Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)


     As Easter approaches, I was thinking about a movie I could share with you that relates to the season, and I wasn’t really sure. Last year I talked about “The Passion of the Christ”, thinking that was so obvious to share at Easter, but now, I couldn’t really think of anything. And then I thought: oh, yeah! Narnia! I think for some reason I was going to wait until Christmas to talk about this movie (it has Santa Claus in it, after all), but sure, this might even be considered an Easter movie too. So today, here’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

     Now, let’s get one thing straight: to me, this movie is just okay. I don’t absolutely love it solely because it’s another one of those “Christian movies from Hollywood”. I don’t love it at all, to be honest. This movie is far from perfect. The book—or books, for that matter, are much better. And I’ll be even more brutally honest: “Prince Caspian”, the movie sequel, is one of my least favorite movies—mostly because it uses too many one-liners and replaces a lot of the book’s spiritual content with boring action scenes. I only saw it once, in the theater in 2008, and I left the theater extremely disappointed. I’ve tried watching it again before, and I can’t, because the one-liners are so unbearable. (So when “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was released in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised—even though that movie’s just okay too.) So yeah, I won’t rave about these movies. But I’m still glad they were made, even if all they did was expose secular audiences to Christian books.

     Okay, I’m sorry, this is not a movie review blog. I better get to the messages. The movie starts with an air raid in England during World War Two, after which four children are sent away to safety. The children are the Pevensie children: innocent Lucy (Georgie Hensley), bitter Edmund (Skandar Keynes), witty Susan (Anna Popplewell), and maturing Peter (William Moseley). They are sent to the home of Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent) until the war is over, and as they play hide-and-seek in the house one rainy day, Lucy comes across an old, mysterious wardrobe. She opens the door and goes inside, but she can’t seem to stop walking. The wardrobe seems to just go on and on… until Lucy finds herself in front of a lamppost in the middle of a snowy forest. (Don’t you hate that?)

     And soon, she comes across a faun-like creature that talks to her and even invites her to his house. (Hate when that happens too.) This is Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), who introduces Lucy to this land called Narnia. And after he invites Lucy for tea and eventually lulls her to sleep with some music he plays, she wakes up suddenly to find him crying in regret. It turns out that Tumnus was trying to kidnap Lucy and bring her to the White Witch, who assigned him to bring her any humans in Narnia. But realizing his wrongdoing, Tumnus helps Lucy escape out of Narnia, and Lucy comes out of the wardrobe to find that as she has been in Narnia, not a minute has passed in England. She tries to show her siblings the wardrobe and Narnia inside, but none of them can see it and so they don’t know whether or not to believe her.

     But at the advice of Professor Kirke, they come under the impression that Lucy, if she is not mad and not lying, must be telling the truth. (The screenwriters probably didn’t realize this, but this idea from the original novel also comes from another C.S. Lewis book, “Mere Christianity”, which I encourage you to take a look at sometime.) And later, Edmund realizes that making fun of Lucy may not have been a good idea—he eventually finds himself walking through the wardrobe into Narnia too. But he doesn’t find Mr. Tumnus—he finds the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who bribes him with some gross—I mean, delicious Turkish Delight candy to bring his siblings to see her. But once Edmund eventually finds Lucy, they go back to the house together, and Edmund pretends that nothing happens, making Lucy even more upset.

     Okay, I’ll say this: the character of Lucy in the original book was a very powerful character for me as a kid, and it still is. Lucy is the prime example of one who has seen God at work but who no one believes. And yet, she still knows what she saw. This faith of a child is the kind of faith I need to be living out everyday. As Jesus says in Luke 18, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And one day, the four children find themselves together hiding in the wardrobe, and they all suddenly step into Narnia, very sorry for not believing Lucy. (Except for Edmund. He’s still a jerk. But don’t worry; it gets better.)

     Soon, however, they find that Mr. Tumnus has been taken away, because through Edmund, the White Witch found that he had let Lucy escape. And the four eventually find two beavers (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French) that feed them dinner and encourage them by saying: “Aslan is on the move.” Aslan is a lion and the real king of Narnia (the “lion king”, if you will) who has been gone for a very long time, but now he has returned to fulfill a prophecy to restore Narnia and rid it of the White Witch. But soon, Edmund escapes to the White Witch to tell her that his siblings are in Narnia, and as she sends out her wolf spies to find them, she puts him in a cellar with Mr. Tumnus. Meanwhile, the other Pevensie children and the Beavers escape and are led out by a plot device—I mean, a fox (voiced by Rupert Everett) to shelter.

     And starting here, things start getting good in Narnia. The eternally snowy ground starts melting away as the days get warmer. The children and the Beavers are visited one day by Santa—excuse me, Father Christmas, who gives them weapons to use in battle. (Gee, when you say that out loud, Santa starts to sound like a pretty dark guy.) And the children eventually find a camp where Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is about to meet with the White Witch to determine if Edmund should live or be turned to stone, as the White Witch has done with many other victims—including Mr. Tumnus. But as she and Aslan meet in secret, Aslan eventually gets her to give Edmund up by promising her something. Lucy doesn’t know what that promise is, but she is concerned.

     And one night, Lucy and Susan go walk with Aslan in the forest as he is distraught about something. And he goes to a Stone Table where the Witch and her henchmen are waiting for him. After a drawn-out, dark ceremony of shaving him and tying him up, the Witch kills Aslan and declares war on Narnia. As they leave, Lucy and Susan go to Aslan’s body, weeping over it, unsure of why Aslan had to die. And they are there until the next morning, keeping watch over his body, as rats eventually come and bite off the ropes on his muzzle and paws.

     But as Lucy and Susan turn to go, they hear a crack behind them. The Stone Table has been cracked in two somehow, and Aslan is not there. And as the sun rises behind him, Aslan walks up from behind the Stone Table, alive again. The girls ask him how this could be, and Aslan responds:

ASLAN: If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the deep magic differently: that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, is killed in a traitor's stead, the stone table will crack, and even death itself would turn backwards.

     That’s Hollywood code wording for what I think is best described in Romans 5:7-10: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

     That is the reason Jesus died on the cross for us: we needed to be justified from sin, and we couldn’t do it ourselves. So we needed someone who wasn’t guilty to take the punishment for us, and the only One capable of doing that was Jesus. And for a Hollywood movie, I feel that this film handles that message really well. My only hope is that people who watch this movie will continue to be pointed to the spiritual truth that it was written to portray.

     So long story short, Aslan restores those turned to stone by the White Witch; Peter and Edmund lead Narnians into battle; Aslan arrives and kills the White Witch; Lucy cures Edmund and others of wounds with her new medicine from Santa; the four children are named kings and queens of Narnia; and they reign as kings and queens for many years, until one day, they come across a lamppost that leads them to an entrance—an entrance that brings them back to WWII England in Professor Kirke’s house.

     My prayer for you this Easter week is that you will remember what Christ did for you on the cross, and that once you experience His love, you will be able to take it with you wherever you go so that others may be able to experience that love through you.

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