28 December, 2005

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia

I went and saw this Narnia movie on Christmas. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an allegorical work by C.S. Lewis, meant to make the concepts in Christianity more accessible to children. In this story, Jesus is represented by a giant lion named Aslan, and Satan is represented by an evil witch named Jadis. The allegory is fairly clumsy, but it does succeed in admirably demonstrating the fact that the fundamental notion of evangelical Christianity makes very little sense.

The high point of the book is the death of Aslan, who gives up his life to atone for the "treachery" of the boy Edmund, in order to satisfy the "deep magic". He is bound and shorn by the witch's henchmen, and then slain by the witch on a stone table. Like Jesus, he is discovered by two women, who witness his mysterious and poorly-explained resurrection. This is a plot device of the same caliber as a four-year-old who gets shot playing cops-n-robbers and hastily invents some bulletproof armor for himself. "So I'm not really dead! Nyah!"

We can't, of course, blame Lewis for this, since this particular lame plot device is two thousand years old (sometimes called "The Greatest Story Ever Told"). The original evangelists had much worse than mere plot problems to deal with: they had to explain away the fact that their cherished meshiach had just been executed by the Romans. This must have been especially embarassing around the time when the first Gospels were written, when the Jewish Temple was being destroyed and Jerusalem was in flames. What's remarkable is that the early Christians accrued any Jewish followers at all.

All the problems inherent in the Gospel account remain in Lewis's story. Where the hell was Aslan for the long, miserable period when Narnia was suffering under the rule of the White Witch? How come Jesus waited four-thousand odd years to show up and offer humankind the hope of salvation? What possible relationship could there be between Aslan's meager suffering and human redemption, and why is the former a prerequisite for the latter? Especially since we're given to understand that Aslan himself made the rules, that Jesus is the Word made flesh? The fundamental redemptive act is islam, surrender - acknowledging the authority of God. Whether or not Jesus suffered during the Passion should have little bearing on that acknowledgement.

The movie also does an excellent job of conveying the awkwardness of the notion of divine justice and moral law that prevails in Christianity. The sin of Edmund, after all, is hardly his own - he is a child thrust into an adult's world, reacting based on his child's understanding to the apocalyptic events unfolding around him. His sin, if anything, is innocence - not comprehending the serious consequences of his minor crime, petty vengeance on his cruel older brother. Aslan is unrelenting, admitting no mercy on Edmund's behalf and no willingness to acknowledge the gray nature of crime and culpability. At no point does divine law admit what the humans readily acknowledge: the fault lay equally with Edmund's siblings.

As a final note, I'll point out the movie's (and the book's) role in the despicable War on Christmas. Halfway through their travels in Narnia, the children are visited by Father Christmas, who bestows presents on them. This, we are told, is the first time that Christmas has been celebrated in Narnia in a hundred years. Whazza? What could they have possibly been celebrating? Christmas... meaning... the birthday of Christ, wholly unknown in Narnia? Or some sort of orgiastic Saturnalia? Lewis never clears up this point, which suggests that for him, Christmas isn't intimately tied to the Savior's birth. Tsk, tsk. Linus van Pelt would be disappointed.


Seeing as this was the first thing I saw after coming home from seeing the the movie, the experience was a bit dulled, but I enjoyed the movie (as a movie ), and will take the moral of this story to heart. Don't analyze movies. Especially cheery children-oriented ones. 

Posted by Nikhil

I also took issue with the climactic battle scene. Come on, you give up the high ground and rush out to meet your enemy on the plain? What gives? You have arial bombardment, but for some reason decide you need to bomb from within bowshot? You send your light infantry running out in front of your cavalry? Argh! 

Posted by saurabh

Speaking of Narnia, you checked out the Chronicwhatcles of Narnia  SNL Rap? 

Posted by Nikhil

my recollection of book-edmund was that he was a treacherous snake consciously placing responsibility for the consequences of his betrayal at his siblings' feet. this element of revenge was stripped from movie-edmund perhaps to avoid alienating a conservative audience not hip to the redemption argument. 

Posted by chromo

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?