Title: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe Collector's Edition
Reviewed By: Christopher O
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2008
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
What Is It?
Do you need this part this time?
C.S. Lewis - One of the greatest Christian writers of all time. The Chronicles of Narnia - His critically acclaimed and beloved fantasy series for children. Now the first of seven is a movie. If you are not breathless by now, you have missed something.
How Was It?
This is a fantasy kidís film, but in the words of C.S. Lewis ď "I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. ..Ē
This is not ďLord of the RingsĒ in the intensity of battles or hard edge, though it is reminiscent in itís meticulous eye for detail, itís seamless special effects and itís creation of a beautiful work of art that is a credit to the work itís derived from.
Tilda Swinton as the White Witch was just an amazing thing.
Didnít C.S. Lewis Say That He Did Not Want This Movie Made?
Both Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien hoped that their stories would never be turned into movies. The reason was not, as some would hold to, that they wanted to egotistically hold to the power of ownership, or the sanctity of books. It is my understanding that they both saw theater and movies as unable to be realistic enough to capture people into their worlds. The fantasy effects they saw were so unable to make you believe that what you see is real that it only offered a constant reminder that this is not real. This would just keep the audience from actually entering the world the way they could when reading it and seeing it in there mind. (If you donít believe me, try watching the BBC / Wonder Works version of Narnia from the 1980ís)
Here we have a photo realistic lion that talks. You do not giggle at the riggings but gaze in awe at the illusion so well preformed it allows you to forget that it is an illusion. My opinion is that neither Lewis nor Tolkien would look at the recreations of there worlds and raise any objections based on their original fear of their books blossoming into film.
The Collectors Edition has longer battle scenes that are still very cool and do not drag with the addition. It also comes with an excelent documentary on CS Lewis that is worth having all by itself. This is the edition to get.
Was It Good For Kids?
There is some violence and some brutal looking monsters. (Spoiler) The execution of Aslan is very creepy, though instead of showing us the knife marry into his flesh, we get a more intimate and emotional shot of the great lionís eyes widening and then shutting in defeat.
You can get a complete breakdown of what is on the screen at Screenit.com.
If your child is at the maturity level where this film would be entertaining and not disturbing, then itís not only good for kids, itís an excellent introduction to fantasy. The fantasy world in this film, is not our reality with the hidden magic revealed, but rather, a separate world that the children enter into, out of our own. In Narnia they find a sort of whoís who of the fantasy of man. From witches and elves to the collective creatures of Greek mythology, they are all represented among the ranks of this land.
Entering through the wardrobe becomes very much like opening a book. You can see all of timeís collective imagination within the pages. You can live a life time in another county, but only be gone a few hours from our own. You can see and experience things you have not or could not experience here.
Still, like any great fantasy, it comes down to ďwhat can you bring out of that world into our own?Ē This question is artfully heightened by the idea of the magical land being something we travel to and from with itís own time and nature. We can see within the scope of the story that talking animals, harpies, minotaurs and magic do not exist in our world. The children exit Narnia looking much the same as when they first entered. What do they have that they didnít before; the thrill of the fantastic and the life lessons of the story. They come back looking the same, but acting very different.
This is a healthy view of Fantasy. It connects with us on a level of longing, but brings to us lessons about the real world. This will not only aid in the enjoyment of these alternate realities, but it will help people to get more out of the stories with positive messages and protect themselves from the ones with negative ideals.
C.S. Lewis has Aslan himself explain this concept to the children in ďThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader.Ē This book endís with Lucy being sad that she has to go back to her own world and no longer see Aslan:
ďBut you shall meet me, dear oneĒ said Aslan.
ďAreóare you there too, Sir?Ē said Edmund.
ďI am,Ē said Aslan. ďBut there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.Ē
What About Spiritual Issues?
This world offers us many spiritual lessons. The first (that Lucy will need to learn over again in future adventures) is that we must stick to what we know is true even when others refuse to believe. She has been to the other world, had an experience with Narnia, but is tormented by those who just think itís too wonderful to be true.
Then there is the lesson of authority. Most of our theaters are populated by celluloid children whose adventures teach them that rebelling against the adults and authorities will bring victory. Here we have a refreshing contrast. Not only are we shown the value of authority and doing what is asked of you, we see the contrast of incorrect authority. We do not have the rebellion, but we do not have the equally evil opposite of blind obedience to whoever is around. We find a great leader in Aslan, worthy of allegiance. We also see an abuse of power and authority for control and personal gain within the White Witch.
Rising even higher, we come to the idea of (spoiler) self sacrifice. These scenes, where the just is given up for the unjust, are telling and emotional. Few films achieve an alliance between the message and the feelings. This also leads us to the character of Aslan. Not only did C.S. Lewis mean him to be a type of Christ, the film seems to use visuals and dialog to support this idea even more.
(Spoiler) After Aslanís resurrection, the lines are changed from the book. Where the book we find out that there was other magic that the witch didnít know about, in the movie we find out that her evil was blinding her to the deeper meaning of the magic that she knows about.
There are many spiritual themes illustrated here. They all seem to be done well.
What Is Your Recommendation?
As a great fantasy adventure,
as a moral tale,
as an intro to understanding fantasy,
as a spiritual parable,
this film is more than worth watching. The fact that it is able to do all of the above, effortlessly, while sucking us into a world beyond our own but echoing of our own, makes this one of the best films. I hope you get to share this with your family and that it sparks many discussions on all the levels that it addresses.
All this and KIDS that can ACT!
(If you would like to learn more about the nature of Fairy Stories, I suggest the "On Fairy Stories" by J.R.R. Tolkien. You can find it in the Tolkien Reader