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.

When not gaming: In Search of Lost Time

While gaming takes up lots of my leisure time, it's not the only thing I've been doing lately. I also decided to read the latest translation-series for Proust's "In Search of Lost Time". I'd ready about two-thirds of it using the old translation, but never got all the way through. By turns brilliant, funny, tedious, challenging and absorbing, I certainly can understand why many consider it the finest novel of the 20th century. (Not to mention one of the longest....)

A UK publisher had coordinated having several people translate the various volumes of the novel, and 4 of the 6 have been released in the U.S. by Penguin. I've just started reading them with "Swann's Way". So far I'm enjoying the new translation quite a bit. It seems clearer, more energetic, and less archaic and dated.

I'm off to read some more..... :-D

Games I'm playing right now....

I'm on an MMORPG kick on my PC while I wait for Oblivion to come out for the 360. Right now I'm playing:

Horizons: They have a special cheap rate going so I signed up to play this a bit more. I had played it when it first came out about 2 years ago, and thought it had lots of good points, but wasn't quite there yet. They've had some time to improve things a bit, so given the price of it I decided to give it another whirl. We'll see how it goes...

Irth Online: A new MMORPG made by a local company. It has lots of rough spots, but also some good strengths: A large world, communicative and hard-working dev team, lots of crafting choices, skill-based rather than level-based advancement, and graphics that are awkward and crude one moment, and gorgeous the next.

Settlers of Ganareth (prelude to Dark & Light): Lots and lots of bugs, not much content at all, but has a framework with lots of potential. A gigantic world with beautiful scenery (but very hardware demanding to see it at its finest), and an ambitious set of features that, if they deliver on most of them, will make for a fun and involving game that is rich in both PvP, exploration, and crafting activities. They seem to be making steady improvements, but I will take a wait-and-see attitude on how many of its promised features it'll actually implement.

So, between these three games I'm kept quite busy. We'll see which one captures the most of time over the next couple weeks.