King Kong/The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—8. Production Notes
—9. Spiritual Connections
—10. Presentation Downloads
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first book written in C.S. Lewis’ bestselling The Chronicles of Narnia (though they’re now being packaged chronologically, with The Magician’s Nephew labeled “Book One”). The film masterfully grasps the apologist’s rich blend of Christian allegory, pagan myths and literary structure.
The story follows four British siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie) as they flee the bombing of London for the safer (though drearier) home of Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). The monotony of their new home is soon broken when Lucy discovers a mythical world called Narnia inside of a dusty wardrobe. Though the other siblings don’t believe her at first, they all mistakenly encounter the new world firsthand when hiding from Mrs. Macready, the strict housekeeper. In this world, they find friendly talking animals, along with a deadly tyrant known as the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). The children, being part of an ancient prophecy that promises freedom to the icy land of Narnia, are forced to stay as freedom fighters under the wise leadership of a magical lion named Aslan.
The strength of Andrew Adamson’s interpretation of the book is its accuracy to Lewis’ original work. Perhaps this is a direct result of Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Greshem, being a co-producer, or of Disney’s alliance with Walden Media, a production company helmed by conservative Christian Philip Anschutz. Whatever the case may be, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’s filmic incarnation includes strong allegorical elements about Christ’s sacrifice, man’s salvation, God’s grace and other key aspects of Christianity. The most dazzling thing about both the book and the film is that the story is not sacrificed for the message, and the message is not sacrificed for the story. This perfect blend provides both universal appeal and profound spiritual truths.
King Kong, like the 1933 original and the 1976 remake, follows driven filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black), his leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and their crew as they journey to an undiscovered island of giant animals and dinosaurs. Darrow is left as a bite-sized morsel by an aboriginal-like race of natives who worship a 28-foot gorilla called “Kong.” Kong (after enduring peril after peril to find a nice, quiet place to enjoy his dinner) is won over by his captive’s vaudeville-style entertainment, and he changes his role from antagonistic monster to brawny protector.
With King Kong, Peter Jackson has proven that The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not just a fluke. The man has the utmost respect for any of the material he adapts, and it shows throughout King Kong in his strict adherence to the essential elements of the 1933 film, his conscious effort to deepen the original themes and his countless allusions to the original (setting the film in 1933, having Denham mention actress Fay Wray, using bits of the original soundtrack, etc.).
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and King Kong have many similarities that make them both worthy of praise. Both incorporate the groundbreaking, lifelike computer-generated animation of Weta Studios (the next phase in cinematic evolution, standing on the shoulders of George Lucas’ Industrial Lights & Magic). In both films, the juxtaposition of opposing natural forces (light and dark, fire and ice, rain and sunshine) is key in setting the mood. Also, both Adamson and Jackson have a high respect for the sources of their adaptations, often using direct quotes from the original works.
In both films, the theme of self-sacrifice is prevalent. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it’s most recognizable in Aslan, whose substitutionary death blatantly mimics that of Christ. Several other characters, after life-changing experiences with Aslan, sacrifice themselves willingly for others. In King Kong, Kong offers the pivotal sacrifice in a confused attempt to protect Ann Darrow. Several members of Carl Denham’s party sacrifice their lives to protect their companions, though Denham tries to exploit the deaths to serve his filmmaking agenda.
Though I highly recommend both films, each has its weakness. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is true to the original text, but it provides nothing more to the work than an excuse to not read the book. Like the recent films Fantastic Four and Sin City, it offers an extremely faithful adaptation that doesn’t provide any extra meat for those who already know the story. King Kong, on the other hand, retains faithfulness to the original work and provides new depth (deepening characters, providing parallels with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commenting on corruption in Hollywood, alluding to other films, etc.).
Though King Kong is rich in content, its outlook is somewhat bleak. Taking place during the Great Depression, King Kong never gives its characters any real sense of hope, and impending doom clings to them like their rain-soaked clothes. Though three hours of anticipating a tragic ending may seem torturous, it actually creates an incredible element of suspense not expected in a story we’ve seen twice before. Though Kong dies a tragic death, the catharsis is in seeing that, though people always let Darrow down, there is an entity that is willing to die in her stead. Though this entity is a primate, and he probably won’t be getting up from his 1,472-foot fall, the power of propitiation is still present, and the need for such a sacrificial figure in our lives is recognized.
Despite the minor flaws, both films are highly enjoyable and I highly recommend them. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is rated PG, but its slow pace may be tough for younger children to follow, and its depiction of the Pevensie children killing their enemies in battle might be too much for those who don’t understand the allegory of spiritual warfare. Like Adamson’s film, King Kong also has some very intense, frightening moments. Do not watch it if you’re afraid of creepy, crawly things! The majority of the PG-13 film’s profanity is directed toward God and His ability to inflict eternal condemnation, perhaps because of its characters’ feelings of imprisonment. Again, this sets the stage for something more than human to interact with a depraved and hopeless race.
This more-than-human figure, whether represented by a lion or a gorilla, is a key element in both films, as it is a key element in our hope and redemption as a frail humans.
Linkis for Narnia (kong links above)
—2. Reviews and Blogs
—3. Cast and Crew
—4. Photo Pages
—5. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Production Notes (pdf)
—8. Spiritual Connections
—9. Presentation Downloads