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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Last weekend, we went to see the latest big fantasy-based-on-literature blockbuster (a genre for which I'm a sucker): The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's been a few years since I read the book, but I felt the filmmakers did a nice job bringing this story to the screen, which must have been a tricky task. CS Lewis provided great lengths of potential rope for filmmakers to hang themselves: talking animals, Santa Claus, child actors, unicorns. It's all there, potential landmines to raise the audience cringe factor, and yet they pulled it off. Even Santa. It's sometimes cute, but never cutesy.

There has been much made about the politics and religious subtext of this film, but my advice is put that aside and go for the ride because it's quite a ride. If you want a Gospel allegory or a call to destroy evil, it's there for the taking, but it's not so overt that one feels beaten into submission to a message afterwards. First and foremost, this is well-crafted and lovingly-designed entertainment. The battle scenes are exciting and choreographed in the Peter Jackson/Lord of the Rings style that has become the new standard. The sound production at the very start of the big battle is amazing and must be experienced in a theater.

More importantly, though, Director Andrew Adamson does a nice job bringing out the underlying emotions and conflicts within the hearts of his young characters: Peter's desire to fight for a cause; Susan's logical skepticism; Edmund's need for independence from his siblings; Lucy's adventurousness. There are also moments of humor, fear, sadness and horror such as when Aslan upholds his end of the bargain with the White Witch. You know what happens if you've read the book, but it's still terrifying and heartbreaking.

It's a fun movie that gets the story right. If you have read the book, you won't find anything especially new or insightful here, but it's well-worth a trip to the theater and probably a second viewing when it comes out on DVD. I'll be looking forward to the impending string of sequels.

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