The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
My mission when seeing the Narnia film was to determine at what point my sister would have to remove my four-year-old niece from the theatre. Having read the novel as a family, my niece is relatively prepared for the primary events of the novel: people frozen by the evil witch, a family betrayed by one of their own, and a brave leader’s sacrifice of his own life. Yet as a disgruntled mother commented in the row behind me during a particular scary scene involving a mix of real and CGI wolves, “this wasn’t in the novel!”
The battle scenes are pretty graphic as well, with some shots echoing Lord of the Rings exactly. The film is, in essence, LOTR light, as many critics have noted. Unfortunately, it is lighter in terms of its emotional impact, as well. As the Harry Potter films have demonstrated, child actors often falter during strong emotional scenes. In fact, only the most recent Potter film has offered the same level of powerful catharsis as the novel upon which it is based.
The actors portraying the Pevensie children are beautiful and their performances are sincere. Yet being children, they seem able to deliver only emotions as basic as fear, anger, and joy. Everything in between, all the shades of gray that complicate human relationships and bring a story its resonance, elude them. The movie is entertaining, but somehow, I couldn’t quite connect.
As the children discover the wonderful land in which they have found themselves, the music soars to grand heights of feeling. Yet what the children have discovered is nothing more than a winter wonderland: does it snow so rarely in London that the sight of white tipped pine trees has the power to amaze? Similarly, when Santa arrives to present the children with magical gifts that help save the day, I couldn’t quite echo their awe. Is this the sad reality of being an adult? I can no longer appreciate wonder?
Gender roles are restricted in some sense by the source material. Whereas Santa gives the male Pevensie children weapons to lead everyone to victory, the females receive more feminine presents: a horn with which to call for help and a vial containing a healing lotion. But quibbling about this is like quibbling about the dearth of female roles in Lord of the Rings. I may want to see Susan and Lucy stop their mourning and get into the game, but it is difficult to fight a gender war with a deceased author who wrote over fifty years ago.
That said, on the whole, Narnia is enjoyable holiday fare. Even I can chill out and just enjoy a film once in a while.
By the way, my niece and nephew loved the film, and little Susie only had to leave the theatre once.