Film breathes life into Narnia chronicles

Published January 1, 2006

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is first and foremost a cinematic celebration of the wonders of myth and imagery. This movie will have universal appeal. It stands equal to both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
Imagination is the true entr©e to Narnia and no one could be a better guide into that Narnian world of Deep Magic than Lucy (Georgie Henley). She is joined in the adventure by her Pevensie family siblings Edmund (Skandar Keynes) Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell). Each child character is excellently cast but young Lucy is a standout. She is curious, tenderhearted and the most winsome.
The computer-generated imaging of this fantasy is breathtaking. During his lifetime, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) objected to any filming of the Narnia chronicles because he feared that his colourful animal characters would be relegated to buffoons. But director Andrew Adamson and his team seamlessly blend humans and animals in stunning visual engagements and action sequences.
Transcending everything is a soaring spiritual vision. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe walks a delicate line between the secular and the religious. In classic mythological fashion the screenplay is rooted in the here and now. Yet it subtly prompts a curiosity and the desire to probe further into a supernatural reality existing beyond this world.
The movie remains true to the context of C.S. Lewis’ times – the realities of wartime London and the Blitz. A concerned mother sends her children to the  countryside to stay at the home of an eccentric but kindly professor, Kirk (Jim Broadbent).
One rainy day, while playing hide-and-seek indoors with the others, Lucy discovers an old wardrobe; she enters it and quite unexpectedly tumbles into another world. Narnia is a strange place where it is always winter and Christmas is never celebrated.
Lucy finds a lamp post in the midst of a snowy scene; she encounters a faun named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) and learns that Narnia – once proud and free – is now ruled by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), an evil interloper. Eventually, all four children take the plunge into Narnia and the stage is prepared for an eventual grand showdown between the forces of good and evil.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe retains the core Christian symbolism that C.S. Lewis invested in his books. Yet the religious elements are never permitted to dominate the production. Many secular viewers and the very young may well miss allusions to sin, forgiveness and reconciliation. But there are other compensations to be found here such as the importance of family, loyalty and bravery.
What to make of Aslan, the lion? He is considered by more orthodox viewers as a Christ-figure who consents to die in the place of another.
But Aslan cannot serve as a Christ-figure for many who will be dissuaded by too much fighting in the last third of the story. He advises lead warrior Peter to kill and kill again. Soon-to-be-crowned queen Susan of Narnia shoots a special arrow into the heart of an enemy. Aslan himself takes out the White Witch – discreetly but definitively.
The violence in this movie will lead at least some viewers to conclude, most charitably, that C.S. Lewis was a Christian of his time. Unquestionably, he was an able defender of the faith during a most horrible war that was fought, many were convinced, to preserve Christian civilization against a pagan enemy. From that era, Lewis penned a wildly entertaining tale that has been made into a marvelous movie.
Those, however, who believe that their Christ is the Prince of Peace and Justice, will hesitate to make any direct or conclusive Christian association. Wayne A. Holst is a spiritual development educator at St. David’s United Church, Calgary


  • Wayne Holst

    Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for twenty-five years; he taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and, for 15 years, he has coordinated adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

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