to hate? When was that instruction given? At what rally, or in which speach, did the head of this democracy, or any leader of stature, tell the populous to hate those they are fighting? And when were the rights of the citizens of the democracy conferred on those who are not its citizens and who do not fall within its domain? That is as nonsensical as saying that even though God did not give dogs wings, even so that should still be permitted to fly.

In future, you would be well served to consider the consiquences of your narrow view. Follow your thinking to its ultimate end, and see if the result is what you had hoped.

Posted by: Jay at December 11, 2005 10:27 PM

Unlawful detentions: in Poland, Roumania, Iraq, some African countries.

You name the agency responsible.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 11, 2005 11:38 PM

They aren't unlawful.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 7:36 AM

ok:

The difference is that our theocracy is right.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 7:47 AM

OJ... lets find a nice one for you and see if you still think they're lawful or not.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 1:54 PM

OJ...You would be well served to think your way and I will continue to think my way... thank you very much!

Requiring that our government operate in a manner that makes democracy desirable is everyone's responsibility.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 2:01 PM

"Requiring that our government operate in a manner that makes democracy desirable is everyone's responsibility."

John
SH

Hope that lays it down clear enough for anyone!

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 2:07 PM

ok:

We live in one--it works.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 2:07 PM

Not proud on my government detaining people without due process allowed the rest of us, are you?

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 2:23 PM

Yes. They may be you, but they aren't us. Were you ashamed that German and Japanese POWs didn't each get a trial?

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 2:29 PM

OJ: POWs...are not the same as Gitmo detainees and you know it. Shame on your ignorance and shame on you assuming mine is the same as yours.

You know what unlawful detainment is being referenced to so lets focus on that embarassment to our democracy, OK?

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 4:13 PM

OJ: personal note... are you related in anyway to a William Judd, graduated 1965 from SUNYA?

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 4:20 PM

All the Judds in America are descended from Thomas, who got here in 1623.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 6:22 PM

ok:

What's the difference?


The Man Behind the Attack on Guantanamo (Rocco DiPippo, June 16, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)

The general leading the force to free the captive enemy from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and inflict a humiliating defeat on the United States is so-called civil rights and Constitutional attorney Michael Ratner. It was Ratner who led the way in recruiting elite lawyers to defend the enemy combatants being interrogated at Gitmo. But Ratner is a long-time leader of two pro-Communist and anti-American organizations who have for decades lent aid and comfort to America's enemies in the Cold War and beyond.

Michael Ratner began his legal career in the late 1960s at the National Lawyers Guild, a Soviet created front group which still embraces its Communist heritage. He worked his way up through the NLGs radical ranks to become its president, then moved on to hold the same position at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which shares the NLG's anti-American radicalism and was founded by pro-Castro lawyers Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler. Among its many outrages, the CCR has defended domestic and international terrorists, and has honored Ratner's NLG colleague and convicted terrorist enabler Lynne Stewart, a modern Legal Left idol. Since 9/11, Ratner and his comrades have attempted to extend undeserved civil rights to Islamist murderers with notable success. On this front, Ratner and the Legal Left have dealt America some of its few setbacks in the War on Terror.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 6:23 PM

Oh... so anyone who wants just and fair treatment of detainees is a commie? Is that supposed to be a smear of me?

Nice try!

Our form of democracy is being made into a sham by the detainee mess and anyone interested in making democracy desirable should complain and seek improvement.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 7:27 PM

Wm Judd graduated a year ahead of me at SUNYA.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 12, 2005 8:09 PM

ok:

No, you don't have to be a commie, you can be a dupe.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 9:05 PM

Ah the old red baiting... still alive and flourishing. Nice to see some things never change!

But, won't work here either. Smearing is not your forte!

But, this discussion of a fantasy flick has turned in a different direction, not by my actions; but, if you want to pursue it, bring it on!

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 13, 2005 1:03 AM

ok:

Ask yourself a simple question: who was served by our leaving South Vietnam in the lurch? or the attempt to screw the Contras? or by releasing terrorists?

Posted by: oj at December 13, 2005 7:17 AM

Ask yourself:
Who fought the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam?
Who came up with the stupid idea of dealing guns to terrorists to fight a secret war in Central America?
Who decided to deal with captured suspected terrorists in a mannner contrary to the Geneva Convention and our constitutional system?

The answer is obvious. Illadvised, short sighted, politically motivated elected officials willing to circumvent the safeguards to carry out their agenda. And not complaining about these actions is a failure of free citizens living in a democracy. We, who enjoy these freedoms are re-miss for not complaining.

Posted by: oldkayaker at December 13, 2005 2:04 PM

ok:

We did. We won. You might have read about it. The Sandanistas and the USSR are gone.

Who opposed that victory? The Left.

Posted by: oj at December 13, 2005 2:10 PM
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