KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–I object when films such as the Harry Potter series require you to study the novels in order to comprehend the movie. A film should stand on its own. So, I’m pleased to tell you that although reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis would add to the enjoyment of this cinematic adaptation, it is not required.
Director Andrew Adamson (“Shrek,” “Shrek 2”) and his screenwriters have constructed a well-told good-vs.-evil parable that is enhanced by computer-generated effects rather than overshadowed by them. The atmosphere and look of the production are reminiscent of the magic good old Walt himself brought to his best productions. There’s an optimism hovering around every allusion and parallel the adolescent leads face. What’s more, this Wardrobe fits adults as well as kids (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Four siblings, displaced World War II refugees, are shipped off to the mansion of a reclusive benefactor. There they discover a magical wardrobe that transports them into the realm of Narnia, a wondrous land inhabited by talking animals and mythological beings. The children soon join forces with the messianic lion, Aslan, in order to defeat the evil forces of the White Witch, a satanic figure who desires to rule this Eden-like world.
A step up from most children’s fables, the book, and now the film, are full of evocative analogies and iconic images. And while adventures, not sermons, take center stage, most churchgoers will find that the story serves to open a rewarding dialogue between parent and child concerning the Christ-like symbolism found in the pivotal Aslan.
Micheal Flaherty, who co-founded Walden Media, says the film is the book, pure and simple. “For me, the main themes in the book are family and forgiveness. We made sure they were there in the film.”
Adamson, the director, adds, “We approached it as a story that is very much about themes of betrayal, forgiveness and loyalty. It’s about a family who feels disempowered by the terror of World War II and then finds their power again in Narnia. It’s a story about four kids who enter this land where they’re not only empowered, but where they’re ultimately the only solution to the war in that land. And it’s only through unity as a family that they can actually triumph.”
At the press junket I noticed that whenever questioned about the New Testament realities Mr. Lewis had incorporated into his fable, the filmmakers hesitated to say, “Yep, this is a Christian allegory, no question.” They preferred to offer the less risky pat response, “Readers get different things out of the writings of C. S. Lewis.” Producer Mark Johnson gave this safe comeback, “I think audiences will take away the most positive messages of belief, strength and family.”
Their hesitancies to give any spotlight to Christianity aside, all the themes important to Lewis are in the movie and it is unquestionably the retelling of Christ’s love and our need to be His warriors, His ambassadors.
Not since Dorothy landed on the yellow brick road have young and old alike entered such an enchanting world. Its story and dialogue are witty for adults, its magical look spellbinding for kids.
Adding up the ingredients that make this a well-made film, which include the inspired casting of newcomers William Moseley, Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell and Skandar Keynes, each able to act opposite computer-generated costars, I’m reminded of the line from Jurassic Park: “No expense has been spared.” No expense, and no detail. Majestic, bewitching, stylish, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the best fairytale since The Wizard of Oz.
(Rated PG. Though there is no blood and the filmmakers attempt to avoid excessive brutality, this good vs. evil tale does include violence -– from bombs exploding to a wicked witch slapping a youngster to wolves attacking to an all out “Braveheart”-like battle. There are a few jolting scenes and several scary moments; parents should attend with little ones in order to reassure. The kids learn life lessons, the film is pro-family and the spiritual insights are distinctly biblical).
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For further information, go to his website at www.moviereporter.com.