The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
See, I told you he was real.” This is the great line that Lucy Pevensie delivers to her two siblings as Father Christmas drives off after leaving them with the gifts that will equip them to fight for Aslan and Narnia. Georgie Henley is a very gifted little actress, but long before she and the others arrived at this scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Andrew Adamson had me. I was enthralled, enchanted, and excited to see Lewis’ work faithfully reproduced (well... mostly) on the giant screen. I was truly moved as I saw my own imagination laid bare before me. I was relieved as I realized with the closing credits that C. S. Lewis himself would probably be able to accept this interpretation of his book—not feeling led to condemn it as another imagination-killer.
Many adults will see this film and many of them will probably even criticize me for being facile and too easily entertained and pleased. My emotional response to the screening of this story will most certainly be disdained by reviewers who will find plenty to criticize, especially in the failed technical aspects and the watered-down violence necessary for the maintaining of a PG rating. I will boldly stand my ground, however, because I believe that Adamson has shown by his interpretation that he understands Lewis’ heart.
The movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is in no way preachy or blatantly Christian. This actually fits well with Lewis, who though exposed to religion from birth, took a long road through atheism and agnosticism before he became a Christian and made his peace with God. Just as the whole story isn’t confined to one book but flows through seven, this film leaves the door open to further exploration of the spiritual themes common to and expanded upon by the other Narnia stories. Those familiar with the Bible will see the Bible. Those unfamiliar may be led to seek and ask questions just as Lewis did. No one gets beaten over the head or feels like a victim of brainwashing or overzealous evangelism. Not many are comfortable with the yelling street preacher approach, and Lewis himself preferred an appeal to the intellect, whether a child’s or an adult’s.
Some Christians may be led to criticize the movie because it is not an obvious theological treatise on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ who is represented by Aslan in Lewis’ stories. It may be maintained, however, that this would have been in direct opposition to Lewis’ intent anyway. Remember… Lewis undertook the writing of his children’s series after publishing decades of amazing theological works. His intention was to allegorize the story of God and mankind’s spiritual journey toward Him, making the journey inviting to children without interfering with their natural innocence or dictating the product of their imaginations. I have pointed out elsewhere that Lewis believed a book worth reading as a child was also worth reading as an adult (non-fiction excepted) or it wasn’t really worth reading at all. The wise person can see the benefit of a well-written children’s book, as it becomes a generational bridge and a springboard for all kinds of conversation.
Finally, becoming an adult does not preclude the maintenance and use of a good, fertile imagination. Sometimes the exercising of faith takes a great deal of imagination! By definition, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:2). We don’t know all the answers and we don’t understand how everything works. We place our faith in hundreds of things and circumstances every day: the sun will come up in the east, the lights will come on when the switch is thrown, the car will start when we turn the key, the hard drive on our computer will regurgitate what we want it to on command, nothing will happen to our loved ones when they are far away from us.
There is no difference between faith in these things than there is in the child-like enjoyment of a place like Narnia. Adults who can release their childlike qualities have a better chance of overall survival. Not because it is good to be in denial or to master escapism, but because everyone needs a break from this messy world occasionally—the alternative is to go stark raving mad or become so depressed that madness might look like a kinder alternative. The Pevensie children “escape” from London and the harsh reality of a world at war (with real bombs falling all around them) to the countryside where their imaginations can be cleansed and filled with thoughts and images more appropriate than death and destruction. Jesus had a similar strategy to share in Matthew 18:3:
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”Too much over-analyzing and too many demands for proof kill the ability for faith to work and separate us from the mystery that has been planted deep within us. Too much reality leaves us feeling like life is dull, pointless, and even useless. King Solomon bemoaned it well: “There is nothing new under the sun. All is vanity.” Lewis said that we all need catharsis—release and renewal. I am unashamed to say that my first reaction when the lights came up was to sit frozen in thought. My first words… “I don’t want to go back to the real world!” The feelings of being somehow cleansed lasted for most of the weekend.
Images Copyright 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.