Wednesday, January 04, 2006

139. on Narnia

Okay, so I'm not posting the story I promised yesterday (see blog 138). Thing is, I didn't promise, I said "probably," and besides, I have more important thoughts to work out.

See, I did my Christian duty and finally saw Chronicles of Narnia. I put it that way because if I were of any other religious persuasion, I would not have seen the film. For one thing, it's kind of a fairy tale and that ain't my thing. For another thing, it's genre is fantasy and that ain't my thing either. Lastly, and this is the bit I want to write about, it makes no effort to hide its subtext.

First the good bits. The movie is quite lovely to look at...maybe too lovely, but I suppose that's a matter of taste...then again, even in the scenes of the Elvish kingdom in LOTR, I didn't get that same sense (that things were too sweet or pretty). But anyway, it's great to look at. Most of the effects are pretty seamless although there are a few where the pixels weren't rendered correctly or something because it didn't have that effortless verisimilitude that really great effects have these days. And the kids were pretty good (although their adult selves near the end of the movie were really lame...can't pinpoint why, they just were). Let's see, did I miss anything? Oh, the opening scene with the bombers. That opening reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in that it had a nostalgic sheen that just plain looks cool.

Okay, now on to the criticisms. Aslan and the prophecy. I'm scratching my head, trying to figure out how someone as smart as C.S. Lewis could be so clumsy and ham-fisted when it comes to the references to Christ and Christian theology. There were moments (lots of them) when I had to remind myself that this was a movie, not some Carman video (I hate that guy, really) or fancy New Hope skit. I mean, really, Aslan as a lion who sacrifices himself then comes back to life? Call me a hard-hearted cold, cynical, post-modern Christian, but come on! Why not brand him with a fish sticker just in case people missed the point.

Ugh, the worst part about it was the bit where Aslan comes back to life. It's such a cop-out, such a meaningless, convenient, nothing plot twist. There's no setup or plants to justify it. See, there's a rule in screenwriting where if there's an element that saves the day at the end of the film, plant that element in the beginning in such a way that it seems irrelevant. That way, when it does end up turning the movie around, it doesn't just appear out of thin air.

A couple of examples are in order here. Okay, this is a bad example (well, more accurately, a good example from a bad movie) but remember the movie The Golden Child? There's that scene where the beggar gives Eddie Murphy's character an amulet. At first this seems like something superfluous, but later on it ends up keeping him from being killed with the Ashanti dagger (you can't remember what the main character's name is but you remember that the knife is called the Ashanti dagger?) Or remember in the first Indiana Jones movie? Near the beginning, that creepy Nazi dude burns his hand on the gold headpiece. At the time it looks like this is just something unfortunate for the creepy Nazi guy but later in the movie it turns out that those burn marks allow the Nazis to make their own little headpiece, even though they only have one side of it and so they're digging in the wrong spot, yadda, yadda, yadda.

See, these plot points were planted earlier in the movie so that when they show up later, it's not such a surprise. They don't just appear out of thin air, which is exactly how the prophecy that brings Aslan back to life feels.

"So how should they have planted that idea earlier?"

Hey, I didn't write the book and I didn't make the movie. It's not my responsibility to figure those things out.

See, here's the bit that really twists me. The whole Deep Magic, prophecy, Aslan coming back to life thing is just so irrational, so poorly setup. I can't help but think that this just perpetuates the stereotype of Christians as irrational and unable to properly setup their beliefs - they just throw them out there and expect you accept them without question. And then Christians wonder why they have little to no respect in the halls of academia.

It honestly shocks me that Lewis would re-imagine the death and resurrection of Jesus in such an intellectually, artistically childish way. It make other Christian artists seem intellectually/artistically childish by association.

Okay, I may have more ideas to share later, but for now, I'm off to sleep (got work tomorrow and I was late this morning).

"Well before you go, can you tell us - did you like it or not?"

Well, it's not that simple.

"Would you go see it again?

Probably not, unless it was with some really smart, cute single woman with short hair and glasses who wants to point out how wrong I am about the film...but she'd have to be really smart (and really cute doesn't hurt either) because there's a lot of explaining to do.

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