Each year, I try and improve the site, and also try to find a new an hopefully creative and fun way to countdown to the unveiling of the year’s BAM Awards. Last year, I posted most of the BAM Nominee and winner lists (Any omissions will be fixed this year). However, when I picked Django Unchained as the Best Picture of 2012 I then realized I had recent winner with no write-ups. I soon corrected that by translating a post and writing a series of my own. The thought was all films honored as Best Picture should have at least one piece dedicated to them. So I will through the month of December be posting write-ups on past winners.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia is another series that I have a long history with. I presume it must’ve been The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe that was a book read aloud when I was in a Montessori grade school. We later saw the BBC animated rendition of that book at least (if not more of them- and it’s a far less frightening animated version than their take on The Hobbit). I don’t recall ever revisiting the books, or continuing the series in my childhood.
Then when the first film version was due out naturally the books became more prominently displayed in stores again. I seized the opportunity (as films have been known to occasionally act as catalysts to me reading) to acquire the omnibus presentation of the entire series in the now-preferred reading order; the one first suggested to Lewis by a young reader named Laurence. Since I commuted quite a bit at the time, and it was the end of the semester, I had quite a bit more free time on my hands. I ended up reading the entire series in a weeks’ time, at least one of the books being the ever-so-rare re-read.
This had to be less than one month prior to the release of the film. Therefore, I was quite ready for it. However, I was not expecting what I ended up getting. Firstly, as I’ve highlighted before distance between the reading of a book and then seeing the film can be a great, even a beneficial thing. It leaves you less encumbered by the facts and more willing to accept a tonally true version. So the film had that against it rather than for it.
I ended up finding myself very engaged and enthralled by the vision of this land presented in a way I’d not seen, nor ever imagined. Perhaps more so than in any other book in the series, Wardrobe focuses on a character’s struggles with temptations and greed. In the “Pevensie Tales” it is Edmund who is the most layered and interesting and it is in this story, through the writing, directing and rendition by Skandar Keynes that he fully, vibrantly comes to life. Alongside him is one of the more brilliantly portrayed antagonists in recent memory – Tilda Swinton’s White Witch.
It’s reflecting back on this film this year that lead me to a truth: I cannot cite thinly-veiled propaganda or allegory alone as a dismissal of a film; films both good and bad can be hung with that label. I say that because the Biblical allusions in the series, this installment especially, are fairly overt. However, what’s at the core of the tale are things far more universal and eternal: basic values and human struggles that are not unique to those of the Christian faith. It just seems these books/films take a lot of backlash (especially via ridiculous comparison to the works of Tolkien and friend and rival of Lewis’) as if they were some Bible-thumping bore. Whereas I’m rather sure the same fundamentalists appalled by Harry Potter, don’t take to kindly to talking beasts; especially a godly one (symbol or not).
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe was another late-in-the-year jolt to my awards picture. It was the beginning of what, most certainly behind-the-scenes, has been a long and most unusual journey. The series through three films has seen two studios, and now survives based on its international grosses. The fourth film, The Silver Chair, has a green light, a writer, a new production company and potentially a new studio (that remains to be seen). This was the start, and even in my fandom, I admit Prince Caspian was a letdown, but think the series righted itself. Now as it awaits its next port I still look back on this installment with the greatest of fondness; not just for bringing a treasured childhood tale to life, but to the cast for making the Penvesies more engaging and vibrant than I could have imagined.