Will It Be Faithful?
The question everyone wants answered is whether the movie retains the Christian elements found in the book.
“Is this faithful to the book in its story and imagery?” asked Quam. “Absolutely,” he responded. “The Christian story is in the movie. People will discover the truth from this film, but they will need help.”
In an effort to help audiences understand the imagery and metaphors, Vista, California-based Outreach Inc., has created devotional guides and booklets, free sermons, promotional materials, a collection of C.S. Lewis experts, and a list of 18 ideas to help churches use the film for Christian outreach. [CE readers will be interested in similar materials provided from a Catholic perspective here.]
One of the promotional postcard designs shows the book’s character Lucy Pevensie standing alongside the lit lamppost in Narnia’s endless winter. Along the top, the postcard asks, “What if there were no Christmas?”
Catholic Evangelization Initiatives
Catholics hope to use the film as a springboard as well.
Randy Mueller, faith formation director at Nativity parish in St. Paul, and youth minister Robert Fischer attended the screening.
“We hope to promote it in the parish, but we don’t yet know how,” said Mueller. “I’m hoping to work with the archdiocesan evangelization initiative to reach those who have left the Church and those who have never been churched.”
Among Mueller’s ideas are buying bulk tickets for screenings for families, and a showing for teens, followed by a Narnia party. [Click on this link to find out how to be a parish promoter.]
Hoping to reproduce the success of their Passion of the Christ book, which sold more than a million copies, Ascension Press is releasing A Guide to Narnia: 100 Questions About the Chronicles of Narnia just in time for the release of the film.
“This has been a curious relationship between Disney and the Christian community,” said Quam. “Disney wants the church to promote their movie, but they don’t want it coming out that they are producing a Christian movie.”
Key proponents of the film Michael Flaherty, president of Walden Media, director Andrew Adamson, and even Lewis’s stepson have sought to reassure potential moviegoers that the film is faithful to the story.
“People told us that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the No. 1 children’s book,” said Flaherty. “But they also told us, ‘You must be faithful to this book.’”
“We made the commitment that Lewis’s values are intact in the film,” added Adamson, whose previous box office credits include Shrek and Shrek 2.
Christian Allegory, Lovingly Rendered
Not everyone is happy that the book has been made into a major motion picture.
In Florida, some are upset that a Christian book has been made a part of the state’s “Just Read, Florida!” program at the same time that the film is coming out.
“What’s the state of Florida doing in this cabal of Christian commerce?” asked Palm Beach columnist Frank Cerabino. “We’re opening up the public schools to some backdoor catechism lessons in the guise of getting kids to read.”
“The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament itself, is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books,” long-time Lewis critic Phillip Pullman told The Observer. He described the Narnia books as, “a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice.”
C.S. Lewis scholars disagree.
“In the Chronicles, love is expressed through obedience and self-sacrifice,” said Joseph Pearce, Lewis scholar and writer-in-residence at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. “Love and responsibility go together. If Pullman says there is no sense of love in the Narnia books, he has no idea what love is.”
Act One Executive Director Barbara Nicolosi saw a nearly-finished version of the film and described it as “deep magic.”
“The tone of [the film] is as close to the book as probably could have been achieved,” Nicolosi wrote on her web log “Church of the Masses.” “All the lines the Christians are worrying about are in there. All the scenes you want to see are here and lovingly rendered. Aslan is absolutely discernible as a figure of Jesus for those who have eyes to see.”
That excites Catholics, such as Dave Shaneyfelt, an attorney in Ventura, California. He can’t wait for the film to open.
“I will be there on opening day with probably six of my seven kids,” said Shaneyfelt. “We were initially worried when we saw that Disney was behind this, but then I read that Disney did not exercise creative control over the movie. That means there’s a good chance the movie will be faithful to what C.S. Lewis wanted a good Christian allegory.”
Tim Drake is the author of Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church (Sophia Institute Press, 2004). He serves as staff writer with the National Catholic Register and Faith and Family Magazine. He writes from Saint Cloud, Minnesota.
Young and Catholic can be ordered by calling 1-800-888-9344 or visiting Sophia Institute Press.
(This article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register.)