Of course I am looking forward to the Narnia Chronicles' big screen debut, and like everyone who appreciates C.S. Lewis's writings we hope the early word out that the movie is 'faithful' to the book is exactly as claimed (okay, okay, there's the polar bears controversy, but I can live with that bit of artistic license I think). PBS' Religion & Ethics website has a good discussion on the book and its author that you simply have to read. Tim Mattingly comments on the core symbolism of Christ's death and resurrection in the book and says, "... you would have to be pretty blind not to see what the symbols mean and to hear what the words mean."
All this is true of course and you can imagine a feeding frenzy as churches consciously buy into the marketing machine to make sure this message is not lost on moviegoers. (I loathe the fact that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe tracts were advertised to churches for bulk purchase). I understand the impulse although I am not crazy about 'marketing' (I work in an advertising agency, ha!) the movie on that platform because it does a serious disservice to the story which was not written as an evangelistic tract anyway. Isn't it telling that the movie cleverly adopted two marketing approaches - one for churches, and another for, erm, pagans?
There is something wrong when the arts - and movies in particular - are only endorsed on the basis of how evangelistic its message is. This certainly cannot be what we mean when we talk about redeeming culture and the arts. What about getting people to read the book as literature in the first place? Alright, so JRR Tolkien was dismissive of Narnia and thought poorly of Lewis's effort, but as a story, it is a tale well told, magical, enchanting, and most of all, enduring. We need to hear what Lewis says about his own mythic excursus and writing for children:
Some people think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child psychology and decided what age-group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out "allegories" to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.Significantly, the author's Christianity undergirded his art and served his tale almost incidentally, and not the other way around. Same with Tolkien's LOTR. To read literature written by authors of christian persuasion solely for the allegories they may contain is to miss the woods for the trees.