Review of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

Thanks to a free pass we were able to see the brand spanking new adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this past Saturday and all in all I have to say it’s an enjoyable film that actually manages to improve upon the original story in small, but significant ways.

I’m no stranger to the story as it’s the only one of the The Chronicles of Narnia I’ve ever read and the movie seemed to be a pretty faithful adaptation, though admittedly it’s been more than a few years since I read the book. I did like the fact that the character of Edmund has more of a motivation for being lured to the “dark side” than simply being a jerk as he was in the original story and the other main characters seemed to be a little more fleshed out than I expected as well. There is a definite sense of time compression with the pace at which things happen at points in the movie that makes for a few odd scenes such as the girls being very distraught over the death of Aslan despite barely having made his acquaintance. This is probably worse if you’ve read the book than not as I recall the trip to meet up with Aslan took seemingly forever in the novel.  Overall the movie stays pretty true to the book and I can’t think of any major deviations or omissions that detract from the story.

I thought the kids who played the main characters did a pretty good job considering the amount of time they must have spent acting to events and characters that didn’t actually exist. Special note has to be made of Tilda Swinton’s performance as The White Witch as she obviously took great glee in the role and was easily my favorite character as a result despite her being the villain. She has a particularly vindictive moment at one point in the film that actually made me laugh out loud much to the distress of some of the other folks present I’m sure. If she’s the only reason you go to see the film it’d still be a damn good reason. The voice acting of the CG critters fills the bill and I have no major complaints about their casting.

This is a very effects heavy film and they’re done pretty well for the most part. Some of the critters are unmistakably computer generated at times and a few of the prosthetic effects are less than wonderfully realized, but considering the sheer number of effects being applied in some scenes it’s understandable if they’re not all pixel perfect. The battles, particularly the big one near the end, are impressively intense considering there’s almost a complete absence of blood or gore of any kind throughout the film. In fact Edmund ends up looking the worst for wear at the hands of the White Witch than any of the folks on the battlefield do as he ends up with a split lip and an abrasion or two. This is particularly impressive when you consider how the villain dies at the hands… er… paws… of Aslan without so much as a speck of blood blemishing his pristine visage. That’s not really a complaint as this is aimed at kids, but there is something jarring about seeing so much violence presented in such a tidy fashion.

The big question a lot of folks reading SEB will have is how did Disney handle the religious overtones present in the story and the truth is they did a good job with it. The allegory is obvious to anyone who is familiar with it from the books, but much as a lot of folks were able to read the books without ever realizing it had any similarities to Christian themes there will probably be plenty who won’t pick up on it in the movie either. The ending of The Matrix Revolutions was a more blatant Christ-reference than anything in this movie. I’m somewhat bemused that I felt more manipulated by the ending to the Matrix series than I did by Narnia. This is a movie I’d have no problems watching again if for no other reason than to watch Tilda tear up the scenery one more time.

Looks like ***Dave enjoyed it too.

5 thoughts on “Review of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

  1. No disagreements with anything you said.  I haven’t gone quite as far as saying that they movie-makers have actually *improved* the tale, but it is certainly more palatable for modern audiences (and as a movie, as opposed to a fairy tale) than the original.

  2. Polly Toynbee’s review in the Guardian is pretty interesting.

    Over the years, others have had uneasy doubts about the Narnian brand of Christianity. Christ should surely be no lion (let alone with the orotund voice of Liam Neeson). He was the lamb, representing the meek of the earth, weak, poor and refusing to fight. Philip Pullman – he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials – has called Narnia “one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read”.

    Why? Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth.

    She recommends non-believers bring a barf bag LOL

  3. Having seen the second movie, I’ll now have to go back to the first and see that too, and then maybe the books. Will see. Of course I may just be sweet on Susan Pevensie (Hey, it’s legit, she was 18 when she acted in Prince Caspian wink

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