East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Turkish delight, frosted cupcakes, it's all just sugar [movie note]

Starring Tilda Swinton and a bunch of occasionally adorable kids
Adapted by Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, from the novel by C.S. Lewis
Directed by Andrew Adamson

(Spoilers below.)

Tolkein was always a geek; Lewis was a literateur trying to reach a broad audience. While Tolkein was happy fiddling about with his little people in his big, cool world, Lewis kept tussling with big ideas and big themes -- mostly to his detriment. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has an actual plot, not just a sequence of events. But this foregrounds the logical skips necessary in any fantasy story, although to be fair, I have the same problem with the allegory's source material. More troubling is the way Lewis's morality shapes his world: for all Tolkein's love of ye olde Angloness, his beloved Hobbits never required a king, let alone a human one.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is, however, a fantasy story, and as such, strikes a blow against the literalism that's a core problem of what Christianity has evolved into. Andrew Adamson and his co-writers shunt the dogmatic elements, so Aslan's sacrifice is as genuinely noble as Jesus' was meant to be (although in both cases it's not like they didn't know they were coming back). The faith thing is still hokey, though.

The performances by the children are mixed: in particular Georgie Henley, as Lucy, ranges from inadequate to exquisite, sometimes within a single scene (like her first encounter with the faun Tumnus). Sometimes you gasp by her portrayal of wonderment; other times you wish Tilda Swinton would turn up and throttle her. The wonderful, horrible Swinton is an ice queen in the literal sense, but you can sense the black blood pulsing beneath her pale skin. When she's coming on to Edmund in regal mommy mode, how could he not sell out his kin for a moment of attention? But when she gives you the Old Testament glare, like she wants to rip out your heart and use it as a paperweight -- well, to die by her side is such a heavenly way to die. Conservatives (and reform Democrats), fear not: Hillary Clinton doesn't arouse this kind of passion.


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