We all - and I mean all of us - went over to the Rave late this afternoon to catch a showing of Chronicles of Narnia. I had thought it surely would be quite crowded, especially since there had been no school that day, but...it wasn't. Maybe half full? But it was playing in several theaters, every 30 minutes or so.
Full disclosure: I've read the Chronicles twice: Once when I was around 12 or 13. Being a person with an acute sense of dramatic gesture, I decided it would be appropriate to read the series while sitting under a neighbor's large willow tree. (We were living in Kansas at the time, and it was summer.) A couple of years later, when we moved to Knoxville, I decided it would be fitting to sit outside in the midst of our many trees in the front yard, memorizing poetry. One a day, during the summer, I determined. I don't think I managed that goal.
The second was about twelve years ago- actually, I don't think I read them all, but perhaps the first two, out loud to David and Christopher, at which point they took them up and devoured them on their own.
So I'm saying, I won't be doing a lot of comparisons to the book here.
It was okay. I agree with most of the reviews I've read on the major points: the little actress who played Lucy was a charmer, the other child actors, not so much. It is always startling to see British child actors who are just a little beyond wooden. Tilda Swinton has just the right, naturally blank look to play a frozen, evil White Witch. Mr. Tumnus was marvelous. The scene in which Lucy first enters Narnia is a magical marvel.
But what the adaptation, with its choices, additions and omissions has done, in the end, is left the film without a clear sense of why. We know that this is about a struggle of sorts between good and evil, but the bigger picture is lost to us. White Witch: bad; Aslan: good, and there is a sacrifice of a good creature for a sinner, but...why? As one critic noted in one of the links I'm going to give you in a minute, the bigger picture is restoration, but the importance and weight of this is just not clear in the film, and it all ends up being less lastingly memorable because of it.
I titled this post what I did because, while I absolutely did not have any expectations about this film, and am not emotionally or spiritually invested in it, I have read so much about it for the past few months, especially about the exploitation/denial/what have you of the Christian connection, I couldn't help but watch it within that framework.
It took a couple of hours for my thoughts to form on this...as Katie and I followed up on a thoroughly lazy day by watching Mad Hot Ballroom...but I think I decided that I am weary of the dynamic of this new Christian market - what Barbara Nicolosi calls the Passion Dollars. I am tired of the film producers and distributors using (some) Christian churches and organizations to market their films and tired of (some) Christians clinging on to these cultural products in the hopes that they will evangelize. It all comes out seeming rather sad in the end. It is this web of mystery we are caught in. Art is a fundamental part of life, and people see glimpses of the transcendent through it, which has the power to open their hearts to God.
But in the crush of the marketplace, where everyone is exploiting everyone else, authenticity gets drained, even just a little bit, out of the moment. The key in LWW, of course, is Aslan's sacrifice. The way it all occurs in this film, less-than-deeply rooted in any sense of broader, deeper purpose, it comes across as clearly a Christ moment, but almost here as a trick, as a convenient, easy-to-grasp symbolic action that might certainly remind some, if not most, of the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, but doesn't spark much of any sense of the role of this sacrifice - the scapelion's resurrection ends up being more of a "Here he comes to save the day" moment than a moment of restoration.
You might disagree. In fact, you probably will. Some other views:
FW-area Catholic blogger at Lofted Nest, who was apparently at the same showing I was, and was disappointed. Not that I was there, but in the film.
And then - this is interesting - a rather heated exchange in the comments box of Overstreet's blog, mostly between Chattaway, Greydanus and Barbara Nicolosi: here.