Chronicles of Narnia: Lion Witch Wardrobe

This is a retro-post. I put this online 24 December 2005 using the date it was originally sent out.

First, if you’ve read the book this review will be Spoiler Free. If you haven’t read the book you may want to skip this until you’ve seen the film.

Secondly, I last read this book over 25 years ago. Please keep that in mind.

CON by CS Lewis, as you must know, is highly allegorical in nature. The entire series has deep religious overtones throughout the novel. Separating it out would be simply impossible. Even as a child reading them, it was obvious. The only way to present CON properly would be to embrace the religious overtones. Despite my long-standing opinions of religion, I really enjoyed the book and looked forward with anticipation of the film.

The films starts off by showing how the children came to be in the country estate. Therein is my first qualm. In the novel, the children hide in the wardrobe during a household tour (or so Maury informs me). Tours of large estates were a common way for the gentry to help pay expenses during wartime so this makes sense. However, there is instead a scene with a cricket ball through a window which causes the children to run and hide. That rings false because English children would go right up and apologize and take responsibility, especially in the 1940s — we won’t even mention that there would be no other suspects for same. Hell, even American children were better back in the 1940s. I’m not sure why they changed that — it was fine as written. Oh well.

As for the film: Peter is the standout of the children. I found little Lucy to be irritating especially her smile which was contrived looking. Susan was boring but adequate. I thought Edmund was broody and moody but lacked any sort of facial ability to convey any emotion he was feeling. These children will not win Oscars for their roles. I think they went more for the “cute kid” than the best actor — it’s a Disney film after all. Peter definitely had the role of the big brother trying to be the man of the house down pat, but Osment he is not.

(Then I had to have an argument with the asshole behind me who spent the entire film so far commentating to his neighbours. I actually stood up, turned around and told him to shut up. It worked. Yay. Of course the adult is the worst behaved one in the theatre. In fact it was over 50% adult-only parties.)

Let me discuss Aslan for a bit. I have never seen a more realistic CGI effort in my life. Having met big cats up close I was floored. It makes what I’ve seen of Kong in the previews seem amateurish. I am still amazed at how real Aslan looked and felt. Amazing. Then they go and ruin it by using a fur carpet on the altar instead of CGI — a very obvious change.

My memories of the book are very fuzzy, but what I see on the screen seems pretty faithful. I actually remembered lines and scenes as I saw them. Sort of a déjà-vu experience. The fawn Mr. Tumnus was well done. The White Witch was amazingly done though she kept reminding me of Glen Close.

There is an added scene not in the book. Well the scene is there but they changed it to make it “more exciting” (the river scene with the ice). I just wonder why you have to take such a good book and add to it. Especially when you sit there and wonder why they didn’t die of hypothermia (of course that reminds me of the Titanic film for the same reason).

As an adult, I was distracted by the religious references but it may have been that I was expecting them having read the book. It’s probably me, so I have to say don’t be fearful of that. I also find it ironic that this magical world is being embraced by the same religious zealots who damn Harry Potter.

Visually Narnia has come to life. It’s amazing and very similar to what I’d picture. The beavers are a riot and I rather enjoyed their banter which I don’t recollect being in the book, but I could be wrong. I believe I head that this was also filmed in New Zealand. There are one or two shots which were obviously done with blue-screens and matte backgrounds which I find odd that they’d use in such a big budget film. That is a picked nit, though.

The score is very well done. In that I mean it fits the film very well along with the mood and scenery. At 2h 15m this film felt very, very short. Too short in fact. That’s a compliment 🙂

After the credits start, STAY. There is a little more movie in the credits along with a bonus song by Alanis Morrissette.

— E

PS: CS Lewis like Tolkien was opposed to a movie version of his works. It think technological changes have made this a worthwhile endeavour.

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