Terry Mattingly at GetReligion is reporting on the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie series:
Actually, the headline that The New York Times copy desk wrote for reporter David Kehr's recent story on the forthcoming Narnia movie franchise wasn't all that bad, either: "Disney's Next Hero: A Lion King of Kings." The article makes it clear that the artists charged with bringing the beloved classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to the screen face a major challenge, one that is sure to create news for years to come as the seven-book series unfolds. Here are the money quotes:
. . .have little to say publicly about the "Narnia" cycle, which is being produced in partnership with the financier Philip Anschutz's Walden Media. They cite a natural reticence about promoting work that is still in progress: the director Andrew Adamson, an animation specialist whose only previous films are the computer-generated comic fairy tales "Shrek" and "Shrek 2," is still behind his digital console.
But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.
That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.
There are some very real fears that Disney will dilute the Christian content of the books in the movie version:
But there will be voices to weaken the doctrinal content of the product -- will Queen Susan end up, in book seven, as an apostate? Comments by Disney veteran Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center of the University of Southern California, cut to the heart of the matter.
Of Lewis's work, Mr. Kaplan said: "There's enough story and traditional emotion in the 'Narnia' books that they can let the Christian mysticism in it either be a subtext or not a part of it at all. I suspect you can portray resurrection in the same way that E.T. comes back to life, and that practically every fairy tale has a hero or heroine who seems to be gone forever but nevertheless manages to come back."
That sound you hear is C.S. Lewis devotees (and scholars) screaming.
If this dilution takes place it will be a travesty. The so-called "Christian Mysticism" is at the heart of the books, and it goes beyond mere mysticism - the work of Christ and the plan of redemption are at the heart of the books.
However, I do have some bad news for Mr. Kaplan. Though he may hope to portray the resurrection of Aslan as just another fairy tale where "a hero or heroine who seems to be gone forever but nevertheless manages to come back," he ought to ask why "practically every fairy tale" has this element in it. We Christians think that this is because of the inescapability of redemption. The longing of every human heart is a longing for redemption, and this longing for redemption is inherent in the Christian story. While he may hope to dilute the Christian story of Narnia to look just like another fairy tale, the truth is that the fairy tales themseles are telling the Christian message.