"Always winter, and never Christmas..."
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made Friday night over dinner with friends - a chance remark, and Ka-POW! Treos and a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop were fired up, browser windows opened, schedules perused, and finally... tickets ordered for a Saturday matinee. Narnia. On a huge screen, with a magnificent sound system. The quick thumbs up or down? Up. Way up. It was almost not to be - the sound wouldn't come up when they started the trailers (Captain Jack Sparrow: funny even without the sound), but no tempers were lost, no popcorn thrown. The manager came out and announced that they had someone working on it, and that anyone who wanted to leave would get vouchers. We opted to stick it out for at least 15 or 30 minutes - much longer than that and the kiddies we were with would have started climbing the curtains. And about 20 minutes later, we were there in full living sound and color. The movie captures so much of the magic of Lewis' writing - there were a couple of moments where the green screen didn't look quite right, or where your brain went "uh, no..." for some of the animated critters, but overall it was quite excellent. And those critics who were annoyed by the talking beavers? I dunno what's up with that - as semi-comedic foils, they were quite good. Tilda Swinton is coldly magnificent as the White Witch, the kids who play the Pevensies are excellent, and despite some of the previously-mentioned CG slips, Aslan is absolutely amazing (I wouldn't have picked Liam Neeson for Aslan's voice, but hey... whatchagonnado?). The only major objection I had was that where the book makes abundantly clear that all four children are flawed in some way, the movie Lucy is portrayed as unalloyed goodness. For instance, in the book she wants to stay by Edmund's side and to not tend to the other wounded and Aslan rebukes her quite severely for being so selfish; in the movie, as soon as it is clear that Edmund will live, Lucy goes skipping off to tend the wounded of her own accord. Eh. Not so much. And as for the oft-discussed religious element - it is there, but perhaps somewhat more muted than in the book. I don't think that this movie will provide the same emotional fodder for religious conservatives as some hope. Why? Well, to me the movie underscores the central weakness of the books: Narnia itself. Lewis created a world that was too magical, too heretical and pagan to ever be a perfect setting for Christian allegory. The magic and wonder is so strong that by the time you get to The Last Battle, Lewis has to rush and tie together these loose ends with some really heavy-handed symbolism - but in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he himself is still caught up in the magic of his own creation. And I have to say that this movie captures that wonder, that magic, most magnificently. Even our five-year-old son, with his extremely active imagination, was able to sit through the whole thing; he loved (almost) every minute of it, as did we. Oh, and as we were leaving, we were given vouchers anyway... Score!