Narnia's myth-like qualities hold universal message
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which opens in theaters this weekend, will resonate with more than just religious groups because of universal moral themes, but targeting a Christian audience is a wise marketing move for the film's publicists, says a University of North Texas journalism professor.
The $150 million movie, an adaptation of British author C.S. Lewis' first book in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series of seven books, is expected to become one of December's box-office hits. First published in 1950, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has been viewed by many scholars as a fairy tale with Christian symbolism.
Mitchell Land, director of UNT's Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, says the success of "The Passion of the Christ," which made more than $370 million after it was released in February 2004 and marketed to a Christian audience, "proves there's a significant market for this kind of approach."
"This is what ‘Narnia' does. It has a universal message that is not really limited to Christianity, although it's popular among wide swaths of Christian groups," Land says. "Redemption, sacrifice, selflessness, courage -- these are universal themes of the human spirit."
Land also points to the film versions of the three books in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which has similar themes. Each film grossed more than $300 million at the box office.
"You've seen the success of ‘The Lord of the Rings.' You're going to see that ‘Narnia' is going to be a huge success and will make loads of money," Land says. "In a time of uncertainty, I think people can feel that principles matter, principles such as humaneness, justice and truth. Principles are universal, and people want to see this exemplified through myth, what I call storytelling. It helps people makes sense out of chaos. That's what movies do for you."