The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is available now on Disney +
Without C.S Lewis, we may never have had Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and without Tolkien, we may never have had The Chronicles of Narnia. Both men are intrinsically linked in their fantasy worlds, yet Tolkien’s work generally receives more public attention. However, one could argue The Chronicles of Narnia series is equally as important as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and just as visionary in scale. Here both men rooted their fantasy in personal experience; one built their fantasy world from the horrors of the First World War, while the other wrapped the biblical story of Jesus into a tale of childhood escape and wonder.
Is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a Christmas story? In theory, no, after all, the narrative journey has more in common with the Christian story of Easter. However, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has become a festive staple through the BBC TV series (1988) and the lavish film adaptation (2005).
So why has this story become embedded in Christmas tradition? Is it due to Father Christmas bestowing presents on our evacuee children before they become heroes? Or perhaps it’s because the start of the story finds Narnia engulfed by an endless winter under the wicked rule of the white witch. Or maybe, it’s even more straightforward than this, with the BBC TV series and movie released just in time for Christmas. For me, it’s a mix of all of these alongside its magical world full of mystical beasts and talking animals: the simple wardrobe, a gateway into a fantastical world where kids rule.
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Over the years, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has sat at the centre of discussions around theology in literature and film. Some Christians have praised the vision of C.S Lewis, while others have critiqued his inclusion of classic pagan imagery and ideas. Of course, there is no denying the stories obvious links to The New Testament; after all, here we have Aslan, killed due to betrayal only to be resurrected; the story of Jesus. Meanwhile, we have Edmund, whose journey directly reflects that of Judas. However, the Christian themes found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe also merge with classic Greek mythology, Pagan imagery and magic and fantasy. Therefore, Narnia is far more than just a religious story; like Lord of the Rings, it is a foundation stone of modern fantasy.
Opening to positive reviews on the 9th December 2005, Andrew Adamson’s beautiful, thoughtful, and stunning adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a joy to watch. Adamson brought to life the world of C.S Lewis in exquisite detail with puppetry, physical effects and CGI effortlessly merging to create a truly magical adventure. But Adamson also added scale and vision by enlarging Narnia into a genuinely breathtaking world of light and dark, his final battle scene something C.S Lewis would have never imagined. It is, therefore, no wonder that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would gross more than 745 million dollars worldwide while winning several Academy Awards the following year.
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Walden Media always envisioned The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the first instalment in a series of movies. True to their word, 2008 would bring us Prince Caspian and 2010 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. However, due to legal disputes over rights between Walden Media, 20th Century Fox, and Disney, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader would be the final Narnia outing. Of course, this problem would later be solved by Disney’s acquisition of Fox. Sixteen years on from its release, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not only one of the best family fantasy films of the past twenty years, but it’s also one of the most festive.
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