December 11, 2005
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe... But Especially the Witch
I saw the new Narnia movie this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Of course this is no “Lord of the Rings.” But big deal. The Chronicles of Narnia have always been a different sort of thing entirely. Tolkien is high fantasy; Lewis is fairy tale. Tolkien weaves a mock history; Lewis tells a bedtime story.
And there’s something appealing about that. In contrast to Tolkien’s fastidiously-kept Middle Earth, there is a large-hearted looseness to Narnia. It’s got centaurs, phoenixes, wolves, talking beavers, knights, witch-queens… you know, whatever. And the entire place seems to be about the size of San Francisco — a perfectly fine size for an adventure.
The best part of the movie is Tilda Swinton, who plays the White Witch. Her performance in the big battle scene — from her fell arrival in a war-chariot drawn by polar bears (!) to her icy duel with young Peter — is raw martial cool. Also, toned arms are the new hotness.
Anthony Lane actually gets it right (but wrong) in his dismissive New Yorker review:
If the movie has to forgo Lewis’s narrative tone, with its grimly Oxonian blend of the bluff and the twee (“And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story”), that is fine by me.
I don’t know that the movie does forgo it. Overall, it is a weird — enjoyably weird — mix of the big and the small, the high prophecy and the comic aside. The battle scene is thrilling, and the White Witch truly threatening — but at the same time it does look a lot like a bunch of creatures playing war in the park. I didn’t mind.
(Oh yes, and sorry, but the magical Turkish delight in this movie still manages to look gross.)