The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie
Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie
William Moseley as Peter Pevensie
Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie
Tilda Swinton as White Witch
James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus
Jim Broadbent as Professor Kirke
Kiran Shah as Ginarrbrik
James Cosmo as Father Christmas
Elizabeth Hawthorne as Mrs. MacReady
Patrick Kake as Oreius
Shane Rangi as General Otmin
Liam Neeson as Aslan (voice)
Ray Winstone as Mr. Beaver (voice)
Dawn French as Mrs. Beaver (voice)
Rupert Everett as Fox (voice)
Cameron Rhodes as Gryphon (voice)
Philip Steuer as Philip the Horse (voice)
Jim May as Vardan (voice)
Sim Evan-Jones as Wolf (voice)

Special Features:
Bloopers

Discover Narnia Facts

Kids & Director Commentary

Filmmakers’ Commentary

Chronicles of a Director

The Children’s Magical Journey

Evolution of an Epic

From One Man’s Mind

Cinematic Storytellers

Creating Creatures

Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River

Creatures of the World

Explore Narnia

Legends in Time

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound,
5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 135 Minutes

Synopsis:
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is based on the novel by C.S. Lewis.

In the middle of World War II, the Pevensie children are sent from war torn London into the safety of the English countryside. They are to reside at the large mansion of a mysterious Professor. After arriving, the children find themselves bored out of their minds. They begin exploring the house during a game of hide and seek. It is then that Lucy finds a magical wardrobe in a small room.

Upon entering the wardrobe, Lucy discovers a portal to a magical frozen world of Narnia. There, she happens upon a fawn named Mr. Tumnus. The half-goat, half-human creature befriends Lucy, but tells her that an evil witch rules the land as Queen of Narnia. It’s too dangerous for Lucy to stay, so he sends her back home. But when she returns to England, her brothers and sister don’t believe her fantastic story.

Some time later Lucy’s brother Edmund also enters the wardrobe and finds Narnia. However, he encounters the Witch who entices him into luring his brother and sisters into the magical realm. Will Edmund betray his siblings or will the kids help fulfill a Narnian prophecy that four human children will help overthrow the Witch? And how will Aslan, the true lion ruler of Narnia, deal with the Witch and the children when he returns?

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is rated PG for battle sequences and frightening moments.

The Movie:
I’ve actually read “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” several times. I read it as a kid in school and I read the entire series recently to refresh my memory before watching the film. So I was particularly pleased to see that the movie was very faithful to the book. They stayed very close to the novel as far as story, characters, and dialogue go. The only addition was a scene where the wolves were chasing the kids and beavers near a frozen waterfall. It wasn’t a bad addition since it added a little more action and helped develop Peter’s character some more. The only other addition was the generous helping of epic battle towards the end.

The effects in the film were outstanding. From the opening scenes where we see Mr. Tumnus’ goat legs to the talking beavers to the large battle at the end, everything looked fantastic. Never have so many fantasy characters hit the screen all in one go. There are minotaurs, centaurs, griffins, dwarves, giants, unicorns, phoenixes, demons, ogres, and more. There are even rhinos, cheetahs, wolves, foxes, and other real world animals. They all look great. I recently read a quote from C.S. Lewis where he said, in the 60′s, that he never wanted to see a LWW live action film because he didn’t think they could convincingly portray a talking lion. Well, if he could see Aslan in this film, I think he’d be very pleased. Aslan looks fantastic and is a real living, breathing CG character. The animation was superb. And though this film will be compared to “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter,” it’s a very different take on fantasy as far as look and feel go. It’s more fanciful and bright than its darker fantasy counterparts.

The casting in this film was perfect. The children are really good at bringing the personalities of the kids to the big screen. Georgie Henley is cute and spunky as Lucy Pevensie. Skandar Keynes is surly and misunderstood as Edmund Pevensie. William Moseley well plays the fighting spirit and protective nature of Peter Pevensie.
Anna Popplewell is practical and logical as Susan Pevensie. After seeing them in this film, you won’t be able to picture anyone else in the roles. Tilda Swinton is also great as the menacing White Witch. She is able to convincingly switch from enticing to evil quickly and she has some pretty wild costumes. James McAvoy steals the show from the cute kids as Mr. Tumnus. He, too, is able to look alternatively friendly and possibly menacing in short order.

I was impressed by the score from Harry Gregson-Williams. It was an interesting mix of modern sounding music, classical orchestral score, and 1940′s music. The final result is something that perfectly sets the mood for the movie yet is far removed from epic scores like “Lord of the Rings”.

A big deal has been made about the Christian roots of this film. If you watch it, then the connection is undeniable. However, the story of sin, crucifixion, and resurrection is so buried in the fantasy elements that the connection is almost an afterthought. If you’re not looking for a Christian connection, then it won’t matter to you. Messiah stories have been told many different ways. But if you’re a Christian, you’re probably going to get much more out of the scenes with Aslan. You’ll enjoy it on a different level from those that are just there for entertainment.

My only gripes with the film are my gripes with the original novel. I always thought the appearance of Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus) was awfully out of place when compared to the rest of the story. I also thought it was a little hard to buy Peter being transformed into a sword wielding warrior only 48 hours after arriving in Narnia. You can attribute that to more magic, but it’s never really explained. I also felt that the ending was a little rushed. Despite this, I didn’t find the film any less entertaining.

I will add that the film will probably be too much for children under 7. There are long stretches where not much happens beyond dialogue. That makes it hard for some kids to sit still through. Alternatively, some of the evil creatures are a bit scary and might freak out sensitive kids. Personally I’d say if they could handle Harry Potter, they could handle this.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” has a little something for everyone. Children will enjoy the adventures of Lucy and the other kids. Effects fans will enjoy seeing the creatures and the epic battles. Fantasy fans will love seeing so many magical creatures brought to life on the screen. Fans of the book will love seeing a faithful adaptation. Christians will be uplifted by the comparisons between Aslan and Jesus. And movie fans will just enjoy it as a good popcorn flick until the next fantasy film. In short, it’s a fun film for everyone.

The Extras:
Despite the fact that the Christian themes are very apparent in the film, the bonus features on the 2-Disc Collector’s Edition gloss over the connection almost entirely. I heard no mention of the parallels between Aslan and Jesus and The White Witch and Satan. That seems odd considering the intense marketing campaign Disney hit churches with. In fact, the biography of C.S. Lewis on the DVD (which runs a whopping 4 minutes) only mentions his “religious beliefs” in passing and never even utters the word “Christian”. It’s a rather odd move on Disney’s part. There also aren’t any interviews with the voice cast in the film like Liam Neeson, Dawn French, and Rupert Everett (though footage of them voicing the characters is seen). Despite that, there’s a really good selection of bonus features on the making of the film itself. Here’s what you’ll find:

Bloopers – This is your standard selection of flubbed lines, spills, and joking around on the set. It’s fun to see the actors break out of character for brief moments.

Discover Narnia Facts – This is a well known feature on some DVDs where pop up windows display trivia about the making of the film, the original material, and other bits of info.

Kids & Director Commentary – All of the children and director Andrew Adamson discuss the film in this commentary. It’s a little wild as the children talk over each other, go off on wild tangents, and generally act like real siblings. Adamson acts as ringleader and guides their discussions, but he’s vastly outnumbered.

Filmmakers’ Commentary – Less lively but still informative is the filmmakers commentary. Oddly one of them delivers his commentary over the phone, but it’s better than nothing. They get heavily into the technical aspects of making the movie, which effects houses did what, etc.

Chronicles of a Director – This featurette is about a lot more than just the director. They discuss the casting of the kids, the design of the creatures, the approach to the story, New Zealand, and much more. Adamson is very much at the center of it all, but he’s just one part of the bigger picture. There are lots of interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more. I particularly like how Adamson filmed Georgie Henley’s real reaction to first seeing the Narnia set. It was a nice touch.

The Children’s Magical Journey – This featurette highlights the kids from the film (as you probably already guessed from the title). They discuss how they auditioned, how they reacted when they got their parts, their costumes, working on the set, and their interaction with each other. It’s interesting to see how they grew over the time and there’s more recent footage of them where they have all grown even more (and Edmund’s voice has changed significantly).

From One Man’s Mind – This is a very, very short biography of C.S. Lewis. It mainly highlights the more notable points of his life like his writing career, WWI service, and schooling.

Cinematic Storytellers – This is a series of 8 short featurettes highlighting the costumers, visual effects supervisor, producer, and more. They talk with Richard Taylor of Lord of the Rings fame, too. Again, this consists of a lot of interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Creating Creatures – This is a series of short documentaries highlighting the making of the various creatures in the film. They include the Witch, Aslan, Minotaurs, Centaurs, Wolves, Goblins, Ankleslashers, and more. Most of the cooler characters are shown here in their real world and CGI incarnations. If you love effects, this section will be the highlight for you.

Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River – This 11 minute featurette details the ice breaking scene in the film. After viewing this you’ll really begin to appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into making the scene happen. You see the waterfall set, the fake ice, the kids preparing for the water scene, and more. You also see the miniature of the melting waterfall. It’s a pretty good featurette.

Creatures of the World – This is a series of brief videos that give the backgrounds of the characters from the books. This ties directly into the “Creating Creatures” featurette and they highlight the same characters.

Explore Narnia – You can explore Narnia in this map.

Legends in Time – This is a timeline of events in the film.

The Bottom Line:
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is a fun fantasy movie that should please both adults and children. Fans of the book will be glad to see it is faithful to the original material.

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