I couldn’t stay awake through any of the LOTR films – in my impatient head, I’d keep thinking, “get to it, already – how many scenes do we need to see of Orcs making weapons! Alright, I get it, the Ents are slow! Not the Oliphants!”
Sometimes I got the feeling that director Peter Jackson was simply indulging in Tolkien-Porn – lingering lovingly on some Middle-Earthian scenery or sword or doo-dad, allowing his addicted audience to simply wallow in Hobbity/Elfin goodness to unhealthy excess. I’ll admit it; there were times I wanted Gollum to get his precious and, like King Kong, jump to the highest point and hang there, blowing raspberries at Samwise while an Orc tore Frodo to little shreds of Hobbit. I know that Jackson wanted to give the Tolienites the dose of Middle Earth of which they’d been dreaming for years, but often LOTR seemed to me to be too much of a good thing.
I went into the showing of Narnia fearing the same – that there would be too many over-blue CGI effect scenes, too many scenes of computer-generated soldiers stretching for miles – that it would simply be too damned much of a good thing.
Happily, I was quite wrong. Narnia, after a cozy, rather deceptively slow beginning gallops along at a fine pace and never overindulges in long caresses of Narnia-detail. Truth be told, I would have enjoyed a few panning shots of the Beaver’s dam-home, or even the White Witch’s castle, but the film doesn’t suffer for the lack of them. Instead it draws you into Narnia and then, imperceptively, increases its hold on you, until you completely believe in the talking Beavers and Foxes, and Aslan is utterly real, utterly grand and sympathetic. I was surprised to find myself crying at his death, moved in a way that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ never touched me. I liked Passion a lot, but I think the obviousness of Aslan’s sacrifice, the nobility with which he offered himself up, spoke to me in a simple and direct way that was devastating.
The costumes were eye-catching…I loved the White Witch’s gowns (her psuedo chain-mail get-up for battle was fine) and the uniforms of the army, as well as their equipment. I loved St. Nicholas; I was fearful that he would come off as way too sentimental, but he was well done; just perfect. The performances were, to a one, just wonderful; I loved Jim Broadbent in the small but charming role of the professor, and Tilda Swinton was enormously entertaining and engrossing as the Witch. I’ve read a few reviews wherein some felt she was “evil, but not evil enough” and I disagree. Evil is often, in fact I would say MOSTLY – subtle and seductive, and she is both of those things. A very smart performance.
All of the children’s performances are outstanding, but little Georgie Henley, auburn haired and wide-eyed is stunningly good as Lucy, in every scene. Her scenes with the Faun, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) are so delightful and charming you are sorry to see them end.
Buster loved the film and called it “the best book adaptation I’ve ever seen.” (I know purists will disagree, but we’re not purists ’round here). He has since gone back to see it a second time with friends. Hubby loved it so completely he forgot to munch his popcorn, and me? I stayed gloriously awake through the whole thing and was sorry to see the story end. And that’s something I can almost never say about any movie!
Newton also liked Narnia a lot and has some interesting links, and LaShawn Barber’s excellent new Fantasy Fiction Blog reviews as well. Don’t forget to look around that blog for some good Harry Potter stuff, too.
A nice article in defense of CS Lewis by Greg Easterbrook: A rebuttal of recent denunciations of the classic Chronicles of Narnia as racist, misogynist, “poisonous” works.