The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC VERSION: Bloopers Of Narnia; Discover Narnia Fun Facts; Director And Kids Commentary; Filmmakers Commentary; Audio Described; Creating Narnia Behind The Scenes; Chronicles Of A Director; The Childrens Magical Journey; Evolution Of An Epic With Indepth Features; Creatures Lands And Legends Hosted By Mr Tumnus; Creatures Of The World; Explore Narnia; Legend In Time.
THE box office success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy has helped to pave the way for another literary classic to be given the big screen treatment in suitably impressive fashion.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, based upon the much-loved novel by CS Lewis, has been faithfully adapted by Andrew Adamson (of Shrek fame) into a magical cinema experience that is guaranteed to delight younger audiences.
It may struggle to achieve the epic heights set by Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy but it remains an impressive achievement and one that looks to have set up the franchise well.
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is widely considered to be the most favoured of Lewis’ Chronicles and is the second book in the series.
It focuses on the four Pevensie children – Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter (played by Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell and William Moseley respectively) – as they are are forced to flee the bombing of London during World War II for the safety of a rural country home owned by a mysterious professor (Jim Broadbent).
Once there, the kids occupy their time playing ‘hide and seek’, during which the youngest, Lucy, discovers a magical wardrobe that transports her to the mystical land of Narnia.
Once there, the children learn that it is their destiny to free Narnia from the frosty reign of the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton), which they do with the help of a powerful lion named Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson).
Given the epic nature of Lewis’ literary vision, it was always going to be a massive undertaking to deliver a big screen version that fully did justice to the author’s imagination.
Thankfully, Adamson has mostly succeeded in delivering something that looks spectacular, stays true to the source material and succeeds in connecting with its audience on an emotional as well as visual level.
Narnia itself is well-realised and packed with stunning backdrops, while most of the big set pieces are well-handled and suitably rousing.
The final battle for Narnia is the movie’s highpoint and succeeds in sweeping you up in its excitement, while the key character of Aslan is very realistic and benefits from a masterly vocal performance from Neeson (who lends him the wisdom and generosity of spirit that Lewis’ creation merits).
There are also nice performances from the likes of Swinton (suitably evil), James McAvoy (as the kindly fawn, Mr Tumnus) and Ray Winstone and Dawn French (as the voices behind Mr and Mrs Beaver).
It is safe to assume, therefore, that children will be enthralled while the adults – and book-lovers – should be satisfied with the generous mix of character and action.
That’s not to say that Narnia isn’t without its flaws, however, of which there are several.
Some of the special effects do look a little ropey (especially early on), while the children aren’t as endearing as we might have hoped.
Moseley, in particular, provides a particularly bland presence as the oldest of the kids and lacks the charisma or authority to really inspire as much as he should, while Popplewell is similarly dreary in her depiction of Susan.
The film lacks any real menace and could have done with being a little more scary to really provide it with a sense of peril. Instead, it seems content to play up the family values and handles some of its themes a little too earnestly.
Yet given the scope of Lewis’ work and the expectation placed upon the movie it’s fair to say that Adamson has triumphed in general, providing a family experience that is rich in classic values and which honours the brilliance of Lewis’ original vision.
Expect the box office roar from this Lion to be particularly mighty.