A subplot about the betrayal on the part of the younger brother Edmund brings a modicum of subtlety to an otherwise good guys-bad guys flick, but it isn't big enough or sufficiently complex to overcome the general theme of cowboys and Indians. I'm sure Narnia must be a more interesting place.

When you dare, like Lucy, to crawl into the wardrobe and find your way into its otherworld, you have to have your eyes attuned to mystery and your ears to poetry. This film is too literal. It never gets out of the wardrobe itself enough to appreciate another world. We never leave World War II and London. It needs a tornado to take it to Kansas, where something really magical might happen.

The special effects and the improbable creatures are awesome. But clever effects don't make magic, which I assume is what C. S. Lewis was trying to evoke.

On the other hand, our real-life wars surely mirror conflicts that lie deep inside us. Maybe today we are all caught in the complex of the warm lion and the woman of ice: Our nobility is theatrical and our emotions cold. Like our leaders, the citizens of Narnia don't seem capable of looking for evil in themselves. They have to fight, as Edmund says, to the finish. When our military people say ruggedly that they will never cut and run, I hear a cold mother breathing frosty in the background. Maybe she is the guiding spirit at boot camp.

In a world full of violent conflict, we are all familiar with the winter of Narnia. I would rather see a film that offers an alternative, some hope and complexity, real warmth. But maybe this film is deeply realistic and reflects exactly where we are. Maybe our generals serve an ice-cold goddess. Maybe all our wars are cold wars.

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