December 24, 2005

A Correction to my review of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

In my review of The Chronicles of Narnia below, I state that the professor casually throws an apple to Peter at the end of the movie when the children emerge from the wardrobe. He asks them what happened, they say he wouldn't believe it, then he says "try me!" while he throws, not an apple, but rather a cricket ball. A cricket ball which had been sent through one of his windows just a few minutes ago by his clock. Of course, the object being a cricket ball rather than an apple destroys the point I was making, so that it is not valid at all, and there is no reference to The Magician's Nephew at all, except to say as a mild spoiler ... (continued below)

that the reason the Professor is so sympathetic to Lucy's story is that the Professor has been in Narnia himself. The Professor is one of the main characters of The Magician's Nephew, and was present, as a young boy named Digory, in Narnia when it was created by Aslan, along with his uncle (the magician), and a friend, a girl named Polly. Indeed, it is Digory himself who brought the White Witch to Narnia from another world altogether, though he did not do it intentionally. The wardrobe itself is made from the wood of an apple tree which was planted, by the Professor, from the seed of an apple from Narnia.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Thoughts and Reflections on Christmas

This is Rebecca's second Christmas with us, with her third birthday coming up soon (her birth date was 1/2/3, and her adoption date was 1/5/4).

This Christmas has been sort of hectic, with a lot of church activities and other things. Decorating the Christmas tree was a disaster this year, with Rebecca unwrapping the ornaments that resemble little Christmas presents (a little piece of styrofoam was the only reward for her efforts), and the kittens knocking the ornaments off the tree that were within reach (and the reach is higher than we anticipated - the kittens actually made a leaping and climbing game of it!) The minimum height for the ornaments wound up being about four feet.

Rebecca now knows the names of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, and we have a small Nativity creche in her bedroom with only those three present, avoiding the complexity of angels, shepherds, and Magi. That will change right after Christmas when we present her with a full-fledged creche with Veggie Tales characters! We have a larger Nativity set with a collection of Thomas Kinkade pieces but with Rebecca and the kittens, we didn't want to set it up. All those pieces will stay in their original packing boxes this year.

Some links I'd like to note:

Amy Welborn talks about how many Christians don't get the true meaning of Christmas either in her essay A Sword Will Pierce Your Heart, in National Review Online. Read it all, it is a very moving and thoughtful essay, and here's her conclusion:

Glad tidings of comfort and joy, and Merry Christmas indeed. But without awareness of the risk of discipleship, and the reality that the baby in the manger ends up hanging on a cross, those words have about as little power to change the world as "Happy Holidays."

John J. Miller talks about the figure of Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and discusses J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis's friendship as a related topic, in another NRO essay, Xmas in Narnia.

And another NRO piece (last one!) by Nina Shea, The Real War on Christmas discusses the persection of Christians by tyrannical regimes around the world. William F. Buckley has a similar column in the magazine, where he recounts a horrific incident of martyrdom in North Korea, also reported in First Things. Christmas is not merry and joyful to all people around the world it seems.

I don't intend to upset with that last gloomy link, but I do want to say that we have it real good here in America. If the most significant bit of news is that we're arguing about whether to say "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays", I think that's a pretty good argument that we live in a free country - that we've made it - now let's not take it for granted.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:59 PM | Comments (1)

December 09, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia - a Review

I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe today. I was impressed, they did a great job and were very faithful to the book. They spiced up some of the action scenes to make it a bit more scary when the children and beavers were fleeing the beavers' home with the wolves on their heels (the wolves actually had run ahead of them in the book to cut them off at the Stone Table). That and a few minor modifications to dialog were about all I could see different between the book and the movie.

The casting was excellent, all the children were very closely cast to how I had already pictured them in my imagination while reading the book. The scene with Lucy and Tumnus was pure beauty, even better than I had imagined it before, and I will appreciate that chapter from the book in a whole new light with the images from that scene in my mind.

Acting was good, though I believe the best perfomances were by Peter and Lucy. Edmund and Susan came off a little stiff, though not enough to ruin the movie. Aslan was portrayed really well. I was afraid in advance that he might look too much like a puppet or stuffed toy, but that was not the case at all. He looked real, and the voice-over (Liam Neeson's voice) was superb.

The plot and drama of the story were well-presented even if the movie devotes much more attention to the last battle than the book did. The book certainly makes clear that the battle began before Aslan arrived on the battlefield in his post-resurrection state, so the movie is simply emphasizing what went on at the battlefield rather than Susan's and Lucy's romp on Aslan's back to the castle to resuscitate the witch's past victims. When Aslan finally arrives, Peter is fighting the witch, who has had her wand knocked away (book) or destroyed (movie) by Edmund. So it's merely an effect of emphasizing a different detail while remaining true to the book.

And of course, there's the famous scene of the Stone Table. I'm sure this scene is the sole reason for the PG rating rather than a simple G, as it is much more graphic than the rest of the movie, with its portrayal of the witches evil minions, who mock and harass Aslan as he approaches his fate. The movie is tamer in his treatment than I imagined the scene as I read the book, but I'm sure Walden and Disney did not want to over-emphasize the violence of this scene. Aslan is hit, mocked, and shaved - all shown. The witch says her last words to him and kills him with her knife, but that last blow is not shown in graphic detail, just the motion of her arm from above, with Aslan's body below the bottom of the screen. However, when the full screen shot is in view, and later when the girls appear, he is clearly shown to have died.

A strange image came through my mind when Aslan was talking with the witch about Edmund and his fate. Instead of thinking about Jesus and His atonement for us, the image of Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin (from Genesis) came into my mind - how Judah pleaded for Benjamin's life before Joseph (who Judah did not recognize at the time, as Joseph was living as an Egyptian then). Joseph had demanded that his brothers return to Canaan without their youngest brother, and Judah offered to stay behind in his place. Of course, this event was a sign of Christ offering Himself up in our place, as was Aslan's act of offering himself up for Edmund.

One image right at the end of the movie was a real nice touch, pointing to another book of the Chronicles, The Magician's Nephew. When the children emerge from the wardrobe, the Professor meets them and asks what they were doing in there. Peter says, "You wouldn't believe us if we told you", whereupon the Professor tosses him an apple and says with a smile "Try me!" Readers of that other story will know the significance of that apple and the Professor.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:01 PM | Comments (2)