Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Chronicles of Blarnia, I Mean Narnia

Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is nothing more than a kid's movie.

Don't get me wrong. I love some kids' movies. The Incredibles, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Spirited Away, Hercules, Mulan, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc, etc. And I'm a Harry Potter fan. But all of those movies having crossover appeal for adults.

With its crisply delineated good versus evil, Narnia is simplistic and caters too much to the child wishing to behave like an adult mentality. I love it when kids are smarter than adults, e.g., Spy Kids or the The Mummy Returns. Face it. Adults spend a lot of time with out heads up our butts and don't notice much around us. Children, with their natural curiousity and greater powers of observation, have a lot of potential to outsmart us.

What I found irritating about Narnia was the totally incredulous roles the children took on, in particular, Peter, the older boy. Basically, four siblings cross over into the magical world of Narnia, where they are treated as prophecized saviors, who have to kill the White Witch and bring sunshine and happiness to the land. There are Biblical allusions, but all except Aslan's sacrifice are lost on this heathen. In fact, I went in thinking the religious aspect would irritate me. Ultimately, it was the bland storytelling that was most irksome.

Anyway, after about a day's training with a sword, Peter, the oldest of the siblings, is able to stand toe to toe in battle with the White Witch, even though she spends the first part of the battle easily killing griffons and other much tougher beasties. I don't know how this was handled in the book, but movie version goes way beyond clever kid saving the day and straight to stoopid.

Great movies need great villains and the White Witch falls far short. Though she functions as a naughty temptation, drawing in younger brother Edmund with promises of Turkish Delights (apparently a pastry, but it sounds X-rated) and the kingship of Narnia, it's hard to see her allure. She's totally charmless and mostly creepy. Rather than toying with Edmund in the manner of a clever villain, she turns on him five minutes into the movie. No suspense, no drama and also, no motivation. Besides keeping the world on ice, what's in it for her?

The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good and nary a shade in between. Again, while this kind of simplistic view of the world, black and white, might work for the under ten crowd, I find it insipid.

I was told this was a pretty movie. Well, it is, in a sort of cartoony, bland manner. It's like The Lord of the Rings gets a thorough douching with Clorox. White, shiny, even the bad guys look fresh scrubbed.

Sanitized fantasy...Ick.

Howl's Moving Castle, while somewhat muddled plotwise, was at least entertaining. After a seemingly random encounter with a mysterious wizard, Sophie, a young woman who is rather old before her time--all work and no play--finds her life turned upside down. The story is set in what could be called steampunk or gaslamp style world, Victorian era type sensibilities with fantastical machines and magic. Sophie's association with the wizard results in a visit from the Witch of the Waste, who subsequently turns her into an old woman. Unable to explain her transformation--the spell keeps her from talking about it--she heads out into the Waste to find Howl, a wizard who supposedly eats people's hearts, and who, no big surprise is the wizard that she encountered earlier.

After we finished watching the movie, my husband said, "Okay. I don't understand. What was it about?" which pretty much sums up the problem with the film. For those of us used to the standard Disney/Pixar fare, it's a tad too obtuse. Apparently, there is an anti-war theme, which totally zoomed over my head. I did get the insinuation that much of the Witch's spell on Sophie was actually derived from Sophie's inability to take pleasure from life. She falls in love, learns to live a little and (sort of) breaks the spell. As with most of Miyazaki's films, there are shades of gray aplenty, and bad guys can be good and vice versa.

Fortunately, unlike Narnia, the movie is populated by charming characters--TurnipHead the scarecrow, a dog (can't remember his name) and Calcipher the fire demon, for example.

We rented both Narnia and Howl. In retrospect, it might have made more sense just to rent Howl's Moving Castle and watch it twice to sort out the oddness, rather than waste time on Narnia.

As an aside, Domino, the movie about a female bounty hunter Domino Harvey, was surprisingly entertaining and funny, funny in a very dark sort of way. If you're in the mood for a blood, splattered ass-kicking sort of movie, that is.



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