Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (PG)
Written by C.S. Lewis (novel), Directed by Andrew Adamson
On general release from 9th December 2005
When committed Christian C.S. Lewis published the first book in his Narnia
series in 1950, he claimed to be “aiming at a sort of pre-baptism
of the child's imagination”. Fast-forward to 2005, and Florida governor
Jeb Bush seems to be hoping the film of the book will achieve something
similar. The president’s brother has set-up a scheme for every child
in his state to read the book. Walden Media – co-producer of the
movie alongside Disney – is offering a seventeen week Narnia bible
study for children. Co-incidentally, the oil man who owns Walden Media
donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. I wonder
if the course will have the bit about the love of money being the root
of all evil. Probably not.
In this more secular tragic kingdom, the religious subtext will go undetected
by many. So politics aside, there is much to admire in the first of what
will surely be a new fantasy franchise. Tilda Swinton is jaw-droppingly
icy and imperious as the witch – a character she describes as “the
ultimate white supremacist” - while Georgie Henley as Lucy glows
with youthful exuberance and budding talent. However, the other three
children look quite underwhelmed by the whole experience, and the visual
effects often look quite flat - paling into mediocrity compared to fantasy
landscapes created by the likes of Peter Jackson.
In the Gospel according to Clive, the land of Narnia can be reached through
the back of a wardrobe in a musty World War Two era house. Evacuee Lucy
Pevensie stumbles upon the fairytale world when playing hide-and-seek.
There she meets a faun called Mr Tumnus (James McAvoy) who tells her about
a world where “it is always winter and never Christmas”, and
the evil white queen who keeps it that way.
Back in England, Lucy’s sisters and brother refuse to believe her
account, but they are gradually drawn into the closet, where they meet
the witch/Satan, Aslan the lion/Jesus, and two quarrelsome beavers (Ray
Winstone and Dawn French). Adventures and escapades follow by the bucketful,
and millions of people around the age of ten will be delighted.
But is that enough? What kind of messages does this film send out? Well,
eating Turkish Delight is punishable by death, climate change is caused
by evil witches, and if a dictator takes charge of your country then you
just have to wait until you are saved by a talking lion and four schoolkids
Take your young innocents along if you must, but you will be making the
Bush family’s winter.