By Erica Ogg
Someone finally said it. A journalist has recognized the inherently complementary natures of Hollywood and C.S. Lewis.
The upcoming movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to be released by Disney next month, has been painted as just another front in the Christian right’s supposed invasion of Hollywood, a conservative assault on liberal Hollywood values. Magazine articles and newspaper columns have breathlessly anticipated the Lewis book-inspired film. Many expected that after Mel Gibson’s success with The Passion, more Christian-themed films would follow — just another point of entry for Christian morality to be injected into the culture, since the political realm was already full to the brim.
The conversation about Narnia has taken place around the business side of the film, whether Disney’s Christian-oriented marketing scheme will backfire, and how its box office will compare to similar epic trilogies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. But all this discussion of money and influence has yet to account for what counts to most people: Will it be a good film?
In The New York Times, Charles McGrath delves into the little-known facts of Lewis’ life before Lewis became a Christian, which wasn’t until his early 30s. In doing so, McGrath advances the story. He grapples with Lewis’ motivation to write the beloved children’s book series, the author’s adults-only dalliances with an older woman and claims of “cannibalization” of characters from Kenneth Grahame, Beatrix Potter and Greek myth for the world of Narnia.
McGrath serves up a healthy helping of criticism, all the while offering respect for the author adored by so many. He criticizes Lewis’ style: “But there is also an undercurrent of restlessness in the Narnia books, which manifests itself in Lewis’s obsessive borrowings and crammings — the need to include Bacchus and Silenus in the same scene as some talking animals and slow-witted giants — and in a kind of headlong narrative hastiness. Lewis seldom lingers, and the books are always rushing on to the next thing.”
But he astutely matches these shortcomings with their perfect companions: American filmgoers. “Like all the great children’s books, they’re not really concerned with explaining or defending this or that orthodoxy. They’re interested in mostly the same thing Hollywood is: escape,” writes McGrath.
Not only is Narnia not just another Christian film, but it may be the first time the Christian right and Hollywood agree without actually knowing it.