Narnia: A Journey into the Imagination

Went with J for the opening day of Narnia.

Times like this I’m apprehensive, much like I felt with the movie adaptations of Tolkein’s works. The books mean so much to you, you couldn’t bear for a poor representation for your imagination. It’s almost like it’s disjointed. Like when you imagine someone famous but then you meet them and they’re nothing like you’d hoped.

And Lewis’s works have always meant so much to me, I almost didn’t want to go watch it. That’s as close as I get to purism, folks. But I went.

Fade in from black to what looked like a WWII air raid on England. I’m confused. Edmund, Peter, Susan and Lucy all make for a bomb shelter with their mother. Ah, they’re sent to the Professor’s house because of the war, right, I remember now. And so the make their way on train through gorgeous landscapes and rolling credits to a manor that does Lewis’s imagination justice and more.

I have to admit. I was a bit skeptical at first of the children cast for the role of the Pevensees, but what initially annoyed me is what I eventually grew to love about them–their simplicity and innocence. These children are not pensive narcissistic Dakota Fanning’s or Haley Joel Osmond’s. Georgie Henley (Lucy) especially shimmers with simple charm. One scene in particular exemplified this so perfectly for me. It was a small, almost insignificant (I can’t even remember the context) scene; but she giggled as she spoke to Susan. It was so pure and unrehearsed that I felt like this was a neighbor or friend. That’s perhaps what made the movie so powerful for me, much like the journey of Sam and Frodo. These are heroes we can all relate to: small people who found strength to stand in dark times. After all, aren’t most of us small people facing dark times?

Another thing I must add–it was true to the book but more importantly, it was true to the Message of the book. While no pulpits were dragged out and no altar calls were made, the stunning beauty of sacraficial love takes center stage and is portrayed with such sobriety and magnificence that a gospel parallel is unavoidable. Aslan’s ascent to the Stone Table and talk of fulfilling the Law were reminiscent of The Passion, complete with angry mobs and tetelestai. The demands by the White Witch for Edmund’s death–according to the Law–and Aslan’s substitution brought new life and meaning to the Real Myth (as Chesteron calls it).

And then to top it all off, if being true to the book and it’s message weren’t enough, the film was just very well done. The special effects were phenomenal, on par with LOTR. The animals were so believable my wife couldn’t distinguish which was real and which was CG (unlike Star Wars…), then to see these animals engaging in conversation, interacting with each other, fighting in a war; it was truly a visual marvel. And Aslan was perfect. When he appeared, I half-expected a rough, growling voice (Liam Neeson); but it was stately and strong, measured while still mighty.

There were a few minor flaws. I thought the music could have used some work, and at times the pace slowed a bit too much. Some of the character’s dialogue didn’t fit the “fairy tale” feel: the fox and wolves’ gangster-like cliches and perhaps Mr. Tumnus’ emotional meltdown at the beginning. But overall this movie was a real gem and I’d encourage everyone to see it, especially before Kong dominates the theatres next week (as it will). Narnia is a classic the likes of which we’ve not seen since Return of the King hit the big screen. While I’m sure Lewis would have made some changes, I think this movie would have brought a grin to his face.