Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Narnia is after your soul!

Chiang Mai movies: Thursday, May 29

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: Indy. Iron Man. Prince Caspian (perhaps).

At the end is my list of movie times for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, May 29, 2008. Attached is the same list in Word format. There is also information on the Alliance Fran├žaise and Film Space. This is Issue Number 31 of Volume 3 of these listings.

According to a Tuesday article in the New York Times, “Speed Racer is now officially a flop on a massive scale.” What a pity! I found a lot to enjoy in it, but it’s left town now. Meanwhile Indiana Jones is a massive hit worldwide. It got a wide showing here last week, playing at four cinemas at Vista (two of them Thai-dubbed) and five cinemas at Airport Plaza (one Thai-dubbed). That same treatment is accorded Prince Caspian this week, although this movie has been doing disappointing business elsewhere in the world, where it opened two weeks ago.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: UK/US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – 147 mins – In this second installment of the series based on the children’s books written by the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, the four children of the Pevensie family who had been appointed kings and queens of Narnia at the end of the first story, return from England one year later to find that 1,300 years have passed in Narnia, and things are not going well. The Golden Age of Narnia has passed, and Narnia is now under the control of an evil king who rules the land without mercy. You will enjoy this sequel if you enjoyed the first film, or if you are interested in Christian allegories (the lion Aslan represents Christ who sacrificed himself to save Narnia at the end of episode one, the White Witch is Satan tempting Edmund, who is Judas, while Peter represents “the Wise Christian”). Or see it if you simply enjoy children’s adventure/fantasy stories. This second episode in the seven book series features bickering between the two rival presumptive kings of Narnia (Peter and Caspian), both of whom fight against streaks of cowardice and uncertainty within their characters. Generally favorable reviews: 63/63 out of 100.

But watch out for the message, which is proselytizing for Christianity. Author C.S. Lewis, who became a convert to Christianity late in his life, is interested in bending young minds towards Christ with his series of seven Narnia tales. Though I think he has to jump through some intellectual hoops to explain what satyrs and minotaurs are doing in his Christian stories. Santa Claus even showed up in the first episode. The explanation of course is simply that the author is a classical scholar and can’t help including in his books much of what he knows.

You may be mystified by the resurrection of the Christ figure (Aslan, the lion). He seems to have known of his resurrection before his death (in the first movie), which somewhat takes away from the impact of his sacrifice, it seems to me; but then, I suppose the same thing could be said about Christ’s resurrection. At any rate, after his resurrection, Aslan just hides away in this episode, letting a great deal of suffering go on in his world without raising a finger (or paw) to help, despite the desperate prayers of his people. I suppose some people would say that is much like Christ as well.

The movie was toned down from the book, but religious people still sense in this film’s story a strong echo of the “Acts of the Apostles” and the faith of the early believers after Christ’s ascension. Aslan’s absence is central, the core of the story: everyone talks about him and his absence, whether he is real or not, will he come again, will he answer everyone’s prayers. For most of the story only the little girl Lucy sees Aslan and believes he will eventually come to their aid.

Opposed to the Christian Narnia series of books and movies is the atheist “His Dark Materials” series, by novelist Philip Pullman, who portrays the world’s organized religions – especially the Catholic Church – as evils from which children should run with all possible speed. The film of the first of his trilogy, The Golden Compass, opened here last December; the film of the second, The Subtle Knife, is scheduled for 2009. The third "Narnia" installment is slated for release in May 2010.

The juxtaposition of Lewis and Pullman has become a familiar one. Both are Oxford-educated authors of children’s fantasy stories about parallel worlds with magic, talking beasts, witches, and wintry landscapes, in which religious ideas are allegorized. But one preaches Christianity and one preaches atheism, and no love is lost between the two: Pullman lashes out at Lewis for the sexism and racism in his books: [For Lewis] "Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-colored people are better than dark-colored people; and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it" (Pullman 1998).

So through these opposing fantasy franchises we have a cosmic battle going on between the Christians and the Atheists for the minds of the world’s children. Yea, e’en here in Chiang Mai!