Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Deep Magic is deeply magical

We saw the Narnia movie today.

Oh. My.


We loved it. This is the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that I've waited a long, long time to see. About twenty years. Of course, a version this good couldn't have happened until now, when computer-generated animals and other special effects made it possible for a movie version to retain the magic, rather than looking like schlock or a 4th grade play.

I have only a few tiny quibbles, and I hesitate to even bring them up, because so much was done so well and felt so right. Maybe I won't bring them up just yet ... I'll sleep on it, and will post a more complete review when I've had time to think.

One quick point that's important to anyone wondering how intense the movie is: the battle scenes are intense, but they are not gory. That was a relief. However, on another level, there are worse things than gore.

Right now, I am chiefly remembering the scene of Aslan's willing sacrifice. It was heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching, as I knew it would be. Anne, Betsy and I clung to each other as it played out. This was the most graphic scene of cruelty and hatred that they've ever seen, and not surprisingly, they couldn't really watch it all. It was so horrible, so unthinkable, so necessary and so tremendously sad. We cried, we sniffled, we held hands and we reminded each other that He would be back.

A year and a half ago, I sat in the same theatre and watched "The Passion of the Christ." "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was my children's version of witnessing the terrible beauty of God being beaten, humiliated and killed for us. It was unspeakably moving to share this with my children. It was its own kind of deep magic.


  1. Hi Karen,
    This is Emily Snyder's Mom... I followed your comments on her books from Melissa Wiley's blog to yours. How great to be in touch with you again. We are going to see the movie today. Can't wait!
    A great place to read Catholic reviews is
    This is the site of Steve Greydanus, reviewer for "National Catholic Register." He and his wife, Suzanne, are homeschoolers also. We used to live in the same town, and we are their elder son's godparents. Oh and Emily is their younger son's godmother. Small world, eh? God bless you, Karen, and Merry Christmas!!

  2. Chris! How wonderful to hear from you!

    It *is* a small world. Re. Decent Films, yes, I've not only had it bookmarked for a long time, but I've got a link over there in my sidebar! I love his reviews. I just now popped over there to read the Narnia one, and I see that he had some of the same quibbles I did. No need for me to write a review now. :-) He did leave out a couple of things that I noticed, though.

    It may not be a perfect film, but it's a darn good one -- enjoy it today!


  3. Karen,

    Well I finally saw Narnia (despite my laryngitis/bronchitis). My reaction like yours is somewhat mixed. They got so much right! The casting is brilliant, I liked the portrayal of Aslan far more than I worried I would after some of the reviews I read.The basic plot line is there with only a few deviations. And seems to me that because of some of the changes in dialogue that they have eliminated much of Lewis's philosophical undergirding of the book and that it doing so have removed things that were pretty intrinsic.

    For example the conversation Peter and Susan have with the professor is abbreviated in such a fashion as to eliminate most of the philosophical discussion (although they retain liar, lunatic, or truthful - thankfully). I kept missing my favorite lines of dialogue and couldn't really see why they'd been eliminated. It wasn't for the most part that they would have taken more time, or that the newly crafted lines moved the story along faster. I'd have to watch it again book in hand to try to figure out why the changes.

    I think that people who are unfamiliar with the book are going to unabashedly love the movie. I think that people who have read the book a few times and love it will have fairly positive responses. Unfortunately, I have steeped myself in Narnia for over 30 years, I read the series in general at least once a year, I've read all kinds of commentary on it, I've taught some of it in homeschool lit classes, and consequently I'm a harsher critic.

    I hate to pick this movie apart because they did so many things right, but at least at first viewing I was a bit disappointed. My daughter who has now seen it twice said she liked it better on the second viewing and I certainly will give it another try. I hope they will eventually come out with an extended version which includes some things back in. I think that part of my disappointment is that the BBC version did a better job of retaining Lewis's original dialogue. For example why did they alter the poem of the prophecy? Their version was certainly not more poetic.

    My main hope is that families who watch the movie will be inspired to read the book. After all more readers of Narnia can only be a positive thing.

    My daughter's boyfriend and his brother (who have never read the books) really enjoyed the movie. So I guess that is a good indication of how the person who isn't so steeped in Lewis may react. I must say I have rarely seen a movie based on a book I loved that did justice to the book. At least this was not the hatchet job that some of Disney's adaptations have been. After seeing what they did to A Wrinkle in Time and the adaptation of A Ring of Endless Light, Narnia is truly far better than I had feared. Douglas Gresham certainly had his work cut out for him to protect the integrity of the book. He has done a better than average job doing that, there are just these lingering longings for what could have been an even more brilliant adaptation.