THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
**** (out of 5)
December 9, 2005
Georgie Henley as LUCY PEVENSIE
Skandar Keynes as EDMUND PEVENSIE
William Moseley as PETER PEVENSIE
Anna Popplewell as SUSAN PEVENISE
Tilda Swinton as THE WHITE WITCH
James McAvoy as MR. TUMNUS
Jim Broadbent as PROFESSOR KIRKE
Liam Neeson as ASLAN
Studio: Disney/Walden Media
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In some ways, it’s just too easy to label “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” as a children’s version of “The Lord of the Rings.” Sure, this probably wouldn’t have been made if not for the success of “The Lord of the Rings.” And in many ways, it suffers from the same problems as the now-classic trilogy: overdone CGI, a long running time and a bit of overkill with the fantasy creatures.
However, there’s a lot to love in this new Narnia movie.
I read the book a long time ago as a child, and I am more apt to remember the television cartoon adaptation from the 1970s. In this sense and recollection, I thought it was a very fair adaptation. The only problem is that it broke down in the explanation of the Turkish delight that Edmund (Shandar Keynes) covets. In the book and cartoon, it was clear that the treat was magical and very addictive. But even as a criticism, I’m not sure exactly how they would have explained all that without a narrator.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” follows four London siblings who are sent to stay with a foster family while the war takes place in greater England. While staying in the old house, one of them stumbles upon a magical wardrobe that leads her into a magical world of Narnia. This land is enchanted by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who has made it winter all the time, but never Christmas.
There is a prophecy in Narnia that four human children will rid the land of the White Witch. Also in the prophecy is the return of Aslan, the lion king. The four children must face danger, betrayal and evil in order to help the inhabitants of Narnia.
The movie gets off to a rocky start, beginning with the bombing of London during World War II, which seems a bit out of place considering the rest of the film takes place in the kids’ new house or Narnia itself. Ultimately, the set-up is long and is where some fat could have been trimmed. However, if you can stick it out until Lucy (Georgie Henley) makes her first trip to Narnia, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The film is like other children’s movies like “Jumanji” and “Zathura” in that it made me long to be a child again and experience the film as a child. If this had come out when I was a child, I would have loved the movie. It could have been my new “Star Wars.”
Any fan of the book should enjoy this film, if for any reason but to see a fine adaptation of the work. With science fiction on the downfall and fantasy films taking the cineplexes by storm, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has a chance to knock Harry Potter off its current pedestal.
The biggest strength of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is achieved by some seriously astute casting. There is no one better than Tilda Swinton to play the White Witch. And Liam Neeson is excellent as the voice of Aslan. The CGI work breaks down at times, but overall is very well done and realistic – especially on Aslan. Finally, the film presents a cavalcade of fantasy creatures even more numerous than those in Middle Earth. It was great to see minotaurs, centaurs and griffins come to life on screen.
Anyone who knows even a little about the Narnia books and C.S. Lewis knows that there is plenty of religious significance to the stories. But aside from a pretty obvious sacrifice scene in the film, it’s not too heavy-handed and works within the structure of the picture.
I really enjoyed this first trip to Narnia. I only hope that the next six movies can live up to it.