The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a movie I have long anticipated, did not disappoint. It was not perfect–and by that I do not mean that it substantially deviated from the book–but it was cathartic, uplifting, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The movie opens in surprising fashion for those who have read the texts, but the twist is effective. The opening shot of a Nazi pilot dropping bombs on London immediately establishes the tone–there is no middle ground in the fight between good and evil. Additionally, it contextualizes the events that occur in Narnia and suggests that the battle between good and evil is not limited to that enchanted land, but continues here and now.
The rest of the movie is thoughtful and fun. The Beavers are more than delightful. Lucy is as charming as others have suggested. The final battle seen is excellently crafted. But the story centers upon Edmund and his betrayal, and it is Edmund who delivers a solid, compelling performance–his awareness of his sinfulness when revealed to Tumnus as the betrayer is palpable. It is Edmund’s smile that is broadest, as if he is bubbling over with joy, when they first see the thrones and no wonder, for his was won at the greatest cost.
But the story is more than Edmund. It is also Peter, whose courage in the battle will inspire ten-year-olds (and some twenty-three year-olds) everywhere to charge against the White Witch. The story is also Susan, whose reluctance to fight evil nearly destroys the three Pevensies. It is Lucy, the spirited one, whose devotion to goodness is relentless and endearing. It is Aslan, whose sacrifice trumps the White Witch’s skepticism about the power and effectiveness of love.
Though some parts of the movie were slow, though some performances found wanting, the movie is a beacon of optimism and hope. It is a story that does not shy away from pain, sadness or sinfulness, but begins in them and redeems them, ending with a joyous chase of the White Stag through the Narnia woods. In that respect, it could be considered Father Christmas’ gift to an often cold and wintery world.