THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
From 1988 to 1990, the BBC adapted four of C.S. Lewis’ classic books from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The stories follow the Pevensie children – Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter – as they travel by various means to the magical world of Narnia. There, they face the White Witch, who has taken over the land, Aslan the lion king and many amazing fantasy creatures. The first four books – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Prince Caspian,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “The Silver Chair” are included in this mini-series event.
WHAT I LIKED
I have been a fan of Narnia ever since my father read me “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” when I was a kid and I subsequently watched the American cartoon adaptation of it. At its core, these stories are beautiful fantasies for children and adults to love.
Understanding that these were made by the BBC with video-grade special effects more than 20 years ago, with the big-budget American movies a decade and a half away, these episodes are charming and fun. It is pretty shocking how close the stories follow the other adaptations, showing some respect for C.S. Lewis.
Prior to the films produced by Walden Media, the BBC’s version of “The Chronicles of Narnia” was one of the few ways to experience a visual presentation of the books. This is a fun way to spend a rainy weekend with the kids if they don’t mind some antiquated effects and style.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
It is almost impossible to not compare these television productions to the modern films that are currently making their way through the theaters. While these shows were charming for kids in England and for those who watched PBS in the States in the late 80s and early 90s, they really don’t hold up all these years later. Looking more like an old “Doctor Who” episode with poorly keyed special effects and analog video bleeds, this series threatens to be laughable at times.
There’s still a charm behind the series, but it’s not nearly as exciting as it probably was when this was the height of technology for BBC productions.
The fourth disc in this set includes all the special features, including outtakes, a set of short featurettes on costumes, sets and special effects, interviews with cast members from the original broadcast and “Past Watchful Dragons,” which features J.R.R. Tolkien biographer Humphrey Carpenter as he talks about Lewis’ development of the world of Narnia.
The most interesting special feature to me was the 2003 cast reunion interview, which allows the viewer to see what the Pevensie children look like now and hear their thoughts on being part of the production.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Narnia fans and people looking for a nostalgic take on the book adaptations.