Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Lions, Witches, and Wardrobes

Apart from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s hard to imagine a film carrying a greater set of expectations than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The film, which opens tomorrow, is being touted by some Christians as a sort of “magic bullet” that will change the way Hollywood goes about its business. Well, that would be good, and one thing you should do is brave the long lines and see this film. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. If Christians should have learned anything about movies and their impact on culture, the first question that needs to be answered is the most important one: Is the movie any good? Well, the critics have spoken. Their answer is a resounding “yes!” And I agree. The BBC called the film a “bracing adventure” and a “beautiful realization” of Lewis’s book. The newspaper Guardian called it “miraculously complete,” adding that it possesses the kind of humor that makes belief possible. Closer to home, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the movie two enthusiastic “thumbs up.” Ebert called it “kinder and gentler” than The Lord of the Rings while remaining “scary and imaginative.” Ebert commended the filmmakers for telling the story at Lewis’s prescribed pace and not adding “senseless action scenes.” Nearly all of the critics singled out Tilda Swinton’s performance as the White Witch. The BBC called her performance a “pristine picture of evil.” The Guardian called it “her finest hour,” adding that “her statuesque hauteur and that otherworldly presence are sublimely right here.” Even her wardrobe, which Ebert characterized as “Bob Mackie”—the designer nicknamed the “Sultan of Sequins”—“goes to the North Pole,” adds to the effect. Similarly, Georgie Henley is the perfect Lucy: a mixture of wonder, goodness, courage, and loyalty. Of course, Christians want to know if the film remains faithful to Lewis’s book. I agree with Roeper who says that the book’s Christian themes have not been “watered down for mass consumption.” At the same time, the film avoids being preachy. The themes are here for people with eyes to see and ears to hear. There are only two things I would change: The music doesn’t rise to the standard set by Howard Shore in The Lord of the Rings. And it didn’t help matters that the song played over the closing credits—sung by female angst-rocker Alanis Morrisette—sounded suspiciously like a hymn to female empowerment. And the Aslan of the film, while a wonder of special effects, isn’t awe-inspiring. While the children and the good animals love and respect him, the only person who seems in awe of him is the White Witch. There’s no real sense in which Aslan, as Lewis wrote, “isn’t a tame lion.” But given the filmmakers’ superlative efforts, I suspect that the problem may lie in the nature of filmmaking. How do you portray awe onscreen? Maybe that’s something you can only do in books. And that brings me to what our expectations for the Narnia films ought to be. Having been introduced to Lewis’s wondrous Narnia, audiences will want more: not just of Narnia, but also of the rest of Lewis’s opus, where a change more wondrous than anything in Narnia awaits them.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary