We went to the zoo today, and Spring was in the air.
The bison were cavorting, the otter was playing, and even the condor was strutting his stuff, trying to entice my daughter with a bizarre kind of mating dance. A few bobs and flaps of her arms, and he was putty in her hands.
The lions, on the other hand, were flatlined, lying in a witless stupor. My thoughts eventually meandered to Aslan in the new Narnia movie hitting theaters this Spring. The trailers look pretty sweet. It promises great action and looks to be an imaginative adaptation of a classic tale. I really liked the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I did. It’s just that… well, Aslan was just plain awful onscreen.
C.S. Lewis’ Aslan truly was a wild lion imbued with a regal ferocity, a feral magnificence. Lewis’ Aslan is a god-beast truly untamed, unmatched, and impervious to any attempts to cage him in any way. I’m thinking of Hwin from “the Horse and His Boy, who confessed, “I’d rather be eaten by you than fed by anyone else” — or the Calormen Tisroc who described him as a being of “hideous aspect” — or Lucy and Susan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” who had the distinct pleasure of romping with Aslan after his resurrection. At one point the narrator says that they couldn’t decide whether they were playing with a kitten or getting caught in a powerful thunderstorm. A beautiful image, a frightening image. The true Aslan made your knees knock together and made you want to kiss his nose at the same time. Just like the true Jesus would.
The movie Aslan, on the other hand, really was a tame lion — a performing lion stripped of every vestige of magnificence by a pathetically morose Liam Neeson voiceover. Bah! The CGI character was pathetic too, the kind of nice lion you would invite to a tea party and dress up with Mr. Rabbit. He looks like a pet version of the contemplative Jesus in the god-awful paintings that slap him with Bambi eyes and salon hair parted down the middle. Yuck. Movie Aslan could do Revlon commercials without batting an eye. And he doesn’t look even remotely real.
My fear is that by taming Aslan, our culture has tamed another vital image of Christ, the Lion of Judah who inspired Lewis’ Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis’ Alsan is magnificently terrifying and imperially tender. Just like Jesus. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Hail the true Aslan. Hear him roar!