Tuesday, December 13, 2005




Mike Taylor said...

From the article:

More intricate is the argument, expressed recently by Polly Toynbee,
that the film equates raw, physical power with righteousness. Aslan
isn't a character; he is raw might, an amalgam of borrowed biblical
potency and slightly unreadable Britishness.

Am I alone in being mystified by this? Granted that Aslan is supremely powerful, can it really be escaping so many people's notice that his principal contribution to the story is to be killed?

I read one review that complained that Aslan should have been a lamb instead of a lion, because a meek, gentle lamb better symbolises what Christianity is about. (He obviously hasn't read the "not peace but a sword" passage recently, then). But this seems a momentous missing of the point. For a lamb to be sacrificed -- for something weak and defenceless to be given up against its will -- may be poignant, but it's hardly unusual. But for a lion to be sacrificed! For the one who does indeed, as Toynbee points out, represent raw, physical power, to deliberately lay that power down: surely even a critic with no interest in the Christian analogy can see that this is better storytelling?

Arthur said...

Fundamentally, the whole "is it really a sacrifice if you know that you're going to come back?" argument is one of those things that people aren't going to see eye to eye on, because everyone comes to the discussion with their own view on the topic.

Christians and non-Christians who accept that particular part of the Narnia story will always say "Yes, absolutely, a fast is still a fast if you know you're going to get a big bacon sandwich at the end of it, and the very idea of the representative of Law and Justice and Virtue and Authority willing submitting to the tender mercies of shrieking, cackling evil in order to redeem mankind/save Edmund is a potent symbol however you cut it."

Non-Christians who don't buy that part of the story will always say "Symbolism nothing, Jesus/Aslan had the cards stacked against Satan/Jadis all the time because he's God incarnate and wrote the rules of the game himself. The representative of all that is Good and Right using his divine authority and wisdom to play a crafty trick on the representative of Evil is hardly a grand moral statement."

If you dig it, you dig it, if you don't you don't, although the fact that a story doesn't work for people who don't "get it" could be seen as a point against it.

dt said...

The fact that Edmund has to labour under the guilt of being responsible for the Godhead's death (distilling the toxic psychological burden of most religions)

Most religions? Hopefully some kind of typo?

SK said...

Actually, in the book Edmund doesn't know that Aslan died for him and Lucy and Susan debate whether to tell him (Lucy thinks he should know, and will find out anyway; Susan thinks that's an unfair burden to place on anyone).

Whether he eventually does find out is unclear (by the time they get back they are more concerned with healing Edmund than telling him anything, and then the book tells the story of the Golden Age in summary). Certainly if he does the guilt doesn't seem to be a crushing burden either when he is King, or in later books.

But finally, this whole 'guilt' issue is once again an exmaple of the crticis spectacularly missing the point. It's one thing they did get right in the film: Aslan's conversation with Edmund, followed by his presentation to the others with the words 'there is no need to speak to him of what is past'. How much more explicit a statement do you need that Edmund's guilt has been dealt with and is no longer relevant? Edmund need labour under no guilt, because Aslan has removed it.

They criticise the Narnia books for promoting Christianity, but the seem to have little idea of the kind of Christianity they promote. The whole point of Christianity as Lewis saw it (see, eg, God in the Dock) was that it removed guilt.

Arthur said...

I put my opinions on my blog, but in summary: the CGI was ropey, the directing was a little lazy, and it failed to distinguish itself from the LOTR or Harry Potter films. Hollywood, apparently, can only use the Peter Jackson Manual of Style when filming British fantasy novels.

Unknown said...

Yes, but what did you think of The Phantom Menace, actually?

Arthur said...

My main CGI-based objection is the beavers, to be honest. They look incongruous.

On the other hand, I have a very low tolerance for CGI - as I mention on my blog post on the subject, I think it's the worst thing that's happened to cinema for a long, long time. (With the exception of 100% CGI films like The Incredibles.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Naturally, there is a review in the pipeline. (I expect that all those Guardian readers are expecting something more developed than "it rocked" or "it sucked" :) )

Abigail Nussbaum said...

But in the meantime, Andrew, could you at least tell us which way you're leaning? :-)