The Lion, the Witch and the Verdict

Recently, I was invited to be on a Christian radio talk show, and told that I was to explain to the listening audience why the mainstream press was trying to destroy the Narnia movie. The hosts’ leading question implied that the primary response of the mainstream press to the Narnia movie was negative, and that the chief complaint had to do with special effects.

When I asked for the source of their information, all they could offer was TIME Magazine.

Basically, when I got on the radio what I said was, “You’re wrong.

Well, sure, a few mainstream soreheads are unfairly criticizing the film, yes. But look at the Rotten Tomatoes board. Look at Metacritic.com. The majority have offered overwhelmingly positive reviews.

It’s the Christian press, actually, who are mixing their reviews with some serious questions about Adamson’s creative decisions. (And yes, I’m one of them, even though I still rate the film at a strong “B+”.)

It’s depressing how quickly many Christians will overreact to the slightest provocation, and start crying about being persecuted. Folks, Christian peacemakers held hostage in Iraq… that’s persecution. Polly Toynbee’s hateful and irrational rant against the Christian faith in The Guardian, that’s dismaying prejudice. But some criticism of sub-standard CGI?

The positive response to the Narnia film is reason to rejoice—it’s a pretty good movie! Not a great movie. Not a groundbreaking mind-blower. But a good, whimsical, entertaining, colorful, sometimes enchanting movie. It deserves praise, and it’s getting praise, even from secular journalists who know about Lewis’s Christian faith. That’s remarkable.

If we grab hold of some critical comments in TIME about the special effects and start behaving as if we’re being marched along in Christ’s bloody footprints to the flogging post, well, maybe we should stop, hold Narnia’s animation up against the standards set by the Lord of the Rings films, the Matrix films, and King Kong, and admit… well, yeah, there are a few seams showing in Narnia‘s generally impressive CGI.

Sheeesh.

So, to show that it’s not just me…

Here’s this week’s Film Forum, with a generous sampling of positive-but-critical Narnia reviews by Christian film critics. (And isn’t that their job? To be ruthlessly critical, celebrating what is excellent, “testing all things” and “holding fast to what is good,” to borrow a phrase from First Thessalonians?)

Syriana also gets a couple of responses.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Please clarify what you’re saying about this “falisy.” I’m not sure what you mean.

  • mark

    Jeffrey,
    You’ve fallen into the never say never falisy. You can’t respond this strongly to Christian overeacting and remain credible in your argument.


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