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Monday, December 12, 2005

The Bait, the Switch, and the Wardrobe


Tilda Swinton's sweet ride


Billed as Lord of the Rings Junior, The Chronicles of Narnia is supposed to carry the fantasy baton for the next seven years or so (seeing as how there are seven books' worth of material to mine and LotR and Harry Potter seem to be following a one movie per year formula.) That's a whole lotta Narnia and the big question on your mind should be: Can they possible capture the public imagination enough to make that viable? The answer, sadly, is no.

The problem is that this movie tries to have it both ways in the court of public appeal. It's pandering to the massive Christian demographic ala Passion of the Christ, while simultaneously wooing the same fantasy audience that made LotR a box-office hit. If you have any doubt of this, just take a closer look at the marketing strategy Disney is using. Of the film's 180 million dollar budget, 80 of that goes to promotion. They are pumping the youth ministers of the country to get their flocks into the theaters for this "Christian-friendly" fare. At the same time, they have a secular sales pitch trying to get the fantasy geeks into the seats. Like most results of a split agenda, they fail to satisfy either need convincingly well. The film feels like a crossover Christian rock band... One that fails to rock and fails to be compellingly Christian as well. While I liked the film, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed in what I was eventually sold.

In making the film suitable for Christians and especially Christian children, they've taken away the naughty bits. No blood, no sex. It feels more like some bemused children parading around a renaissance faire. Harry Potter is edgier than this. Conversely, there are talking animals, mythological critters, and a Christ figure that bites someone's head off (literally) and also freely operates under the rules of the old religion (read: paganism.) This somewhat mystical interpretation of the bible ought to give protestant clergymen a few fits.

As a whole, the film is decent enough for fantasy fans. A fair amount of love went into bringing the griffons, centaurs and minotaurs to life, but I couldn't help but notice how they paled in comparison to the cave troll or the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring. And the characters (especially the non-humans) fall short of lovable. We barely get to know Aslan before he's being sacrificed. I remember being devastated when I read the novels, but here we are given little reason to care about the Lion King before his death. And the centaurs, while looking awesome, hardly get a line of dialogue. Also, the world of Narnia isn't deep enough... Glib explanations by an exiled Santa Claus serve for backstory. (BTW, does anyone remember if it was Santa that gives all the boys and girls their weapons in the book? I don't remember it happening that way.) Conan the Barbarian had a more detailed world to inhabit than Narnia. Lastly, the story keeps smacking me in the face with parable. The Christ story is a good enough tale to transform and tell in this manner, but the filmmakers conjure Christian imagery too frequently for my taste. They've drawn a careful line, making sure never to use the word God or Jesus, but I think they inserted a whole Christmas subplot to make sure we know who the real hero is.

The film will have it's fans, but it will never find a place alongside LotR in the fantasy hall of fame, and I imagine that Christian scholars will find it equally lacking (when compared to The Passion.) It's no sin to attempt to be a crossover hit, but in this case, it is a bit of a shame. _Cinema

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11 Comments:

At 12/13/2005 08:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

will someone please wake me after this review is over, or if you feel like it just shoot me. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(the man that was quickly put to sleep by boredom scratches his ass, farts, and keeps snoring.)zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

"Perhaps the world's second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore."

~Sir Cecil Beaton~

 
At 12/13/2005 09:03:00 PM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

"I am never bored anywhere: being bored is an insult to oneself." ~Jules Renard

 
At 12/13/2005 10:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that how you really feel or are you a reactionary bore?

 
At 12/14/2005 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

I mean... Yes I agree completely! "The Matrix" was a total bait and switch! All that religious symbolism, a holy trinity, heck one of the characters was even NAMED Trinity. The makers of that movie were obviously trying to brainwash me into going to church, with a bunch of stupid sci-fi and "special effects" to lure me in before smacking me with their Bible-thumping message.

But they failed miserably. In fact, it was that bullet-dodging foolishness that turned me into a hardcore atheist. How's THAT for backfiring?

Any movie with religious symbolism is a cruel and deceptive attack on everyone everywhere, and should be outlawed. Especially trash like "Constantine" or "Saved." Man those movies just made me want to nail myself to a cross!

Soapy

 
At 12/14/2005 05:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(Burp)zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

P.s. Please make it a headshot I don't want take any chances that I'll survive.

 
At 12/14/2005 12:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just think how much sweeter the ride would have been if she hadn't forgotten the reins...

 
At 12/14/2005 12:49:00 PM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

So, Steve and Clay,
I'm sorry my little rant about the difficulties of satisfying fantasy fans and Christians alike didn't float your boat.
Apparently the opposite of being boring (like me) is to either attack the credibility of my argument by attacking the writer as a bore (ad hominem) or to ridicule the argument by taking it to irrational extremes (ad absurdum.) Since you both are so fond of logical fallacies and have limited attention spans, I encourage you spend your internet reading hours at www.nationalreview.com instead.

 
At 12/14/2005 01:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so much for making nice, now you guys made him cry!

 
At 12/14/2005 01:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(The man wakes suddenly to the sound of more nothing.) Fuck, no one's shot me in the head yet? Anyone ever hear of mercy killing? (Then falls quickly back to sleep.) Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

 
At 12/14/2005 01:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ad Absurdum. Now there's another good title for a blog. Or my job placing classifieds.

Johnny bai, if your feelings are truly hurt then my only proper recourse would be to scoop you up in my giant ape-like hands and treat you to a showing of "King Kong" at the Meridian. Or the Neptune! Oooooh... NEP-tuuuune...

However such a gesture would be a logical fallacy.

But my attention span is too short to notice! Let's do KONG this weekend before I figure it out!

Soapy

 
At 12/14/2005 01:57:00 PM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Ah Steve, you masterful mender of mangled fences, of course I'll go see King Kong with you... and post haste! Bummerman needs more fuel for the fire.

 

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