Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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
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
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