Sunday, January 22, 2006
I finally caught the showing of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with my friend today. I haven't read any of the Chronicles but the whole viewing experience was extrordinary. It was akin to seeing the words of the book literally being translated into wondrous images unfolding before my eyes. It was all so beautiful I had tears running down my eyes almost all throughout the movie. Right from the start when the Pevensie chirldren where sent packing along with the other kids in war-torn England to the safety of their relatives and friends in the countryside. So that's where they found themselves in a small provincial discrepit train station waiting for someone maybe as loving and warm as their mother or as heroic and brave as their father, what they got however was Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne) a woman as cold and as distant as the mansion they were going to be staying in.
They spent the first couple of days moping inside the mansion, barred from doing anything that could disturb the mysterious professor working behind the closed door of his room. In an effort to combat the gloom brought about by the rain and bring back a bit of the old fun they've had before the war Lucy (Georgie Henley) enjoined their eldest brother, Peter (William Moseley) to play an old favorite game of hide-and-seek. The others join in and got their hiding places well leaving a desperate Lucy to explore the corridors in hopes of finding a good place to hide. That's where she found the room and the wardrobe. Delighted with finding a great place to hide in she went inside and inavertedly find the wintry wonderland. She meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who befriends her and invites her to have some tea in his house where he tells her the place is called Narnia and it's currently ruled by the awful White Witch. The awful winter spell has been going on for 100 years, "Always winter, but never Christmas, think of that!" as Mr. Tumnus puts it. Lucy gets back to the wardrobe and excitedly announces her discovery. However her announcement was met with the same disbelief and poo-pooed as the product of an bored and overimaginative mind. Lucy stands her ground and insists that she was telling the truth. Edmund (Skandar Keynes) got wind of this truth when he followed her to Narnia several weeks later. He fails to catch up with Lucy, and instead comes across the White Witch, Jadis (Tilda Swinton) who comforts him with sweets, hot chocolate, and a promise of kingship over the land if he could get the others to go to her castle.
When Lucy came back she and Edmund returned together through the wardrobe but the latter refuses to corroborate Lucy's story that Edmund was with her in Narnia. This latest round of betrayal sends Lucy breaking down in tears and withdrawing from the others. At least until by force of circumstances all four children hide in the wardrobe later finding themselves in Narnia. This starts a series of adventures that mobilizes the group of creatures that were still loyal to the real ruler of Narnia, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) to make a move that would eventually oust the witch and her army and install the rightful rulers of the land, the prophesied two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve that will sit on the four thrones at Cair Paravel.
It's a common thing to think of comparing this with the LOTR trilogy at the start of its run, at least that's what I read online but nothing could be farther from the truth. Sure both stories had fantastic creatures and lands of lore at its center but that's as far as the similiraties go (in fact there's even a hint of similarity of this story with J.M. Barrie's classic story of another group of kids entering a different fantasy realm). I haven't read the series (though I'm no stranger to C.S. Lewis' other books, "Mere Christianity" and "The Problem of Pain") so I'm not exactly sure how faithful the translation is from book to film but I'm guessing it's pretty faithful to the spirit of the story as I feel moved by the truth about how much close it hews to the story of salvation. Nowhere is the story of the Gospels spelled out as clear as day this one, there's no mistaking about it! To be honest I was surprised by the inclusion of mythological creatures like fauns, centaurs, minotaurs, gryphons, and even Father Christmas in what I knew to be a blatantly Christian story, well at least more blatant than Mr. Tolkien's opus (apprently Tolkien objected to Lewis' mixing his mythologies but was gently rebuffed with, as one IMDB poster liberally put it, "It's for kids you freak, now sod off back to Middle Earth and play with your toys you greasy nerd!" ). I guess there's nothing wrong with including these mythological creatures as long as the author's intentions with using these are clearly spelled out and the lessons to be learned are there. I'm also a bit disappointed before with Ms. Swinton being cast as the villain as I sort of looking forward to Nicole Kidman being cast in the role of Jadis but I changed my mind after watching Swinton's portrayal. She got the whole "cold hearted witch" down pat although I was joking with my friend that Eurythmics singer, Annie Lennox has the same look and intensity that could have also made a very memorable villain. And based on the trailers I've seen prior to reading the news I thought it was Scottish actor, Sir Sean Connery since he already a wonderful job with Draco in Dragonheart. Most especially because he has a certain air of dignity and authority that's well suited with the character of Aslan. But I guess Irish actor, Liam Neeson did a great job on that one. The kids all did a wonderful job in their roles, especially Georgie Henley who was absolutely cute and adorable, as was Anna Popplewell in her role as the skeptical and always logical, Susan Pevensie. I would like to commend Director Andrew Adamson, who did a smashing job on his first live action movie, and the whole WETA team for faithfully breathing to life this Lewis classic and for making us all feel like little kids again who saw the world of Narnia on the big screen with childlike wonder and innocence. I can't wait for your output on the next rumored Chronicle movie, Prince Caspian.
* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this spectacular movie.