Monday, December 19, 2005

The Lion's Share

In a year of less than favorable movies it is good to know that there are a few shining examples of good film making. While I will probably comment on Peter Jackson and his King tomorrow, today I would like to spend some time with The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember my mother reading C. S. Lewis' books to me every Sunday afternoon. She would read until she was too tired to read (she fully expected me to take a nap afterward). When she fell asleep, I would slip out and go play. Since then, reading aloud has become something I love to do, and something I love to hear. (digression is one of life's hallmarks.) When I found out last spring that Walt Disney and Walden Media were teaming up (sort of) to make this first installation, I was very excited. I knew that with the CGI movement, it would mean that the characters would neither be silly nor would they be too scary. The actors chosen to play the children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were brilliant with the heaviest weight on Edmund and Lucy. They must have taken direction like a dream. Edmund was perfectly sinister until his reconciliation through Aslan with the other children. Lucy could not have been more perfectly played. The CGI characters were wonderfully and nearly flawlessly created. What a beautiful film that will continue to inspire children as well as the books have.

Oklahoma Forum prognosticator and Jornalism professor Kathryn Jenson White spoke out against the crusadic images in the film saying that the timing of such imagry in a film is unfortunate. The question posed was "What were the worst films of the year?" White placed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the same cinematic category ("worst films") as Bewitched, and The Dukes of Hazzard. She went on to say that the film (LWW) was overtly Christian and that the good guys were obviously Christians and the bad guys were obviously not Christians (as thought being Christian were an offense in and of itself). Despite the obvious tone of anti-Christian dogma, let's look at the images that in her words were crusadic. The lion on the shield reminded White of Richard the Lionheart. I can't say that I didn't think of good ole' Richard while watching the film, so there is a connection to what she's saying. However the real connection White is working with is associating the current war in Iraq with the crusades. To say that this country is involved in a Christian movement to reclaim Jerusalem (oh, goodness, I guess we're not fighting for Jerusalem are we?) is an offense to my Theological and historical sensibilities. This country is not Christian. White is looking for connections to add fuel to the hyperbolic soundbites that suppress real thought and discussion. Her bumper sticker journalism will continue to damage how folks think of Christians. Isn't it bad enough that we have to deal with folks like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell? Now we deal with folks on the other side giving Christians a bad name. One more question, why is it that when folks can't come up with a real argument why Christians are bad, they bring up the crusades? I don't bring up slavery everytime I want to come up with an argument why Americans are bad.

Now that I've gotten all the compliments and defences out of the way, let me say that this film was not without its problems. I have but one criticism that will actually keep this film from being the Evan Abla's Best Movie of the Year. In C. S. Lewis' book, while the children are with the Beavers in the dam, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the children about a prophecy in which Aslan will make things right when he comes. However, in the film, the prophecy is about the how the children will make things right. Now, to some this won't sound like much, but it is. The Deuteronomistic history (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings) is filled with stories about folks who tried to do it themselves. Time and again God showed his people that God does the delivering around here. This is a huge distinction. Gideon didn't conquer the Midianites. God did! There was no "Gideon did it." That story, like all of the stories in Judges is about God. Here, C. S. Lewis would agree, LWW was all about Aslan. Allegorically, of course, Aslan is the Christological figure in Narnia. In the book, it was all about how Aslan delivered Narnia. The movie fails in this aspect by making it all about the children and how they delivered Narnia. All I can hear are the echoes of Judges 7:18 "When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, 'For the Lord and for Gideon!'" Too bad Gideon thought it was about him. Remember, Gideon began his life as a Baal worshiper died a Baal worshiper after he was done with God.

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