Clive Staples Lewis was a celebrated Anglo-Irish novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, lay theologian and Christian apologist whose impact and influence lives on.

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Is This Narnia? No, Just Chicago: A Narnian Promotion Event

October 13th, 2005 | Skip to comments

I traveled with my wife Joan and son Michael to Wheaton Bible Church outside of Chicago on Tuesday for a Narnia promotion event sponsored by Walden Media, Disney, MissionAmerica, and We left at 3:30AM EST from Bowling Green, OH for the 10AM CST event and arrived in time to sip some Starbucks in downtown Wheaton before parking near the church and walking to the Wade Center at Wheaton College, which houses North America’s largest collection of Lewis materials and related Inklings resources.

After the event began with prayer, we then were treated to guest promoters that included Doug Gresham, stepson of CS Lewis and author of a new book on his stepfather, and Steven Curtis Chapman, CCM artist, and contributor to the Narnian soundtrack “inspired by the movie.” A self-described “LA Guy” who wast here to explain the box of promotional items we would be taken home, did not disappoint, he was quintessentially an “LA Guy.” The spokesperson from Disney led us through her PowerPoint presentation of the cast and the highlights of the story (as if we didn’t know!), a Walden spokesman assured us of the film’s faithfulness to the movie, and an African-American rep from MissionAmerica (run together like that as one word) told us about sharing opportunities we will enjoy because of the movie.

The two hour event’s major draw, however, was the chance to see “never before” released minutes from the rough cut of the movie. More about those ten minutes below. Much of these proceedings were rah-rah exhortations (the kind you sit through about real estate when you’ve really come to get the free condo stay in Phoenix) to get people out to the movie. I have to admit that some of this was very annoying, and much of it was undeniably cloying, awkwardly appealing to the audience on one hand for evangelistic purposes, and then on the other for celebrating the great achievement of the movie in honoring the imagination of Lewis “and its faithfulness to the book.”

The confusing but practical claim made by several of the promoters on stage that “we have not made a Christian movie and this is not a Christian book” is a half-truth, of course. Lewis DID write a book that is imbued with his Christian imagination, and no one who reads it and who knows the gospel story, will mis-recognize it. On the other hand, these are marketers, after all, and they did not need to worry about us in the audience; they had us at hello. They are trying to reach the largest possible audience, and their conclusion is that they have to walk the tightrope between not alienating the secular audience while simultaneously appealing to the Christian demographic that would really make the movie a megasuccess. This creates problems, of course, but the best solution is, as Lewis would tell us, to let the book and the movie speak for itself.

Those ten minutes: very impressive and engrossing. I was told I might not like Liam Neeson as Aslan–and Jerry Root, my friend and colleague from Wheaton whispered to me that Doug thought he should do Aslan’s voice— but in the excerpt we saw, I thought it worked ok. The scenes we had not seen before, especially of the bombing of London and the flight to the shelter, were effective and visually appealing. The movie seems on all fronts to be well made, and maybe even lovingly made. But is the key, as a recent
TIME Magazine online article says: do a certain four sentences (Aslan’s explanation of what his death and resurrection meant in terms of conquering the White Witch and saving Edmund and all of Narnia) still remain in the movie script? We will have to see the last ten minutes, not these ten minutes, to know whether they do; but my hope is that the intent of the original author is not simply run over roughshod, but that Andrew Adamson, the Director, has found his own way to tell this story without losing Aslan’s unique identity in the process.

The White Witch: “That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”

Aslan (later) : “The Witch knew the Deep Magic. But if she could have looked a little further back… she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” —from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Oh, and you can read my interview published today with the BGSU campus newspaper here.


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