I’m really not easy to please when it comes to movies. Film is not my medium of choice and I almost always prefer a good book to a good movie. Rarely does a movie captivate me in the way a book does. As with most people I almost always find a movie to be less enjoyable than the book it is based upon.
When it comes to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe I have little to compare the book to. I have not read the book for many years and in recent weeks could not bring myself to go and buy it lest I appear to be someone just trying to keep up with the latest fad. So there is little I can say about the faithfulness of the movie as it compares to the book.
But as a movie it is simply excellent.
Now, I am terrible at writing movie reviews. In fact, I am so bad at it that I rarely bother. And really this isn’t even a review as much as some discombobulated thoughts from a movie I returned from only a few minutes ago. To be more fair I should probably give myself a few hours to digest it, or perhaps I should even see it again. Nah.
A lot of reviews I’ve read have compared The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with The Passion of the Christ and Lord of the Rings. While inevitable, this is unfortunate, I think, as I believe a movie should stand or fall on its own merits (or lack thereof). The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe did not have the budget of Lord of the Rings or another mega-blockbuster and this shows on occasion, especially with the special effects. But on the whole the movie is brilliantly done and absolutely pregnant with deeper meaning. There is clearly a story behind the story that is just waiting to be discovered. And even then I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the deeper meaning.
While the friend I watched the film with found it a little bit slow, especially at the beginning, I enjoyed every moment of it and thought it moved quite well. I know that today’s children demand a fast pace but I do believe most will be able to enjoy this nonetheless. There is a real innocence to the mythology of the story, an innocence that seems almost out of place in this age of Harry Potter and PG-13 fairy tales. And behind the innocence is a certain truth that is so much greater than what we find in comparable films.
There were three things that I feel could have sunk this movie. First, the producers could have removed the Christian metaphor that lies behind the film. Thankfully, and intelligently, they did not. All of the parallels to the gospel story are starkly present in this movie. Second, the effects people could have done a poor job on Aslan. Again, they did not. Aslan is well-voiced and moves with grace, power and credibility. Finally, they could have relied on substandard child actors. I am glad to say that the children do a wonderful job in playing their roles both naturally and skillfully.
If I had one disappointment that stood out about the others it is that Edmund, who had betrayed his family, never asks Aslan for forgiveness. I believe that this was a critical aspect of Lewis’ story and, while we see Edmund talking to Aslan, and later hear Aslan telling the other children not to talk about the past anymore, we never hear that plea for forgiveness. This is not, by any means, a fatal flaw, but I suspect it was a concession made to avoid the Christian theme from coming across too strongly. It is disappointing in its absence. In its place the filmmakers substitute an epic battle that was largely foreign to the book.
I am thrilled to have seen the movie and do hope to see it at least once more. I am glad to be able to recommend the film. It is not without its flaws, but as one reviewer said, there is certainly nothing to cringe at. As with the Lord of the Rings series, the filmmakers stayed true to the story and have created an excellent film. I look forward to hearing your impressions.
PS – Don’t leave until the lights come on. You’ll want to stick around for a short while because there is an important scene halfway through the credits.