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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter with Narnia

In addition to other forms of celebration, each year I try to watch something related to the Easter story as the day comes to an end. Last year,

Watched every cheesy movie ever made about Christ, it seems: King of Kings, with a particularly unconvincing Jeffrey "I Was a Cardboard Jesus" Hunter in the key role. This is the Revised Standard Version of Bible movies--lacking the beauty of King James (Zeffarelli?) and the realism of the NIV (Mel Gibson?). If Jesus had been this wooden, Peter and Andrew wouldn't have followed Him, they'd have made a boat out of Him.

I couldn't bring myself to watch Passion of the Christ this year or last. I need to see it again, but it's too painful to watch and is hardly joyous family fare. We did, however, obtain the special edition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which provided a delightful Easter-themed diversion. The movie didn't do as well at the box office as I had hoped, but the crowd that would come for the sake of fantasy alone has become jaded by Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I expect the fillm will enjoy brisk sales to the Christian-oriented market as a DVD, however.


Update 18 Apr 06:
Susanna asks, "jaded? How so?"

I meant simply that moviegoers who would come just to see a fanstasy tale, special effects, and the like, especially those unfamiliar with the story (and there are now millions of Tolkien fans who had never heard of LotR before the movies) would see this as something derivative and perhaps not quite as rich as LotR and many might have stayed home based on that judgement from fantasy fans who had seen the movie. If LWW had been produced before LotR and Harry Potter, I suspect that it would have made a killing at the box office just from those who made Fellowship of the Ring such a huge hit. Both it and LWW were about equally well-rendered, in my opinion (and I love both stories).


Update 19 Apr 06:
Susanna writes:

I agree, in part. I think that LotR, LWW, and HP are all equally rich tales in their own ways. However, neither HP nor LWW are cinematically on the same level with LotR, in my opinion. Peter Jackson and the WETA folks took CG, storytelling, and thus our expectations, to another level. Because of their obsessive concern for detail, and the massive effort behind the movie, they created something excellent instead of sticking with the status quo.

This probably did steer some folks away from LWW, but I don't think it can be really called "jaded." Peter Jackson raised the bar. Now intelligent moviegoers expect nothing less. In my opinion, only as a film, LWW was something less.

Not to knock LWW - I loved Aslan. And Mr. Tumnus. Great makeup and CG, no doubt. But speaking comparatively, as a whole (movie), LotR far surpasses LWW.

Anyway, I know your point wasn't to start a movie discussion. But I thought I'd comment back anyway. :-)

I agree for the most part -- but your point is true of the source literature itself. Lewis' Narnia is nowhere near as richly-conceived a world as is Middle Earth. The material in the annexes on the Hobbits alone exceeds the amount of historical and cultural detail we're given in the whole of the Narnia series. I think the relative richness of the stories (and backstories) has something to do with the relative quality of the movies. I do think that the two directors rendered their respective stories about equally well; that is, they took what the stories' authors gave them and rendered them with equal faithfulness. I do agree, however, that Jackson and Co. raised the bar and that was finally my point: had LWW come out first, it's quality would have caused much more of a sensation and it would have gotten better box office numbers. Since it came out after LotR and HP, audiences, as you say, expect nothing less, which leaves us with the relative richness of the underlying literature.

Much of my fondness for the Narnia stories lies in their clear allegorical nature. They are fun retellings of Christian themes. There is much in LotR that can carry Christian messages (e.g., there are Christ-like qualities in Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn), but Tolkien, though a very faithful man, never intended his story as allegory and fiercely defended the books against those who tried to claim that they were intended as allegory.

I am always happy to discuss any topic; there's been far too little discussion on all of our blogs lately. People are busy, I guess!


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