What the … ?
Culture Vulture took time out from laundry and leaf-raking and music-making to go to the movies on Sunday afternoon with the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and our pal, tech writer Morgan Paar. It was, as you no doubt recall, a cold, drizzly, gray and gusty afternoon, just the kind that makes sitting and watching a film for a couple of hours an ideal way to pass the time.
For the past three winters our big movie-going experience has been seeing a chapter of Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we seriously considered checking out Jackson’s latest, the remake of King Kong. Instead we opted for going to see the cinematic version of the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by Tolkien’s colleague, C.S. Lewis.
Amazingly enough, in 40-odd years of devout fantasy and science-fiction reading, including at least a dozen readings of The Lord of the Rings, Culture Vulture has never read any of Lewis’ classic tales, which put me on an even footing with Daphie, who has never read Tolkien’s books, but devoured the Narnia stories repeatedly back in her school-girl days.
We were both a bit skeptical but hopeful going in. Much of the Narnia movie’s publicity has dwelt upon the story’s alleged Christian allegory and the marketing of same to church groups, and frankly the marketing of religious ideas, symbolic or not, strikes me as a perversion if not an outright abomination. On the other hand, a good, rousing adventure tale that conveys some glimpse of positive human ideals can’t be all bad. So in we went.
It’s a good fantasy movie. The young actors, especially Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy, the youngest of the four English children who visit Narnia, are convincing as a group of loving but occasionally squabbling siblings, and the special effects and sets are very well realized.
Tilda Swinton makes a great ice-queen or white witch, and Liam Neeson’s calm and reasonable British voice is perfectly synchronized with the mouth of the huge lion it issues from. The climactic battle is nowhere near as spectacular or dramatic as the one in The Return of the King, but it’s pretty good as a diversion from a blustery winter afternoon.
The best part of the experience was listening to the questions of a little 3– or 4-year-old boy who was seated next to us watching the movie from his mother’s lap. “What’s she thinking?” he asked as Lucy gazed at the wardrobe for the first time. “Who’s that?” he wanted to know when the witch appeared in her white sleigh. And my favorite, gasped in sincere wonder when the witch freezes the faun, Mr. Tumnus, “What the … ?”
All in all, the message seemed be that solving problems by killing those who disagree with you is OK, because the enemy is evil. I was hoping it might be that patience and communication can lead to reconciliation and redemption.
Peace on Earth, and good will to all.