New "Narnia" film stirs religious controversy

Thu Dec 9, 2010 12:04am EST
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By Paul Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The studios behind the new "Narnia" movie are walking a tightrope in their quest to promote the third film in the fantasy franchise to a Christian audience and to general moviegoers.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader doesn't open until Friday, but Fox and family-friendly producer Walden Media have been showing it to influential Christians for about a month, even before a finished print was ready.

That the studios have been reaching out to the faith-based community is an obvious strategy, given that it is based on the "Narnia" series from Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis.

But they also are going out of their way not to pigeonhole the film as something that will appeal just to the world's 2.2 billion Christians. There are, after all, an additional 4.7 billion inhabitants of Earth.

Sometimes, it can be quite tricky.

Case in point is Liam Neeson, who voices Aslan, the resurrected lion in the upcoming film. The actor said at a news conference last week that his character doesn't necessarily represent Christ. That might be news to Lewis, though, who wrote the opposite before he died in 1963.

"Aslan symbolizes a Christlike figure, but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries," Neeson said.

The comment got some passionate bloggers working overtime to rebut Neeson's analysis by using Lewis' own words.   Continued...