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

Cast:
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)

Summary:
“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.

Story:
“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.

What Worked:
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 it’s 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.

What Didn’t Work:
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 Bottom Line:
“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.

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