Saturday, December 17th, 2005

King Lion

It’s been a good 17 or 18 years since I last read the Narnia books, and while they hold a fond spot in memory, it’s a pretty dim spot. As a child, I didn’t pick up on any of the Christian symbolism or messagery in the books – I only found out about that later – to me, it was just a good old fashioned fantasy yarn. Either way, I’m not in a position at all to compare the film adaptaion, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, with the books because I barely remember them. I remember the cartoon, though…

My natural reaction was to compare The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe to The Lord Of The Rings, but this was really rather unfair – beyond the superficial, they’re really not very similar. Tolkien’s tale was a gritty, realistic and (relatively) mature fantasy epic, while Lewis’ Narnia books are more standalone, metaphorical and geared towards children. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t translate to film quite as well as the former, so to certain senisibilities, like mine I guess, Narnia seemed antiseptic and bloodless. For example, I had some problem with the fact that Peter managed to get through the entire final battle without so much as getting a drop of blood on his sword doesn’t help make the experience convincing. I don’t necessarily think that having him wear his enemies’ heads around his waist as trophies would have been better, but man. Tidiest war ever. But if you manage to get it in your head that realistic battlefield gore and intricate plot threads don’t really fit with the younger target audience, it’s reasonably enjoyable.

The CGI was decent, if not entirely convincing at points, and Tilda Swinton’s genuinely creepy Jayis notwithstanding, none of the evil creatures was especially threatening. Her secret police wolves still looked cuddly. And maybe it was a consequence of the pacing (leisurely at first, then breakneck as they got to the war), but the country of Narnia seemed very compact – like the size of Prince Edward Island or something. So very cozy. And even as a kid, I couldn’t wrap my head around the logistics of the time lapse thing between Narnia and the real world. So no matter how long they spend in Narnia, as soon as they cross back to Earth, not a moment has passed? And their bodies revert back? Wow, that must suck. How much did you like puberty the first time? Want to do it again? Yikes.

Unlike some reviewers, I didn’t feel hit over the head with the Christian-ness of the story. In fact, I barely noticed it. Yeah, there’s an obvious Christ allegory with Aslan’s death and rebirth, but I saw it more from the point of view of it being a standard fantasy device rather a religious one (hello Gandalf and Obi-Wan?). If anything, I thought that the film shyed away from any really overt religious themes, and therein lies my main beef with the adaptation – it felt hollow. I can’t put it any better than that – as I mentioned before, maybe this is just a consequence of trying to adapt an allegory to film, but I felt that it should have had more substance. Or maybe I just need to re-read the books again, it has been a while…

Bradley’s Almanac incites great jeaously in me for having been able to attend one of the Explosions In The Sky gigs in New York City last week… but at least he recorded it. He has MP3s of their performance at the Bowery Ballroom on Monday night, including what appears to be a new song.

The Montreal Mirror quizzes Stars’ Evan Cranley about the latent Christianity of their music, which he didn’t realize existed. Via For The Records.

Pitchfork sadly reports that Jens Lekman will be retiring from music for the forseeable future. Well, they didn’t exactly break the story since Jens posted as much on his website over a month ago, but it’s news to me. In his journal entries, he sounds tired and frustrated about a number of different things but they all seem to add up to him going on hiatus and shelving his follow-up to When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog. Sad news, but hopefully the time away will allow him to recharge and return in the near future.

Also – Nellie McKay tells Pitchfork about (again) staring down her record label about the length of her new album, Pretty Little Head, due January 3. Why that’s not even three weeks away!

A couple shows – The Juan Maclean are at the Horseshoe on February 6 and The Books are at Lee’s Palace on May 2.

Had my first iPod scare yesterday – after chugging along just fine since I got it, it decided to a) stop playing music and then b) stop responding entirely. The final crash came as I was trying to see if the video functions still worked. Appropriately, all my screen would display for the three hours that I was out was Stephen Colbert kind of shrugging at me (I had an episode of The Colbert Report uploaded). After reading Catherine’s horror story about iPods giving up the ghost, I was expecting the worst but thankfully, a reset of the doo-dad was all it took to get it working again. It would have been a glum Christmas otherwise, let me tell you.

np – Portastatic / Bright Ideas

By : Frank Yang at 10:48 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post11 Responses.
  1. Yan says:

    Haven’t seen this yet, but I’ve noticed a number of reviewers suggesting that Narnia’s bad guys and creatures aren’t ugly/scary enough, while King Kong reviews compliment Jackson’s tendency to equate eviller with uglier/scarier. I’m inclined to think rejecting that equation of ugly people with evil doers (which in fantasy/sci fi is code for equating foreigners or brown people with evil doers: I’m looking at you, Lucas, Tolkein, Jackson, C.S. Lewis, et al) at least makes a movie more realistic, possibly better–though perhaps it hurts the entertainment value.

  2. Frank says:

    well, most of the evil-doers in TL,TW*TW are animals and Jadis is about as white as you get, but your point is noted. I’ll be curious to see how they handle the evil Turks in later books, provided they make it to film.

  3. tyrone says:

    I found the Narnia movie to be pretty loaded with Christian allegory. I consider myself familiar with the Bible/new testament, and theres a lot of "little allegories" from the Bible that Narnia mirrors, similar to alot of stories you’d find taught in sunday schools.

  4. Frank says:

    I went to Catholic school for 11 years and didn’t absorb a single thing. So there you go.

  5. Jane says:

    I completely agree with your assessment of The Chronicles of Narnia. The allegory was supposed to underlie the entire story, not be crammed into one scene that wasn’t as impressive as it should have been. Also, I think all of the children, except Edmund, were so over the top that they came off as caricatures, not characters. Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

  6. Rob says:

    How’d you get the Colbert Report onto the Ipod? I just got mine and would love to do the same… And Tivotogo won’t be helping me with that for another few months…

  7. Frank says:

    re: The Colbert Report – I don’t remember. I uploaded it when I first got the ipod to test the video function… I think I found it here:

  8. Andy says:

    I read a couple of the books as a youngster and have recently re-read a couple (to Adam) and really did not enjoy them at all – the christian "thing" makes me feel really uncomfortable and there are such awkward inconsistencies (why is it OK to eat animals in a world were animals are sentient beings?). I shan’t read any more and I have taken the decision to not see the film.

  9. will says:

    maybe you didn’t notice the christian themes and allegory cuz that’s the dominant culture/religion in canada and so its presence in the movie seemed everyday and normal (ex. rebirth/salvation/sacrifice in Lord of the Rings etc etc) unless you’d been sensitized to the material by making conscious study of it (as opposed to being spoonfed the stuff when you were a wee tot in a catholic school uniform).

  10. Rob says:

    You better keep an i on that iPod – it may go. I’m on my second one already. The first one just stopped playing in the middle of songs for no good reason. After 3 months. It did that for about a week – I had to reset it every time. Eventually, it stopped responding to the resets. Jeez, you think they’d make a decent product for all that money.

  11. Yan says:

    "Yeah, there’s an obvious Christ allegory with Aslan’s death and rebirth, but I saw it more from the point of view of it being a standard fantasy device rather a religious one (hello Gandalf and Obi-Wan?)."

    I’m backing up Frank on this point. The Christian allegory is so broad that’s it’s not even worth noticing. I’m willing to bet five tickets to Star Wars or LOTR (both, in spirit, far more Christian to the bone) that 90% of people who read the books didn’t know it was supposed to be a religious allegory until they this movie came out.