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Narnia, Awake!

Well, I’ve seen it, and have pronounced it RAVE-WORTHY. I’ve half a mind to see it again before I skip town now that I’ve heard that Guatemala’s evil movie distributor won’t be releasing this masterpiece until January 6th. Boneheads. Anyway, this is supposed to be a movie review about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, not a rant about foolish Guatemalans.

In general terms, the movie absolutely drips gorgeous ambience. The music is absolutely enchanting. The cinematography is decadent. The actors are, for the most part, beautifully-cast in their roles (particularly Tumnus, Edmund, Lucy, Professor Kirk, Mrs. MacReady, and most especially the White Witch . . . Tilda Swinton is brilliant). The movie’s effects are top-notch, and it does not overindulge in unnecessary glitz until the final battle sequence, during which they are almost forgivable (but for a more than passing resemblance to similar scenes in Lord of the Rings . . . WETA really ripped themselves off big-time, but at least they ripped off something good).

In terms of quality of adaptation, the movie succeeded beyond my hopes. Consider, if you will, the following line from the first description the book provides of the room where the wardrobe is: “There was nothing else in the room at all except a dead blue-bottle on the window-sill.”

They put the blue-bottle in the movie.

Now, with attention to detail like that, I wondered later on why the plot felt it had to deviate in other areas . . . nevertheless, most of the essentials are there. My one big gripe in this regard is that the Beavers don’t tell the children that Aslan is a lion, and it is not revealed anywhere else by anyone else until he emerges from the tent. I’m sure this was done in an extremely misguided attempt to surprise us all at the appearance of a lion instead of a man or something. That’s just dandy except that anyone who has read the book knows what’s coming, and for anyone who hasn’t Aslan’s head takes the dominant spot front and center on every freaking movie poster that is splashed around the entire freaking theater.

I’m especially bitter about this change because there are a lot of really great lines spoken about Aslan by the Beavers which get cut in order not to “ruin the surprise” later on. And, just a few scenes after the Beaver’s Dam, when Edmund is wandering around the White Witch’s castle, he draws glasses and a moustache on the stone lion he finds, but now it doesn’t mean jack anything anymore because he hasn’t heard that Aslan is a lion. It’s just something random he does on a whim. He doesn’t even say anything . . . just draws his little whatsit and chuckles to himself and moves on. *sigh*

So, because of a few extremely retarded moves like that, I didn’t give it a perfect score. They did keep a lot of things that lesser directors might have cut . . . like Father Christmas. *cough*Bombadil!*cough* I do have to note that any adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia ought to have a big leg-up in this regard, because the books on which they are based aren’t as thick as bricks. Therefore there won’t be the necessity to make a marathon movie as with Lord of the Rings, or to slice-and-dice as with the mutilated slop we got in the last Harry Potter movie.

A lot of people I talked to found Aslan’s portrayal underwhelming, but that didn’t bother me overmuch. The emotional impact of the scenes at the Stone Table was rock solid . . . truly the centerpiece of the movie (as they should be) and that was what counted for me. Honestly (and I feel a little funny admitting this), these scenes moved me more deeply than the entirety of The Passion. Perhaps it was the context supplied by Narnia (and not supplied by The Passion) which showed just what Aslan dies for and what the effects of it are. Perhaps it was the fact that I wasn’t totally desensitized to violence and gore by the time the actual death took place. I don’t know. That’s just what I observed.

The other complaint I heard was about the battle scene. Virtually everyone in it was dual-wielding (two swords). Everything in it, I heard some say, was straight out of either Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Well, maybe it did get to be a bit much . . . but it was pretty cool at the same time! There were gryphons divebombing the baddies with big rocks, for instance. On the one hand, that’s totally LotR territory. But on the other hand, it provided an excellent visual link to the Germans-bombing-the-crap-out-of-London scene that the movie began with. So . . . pros and cons, pros and cons.

That reminds me, though. Many of the changes were very positive. For instance, as I thought about it afterwards I realized that the four children in the original book are rather flat as characters. In the movie they were much better developed, on the whole. We felt emotionally attached to them, for a variety of reasons. We see that Edmund is feeling the absence of his father more than the other children, thus fueling his resentment of Peter’s authority. We see that Peter has been specially charged by his mother to look after his siblings when the children are separated from her (an especially heart-rending scene). And I don’t remember so much attention being paid to the development of family love and loyalty between the four children in the book. I was blown away to find the movie version of a C. S. Lewis book devoting even more time to positive, Christian themes than Lewis himself!

Oh, I mustn’t end without mentioning the elderly ladies who were sitting behind me. They seemed to think they were at a Baptist church service, getting steadily louder until I wanted to knock their heads together by the end of the movie. I’m thinking, “It’s on an inanimate screen! You don’t interact with it!” They’re sitting back there going:

Lady 1: Oh, there he is.

Lady 2: Uhhhh-huh.

Lady 1: Looks like they’ve killed him.

Lady 2: Mmm-hmm

Lady 1: He won’t stay dead for long, though.

Lady 2: No, sir!

Anyway, I shall end the review with a little piece of advice to audiences (and this goes for all movies, not just this one). Do yourself a big favor. Stay put for the credits.

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~ by Jared on December 10, 2005.

One Response to “Narnia, Awake!”

  1. Guatemalan theaters ftw!

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