Written by Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson
and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Running Time: 2:20
for battle sequences and frightening moments.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a reasonable fantasy-action film with a decent story and good young actors, but felt almost incomplete and choppy.
Siblings Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan Pevensie are taken from their home to a safe place to live during World War II. There they find an enchanted wardrobe that leads to the magical world of Narnia. Narnia is bathed in cold since the White Witch Jadis has taken over the land and cursed the inhabitants to live in winter forever. The only one that can stop her is the rightful ruler of Narnia, the lion Aslan. As fate would have it, Aslan needs the four children, two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve, to help him overthrow the White Witch. But one of the children, Edmund, is seduced by the White Witch, and the children need to free their brother before they can enter into a war with the Witch. Then Aslan makes a decision that could tip the balance of power in favor of the Witch, but it is a sacrifice he must make in order for the children to move forward. The battle of good and evil, and the battle for the future of Narnia has begun.
Off the top I have to say I've never read The Chronicles of Narnia, although I do own them. So I didn't know the story before I saw the film. What I did hear about was the religious overtones of the story, and while I'm not all that familiar with the Christian religion, even a simpleton like me can see what people were talking about. But back to the movie. While The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was the first book written by C.S. Lewis in the series, chronologically it actually comes second after The Magician's Nephew. I'm going to presume that in The Magician's Nephew we are told exactly how a random wardrobe leads to another world, what this other world is, and who these people are that live there. We're basically thrown into the middle of a story without any reference points. I felt a bit discombobulated, but once I got over that, the movie picked up some. The story, as it is, involves the four children needing to team up with Aslan to take down the White Witch. Pretty standard stuff for an adventure film. There are all sorts of creatures that help them out, including some very cute beavers, and, in another random occurrence, Santa Claus. The build up to the battle is more entertaining than the battle itself, and the ending of the movie was also abrupt and left me with a few questions that I hope will be answered in a future sequel.
The acting in the film was pretty good considering the children are mostly unknowns. Georgie Henley, who plays the young Lucy, is adorable and carries the emotional weight of the movie on her shoulders. Skandar Keynes as Edmund, is an angry kid, upset that his father is in the war and that he and his brother and sisters have to be sent away from their mother. Skandar hits just the right note of rebellion against everyone who wants to help him. Anna Popplewell as Susan, is the one with the most acting credits to this point. Her character was more or less a side character. Always around, but never taking charge of a scene. It was either Lucy or Peter (William Moseley) who was in charge. Peter was the big brother, wanting to protect his siblings, but he also did a good job of showing fear. A lot of times in movies such as these you'll see the characters suddenly transform immediately into superheroes, instead of building up their confidences. Tilda Swinton was the other major actress in the film, and she was delightful as the cold White Witch. Attractive enough to seduce a teenager, but cold hearted to the bone where she would throw Edmund in chains at the drop of a hat.
The other key to a movie such as this is special effects. The special effects need to be almost perfect to pull off a movie where a large number of characters are CGI, especially Aslan, who is a centerpoint of the film. And here is where the movie fell apart a little. While the beavers were extremely well done, the rest of the CGI felt inadequate. It might not have been the fault of the director or CGI crew, but it felt to me like this movie should have been made a few years from now when the technology was in place to handle what was needed. Aslan never felt big or important to me. He always looked like he was a cartoon. And I'm not sure I would have had a well known actor (Liam Neeson) be the voice since all I heard was Liam Neeson. An unknown actor would have been better so I could have concentrated on what he was saying, rather than who was saying it. When you add in the fact that the story started in the middle without giving us any background, and the special effects looked off, the entire movie dropped down a level. The story was reasonable, the acting was good, but the movie as a whole felt incomplete.
I won't go into the religious aspects of the film because frankly, I don't think that matters all that much. Your enjoyment of the movie probably won't change based on whether you think Aslan = Jesus. Movies to me are always about entertainment. If a film can send a message at the same time, then great, but a movie with a message that bores me to tears is worthless. This film may be nothing more than a huge Christian allegory, but on the whole it was engaging, so whatever message C.S. Lewis was trying to get across doesn't matter to me because I was entertained.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was kind of a Lord of the Rings-lite, complete with a scene of the major characters trudging across a bridge of ice and snow, with the camera far back and the music swelling. It had the same sense of adventure, same epic scope, same magical lands, but everything about the movie was a step down from the masterpiece that was The Lord of the Rings. Still, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe wasn't a bad film, just not as good as it could have been. Maybe the inevitable sequel will do a better job of storytelling and by then the CGI will be up to snuff with what the movie needs.
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