The Passion of the CGI Lion

Friday night, Becky and I got Narniated…we went and saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And it was really good. I thought it was well-paced, well written, and nicely adapted (I don’t really remember a whole lot about the book, so I can’t say for sure what was different, except for maybe the rapping chipmunk). The CGI work was pretty good, with only a handful of somewhat dodgy moments. Two particular critiques I’d read of the film (from The Onion, whose movie reviews I usually find reliable) I found to be undeserved. “Adamson seems to really want to be directing Lord Of The Rings IV, and the material doesn’t always support his ambitions,” reviewer Tasha Robinson writes, and I have to politely disagree. The tone of the LOTR movies is oppressive — by design, of course — while I found the tone of LWW to be much lighter and more obviously aimed for kids. (I don’t mean that in a negative way, of course.) The two movies share a grounding in fantasy, a big battle, and sweeping landscapes, but that’s really it. LWW does not have the same ambitions as LOTR and nor should it; it’s a fantasy story, a religious allegory, meant to be a lighter tale than Tolkein’s epic.

Robinson also describes the performances of the children as “stiff,” which I would also disagree with. While it’s true that nobody here is going to be nominated for any Oscars, I think that everyone does a perfectly fine job, especially Skandar Keynes who plays Edmund and thus has a more difficult job than the others. (Incidentally, while looking up Skandar’s name on IMDB I also looked up Anna Popplewell, the girl who played Susan. She was born in 1988, making her 17, so it’s almost okay to think she’s hot. We’ll keep you posted.) Honestly, it’s Tilda Swinton as Jadis, the White Witch, who I found least interesting. I don’t think she did a bad job per se, but the character wasn’t nearly as well-done as she should have been.

I’m not a Narnia fanboy, so I can’t say how the devotees will react to this adaptation, but for my part I found it perfectly pleasant and exciting. For parents thinking of taking kids, there’s of course no boobies and very little bloody violence (even during the battle), but there are a couple of scenes that small kids might find pretty frightening.

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7 Responses to The Passion of the CGI Lion

  1. Topher says:

    Odd, i thought Tilda Swinton was pretty good. She was also Gabriel in Constantine (a show that, despite the deviations from the print version, was decent). I think she was described…and I mean the witch, not Tilda, as a being that was beautiful but malicious…as fits the allegorical counterpart. I don’t think she’s quite **beautiful** but she has the striking thing down pat. And the evil, frosty feel one might get from the queen of winter.

    Oh, and funny aside: the theater we were in was freezing cold to begin with, so the winter scenes were that much more cold. Viewed in new Chill-o-Vision!

  2. David Thiel says:

    I can’t work up enough enthusiasm about this film to drag my carcass to the theater, and I’m not entirely sure why. It may be because it appears to be the twee, talking-animal version of heroic fantasy, which is not my favorite.

    The allegorical aspect is also a turn-off, as I suspect that I may be too distracted by C.S. Lewis thwacking the back of my head (“Get it? The lion is Christ!”) to buy into the story on its own merits. From my perspective, the story of Christ is already an allegory, so making him a lion to boot seems like overkill.

    Plus, if the Fundies want me to go, that’s reason enough for me to spend my money elsewhere, preferably on some “Satanic” fantasy like “Harry Potter.”

    That said, I could overlook the above objections if anything about the trailer excited me. For some reason, it just doesn’t. Meh.

  3. CounterProductive says:

    I am torn on this one as well. My daughter read this a while back and loved it. I am part of a book club at work that is reading this. Having just finished, I am not at all impressed with the book. My wife predicted I would not like it because it is essentially a Christ transposed to fantasy so kids can understand Christ a bit better, and I think she’s right.

    I don’t have a problem with what the allegory is referring to (well, a little bit I guess, given my past experiences with churches/cults), but more to the point, I found the allegory distracting like a really bad actor. The book has its charm from the childrens’ perspective, which is good. The fantasy part is decent enough.

    But the allegory made it *painfully* predictable. That’s the last thing you want, reading a fantasy book or a sci-fi: a reminder you’re reading (or watching a movie in the case of a bad actor). You knew exactly where this was going every step of the way. And it was sometimes painful and boring because of it. This was Lewis’ carthartic musings as the result of his tragic life, IMO.

    All that said, because my daughter really wants to see it, and Dave made it through unscathed, and my friend Ben said it was good but not great, I’ll probably go see it, despite the self-proclaimed fundy whack-jobs thinking of this as an evengelistic tool.

  4. Dave says:

    Guys, let’s not overstate the whole Christian thing. Honestly, you don’t have to think too hard to know the underlying message, but it also serves just fine as a straight up fantasy fairy tale. As with Robocop, you might not even notice the Christian allegory the first time through.

  5. CounterProductive says:

    Dave, I wasn’t harping on the Christian thing as much as stating it was an obvious distraction. In the book, it was hard for me to see past it and enjoy the simple fantasy. It sounds like the movie may have fared better in that realm.

  6. Rob Barrett says:

    Technically, Narnia is not an allegory. It’s Christian science fiction, a Gedankenexperiment. I.e., Aslan is not Christ so much as what the Son of God would look like if he became incarnate in a world of talking animals. (Lewis explains this at length in his Letters to Children.) There are certainly commonalities of Story (in the Inkling sense of the term), but Narnia is not Earth.

  7. charlie says:

    Well if Dave made it through unscathed then it is probably worth seeing as I don’t recall him having made it through very many movies unscathed :P That in itself is a plus. Then again, I’m also pretty good at ignoring things that I don’t want to see so the allegory will probably be lost on me.