Sunday, January 01, 2006

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Disappointment

I wasn't hoping for anything great, but after seeing the Chronicles of Narnia the other day I was definitely disappointed. With the exception of the youngest, the child actors were stiff and their characters not particularly likeable.

***SPOILER ALERT***: The following few points about why I was disappointed give away some of the plot, so those who haven't seen it yet may not want to continue reading....

Too many events felt arbitrary, from when and how the wardrobe served as a gateway to Narnia vs. just a wardrobe, to what "laws" the magic of Narnia operated under, to the "prophecy" of the children's role in defeating the witch. Aslan the lion "sacrifices" himself to save one of the children, but we later find out it was more of a lawyer-ly technicality rather than true sacrifice: he knew that the way the "deep magic" of Narnia worked would let him be reborn rather than be truly dead when he 'gave his life' earlier.

We also had the odd intrusion of Santa (!!!) into the movie, and to top it all off he serves as a sort of arms dealer for the kids, handing them weapons and other goodies to triumph in battle later.

The children seemed to be led by the nose through the whole adventure rather than truly showing intelligence, fortitude, or creativity. Things just seemed to constantly happen "Deus Ex Machina", which I suppose shouldn't be surprising given C.S. Lewis' intent to make this all a metaphor for Christianity.

The special effects were mostly good, and some of the Narnian creatures such as the beavers and Tumnus were likeable, and Tilda Swinton certainly did show more energy than anyone else as the witch. Liam Neeson's voicing of Aslan was soporific. He was gorgeously animated, but felt more like a kindly uncle than a strong, spiritual, charismatic leader.

Having said all this, I have a feeling I would have liked this movie much more as a kid, and imagine that most children would greatly enjoy it. But, I'm uncomfortable at the movie's attitude of violence as the only way to defeat your enemies. The Lord of the Rings certainly had its share of violence too, but the character of Gollum (amongst others) brought some interesting moral ambiguity into the mix, but Narnia is all black and white, with nothing but death being the way to handle your foes.

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