The Chronicles of Narnia Review

Well the world of internet buzz, at the moment, is devoid of any particularly interesting news items, so I’m gonna go ahead and post up an old review of mine. Also, there are several entries I want to write soon, and here they are:

Family Guy Vs. Simpsons

The Importance of Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi Pet Peeves (Inspired by another blog that contained Fantasy Pet Peeves)

Harry Potter Vs. The Critics

Anyways, my review.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Then: 9.8/10)(8/10)

I saw this movie at its midnight showing, and I must say, I was somewhat apprehensive that Disney would screw this up. I had heard scary rumours about the movie, such that they would cut out the Christian themes, or that they would completely revamp the storyline, or other such similar stuff. I was not disappointed in the least. This movie is the best book to movie adaptation I have ever seen, in terms of faithfulness to the book. It captures the essence and spirit of CS Lewis’s classic story to a T. It is also a wonderful movie all on its own, which is why I am giving it a 9.8/10.

We begin the movie with something that is not in the book: the air raids in London that originally cause the kids to go the house where they find the wardrobe. And though this was not in the book, I thoroughly appreciated it, for I believed it helped to build the kids’ characters, and to establish who they were. Then, after the air raids, we are quickly taken to “the Professor’s” house, where, on a rainy day, the kids play hide and seek, and Lucy sneaks into the wardrobe. Her expression of childhood wonder/confusion when she first enters Narnia was done almost to perfection by the young actress, and here is where I must mention the talent of the child actors in this movie as a whole.

All the actors are brilliant in their role as the kids. They play like a family so well, for the most part I completely forgot that they were actors speaking out lines from a script, and instead just accepted them for who they were playing. The actor who plays Peter shows us incredibly well how Peter makes the transition from reluctant hero to ruler over all of Narnia. We see how Edmund comes from the grumpy betrayer to, finally, fighting along his brother’s side in the climactic final battle scene. Susan and Lucy also are very believable as sisters, and their connection with Aslan is stunning, considering that Aslan is nothing but a CGI character. The actors who play the kids in this movie would have made or broken it, so I am glad that the filmmakers found such perfect young ones to play them. They are not tainted at all by “what kids should act like these days.” They are through and through their own characters, proper British youngsters, a refreshing dose of propriety amidst today’s Hollywood kids.

Another thing that I must mention more in detail is how well the filmmakers managed to capture the innocence and wonder of CS Lewis’s masterpiece. When you really think about it, there is nothing special about Narnia. It is full of talking animals, a witch, and some mythical beasts thrown in and around here and there to make it look cool. Just simple tricks of the trade for a fantasy novel. It does not even come close the scope and complexity of the Lord of the Rings. Yet there is something indefinably charming about a talking beaver, and something wonderfull amazing about a lion who is the savior of all of Narnia. Yet this movie was so well made, I did not even question this fact. I fell in love with Narnia the moment Lucy first stepped into it, I embraced its not-quite real feeling. The snow is a little too perfect sometimes, and the white witch’s castle, while at times looking magnificently gorgeous, at others looks like its ice is not quite tangible or real. But you know what? That’s okay, because Narnia itself isn’t real, and it is a fantasy world, one with talking wolves, foxes, and beavers. The children’s acceptance of the world almost right off the bat is also an added delight…for I completely feel their innocence and wonder of it all, all the while accepting it for what it is – a world inside a wardrobe.

Once Lucy enters Narnia she meets Mr. Tumnus, who is another shining point in the movie. After all, you have to be a pretty good actor to not seem incredibly creepy asking a young girl to your house for tea and sardines. He just seems sweet, and I liked him right away.

Once Lucy leaves the wardrobe, I was afraid the filmmakers would edit out much of the story here for time’s sake. In the book, Lucy goes out, then goes back in, where Edmund follows her, and then they both come out, and then all four of them go in. This is how it happens in the movie. which I found quite relieving, for the repeated trips into the wardrobe help to set the stage for Edmund’s treachery later on.

When Edmund goes into the wardrobe, following Lucy, he quickly runs into the White Witch, played by Tilda Swinton. She is yet another wonderful thing about this movie. She plays icy evil perfectly. As Edmund’s sweet seductress she is quite believable.

Then, the kids move on to meet the beavers, the first great CGI moment of the movie. These beavers are completely believable. I almost couldn’t tell they were not real, except of course for when they spoke. Their fur is so beautiful, and their characters were quite charming as well. The beavers lead the children to their house, where they discuss Aslan, during which time Edmund sneaks out, and soon the beavers and the children notice that Edmund is gone, so they go to look for him, and see him entering the witch’s castle from afar, which, though it doesn’t happen in the book, is still a nice touch.

Edmund’s meeting with the white witch is also very nice. Edmund’s obsession with Turkish Delight, the candy that the witch fed him upon their first meeting, serves to show us how that simple candy put the white witch’s spell over him, causing him to betray his family, and Edmund’s betrayal is a vital part of the story. His betrayal sends the wolves after the children and the beavers, and the wolves are also very well done CG characters, just as well done as the beavers. A harrowing chase through the dark snow-covered woods ensues.

Later on Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and the two beavers meet up with Father Christmas. This was another part I was afraid they would cut out, because all in all he is not completely necessary to the story. I was glad they did not have him in a jolly red suit, but instead in an old-fashioned massive brown tunic – as one critic put it, “the pre coca-cola Santa Claus.” He gives the gifts to each of the children, which will prove most useful later. The children then move on and soon encounter the wolves at a breathtaking waterfall sequence, that though not in the book, fits very nicely into everything. During this whole time we have steadily seen springtime appear, which is done quite wonderfully.

Soon the children meet Aslan, the most magnificent CG creation I have ever seen, better than Gollum, better than Yoda….just better. Voiced by Liam Neeson, the magnificent Lion towers over ever scene he is in, instilling in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder. He is much bigger than a normal lion, making him all the more imposing. His mane is beautiful, his fur is exquisite, and when he speaks his whole body moves in correspondence to that speech, making it all the more life-like. Aslan is undoubtedly my favorite character in the movie.

Then Edmund is reunited with his family, and what I liked about this was that the beaver mentioned that Edmund, “betrayed” Aslan. Up until this point in the movie the word, “betrayed” had never been mentioned, but I am glad they did so because it shows more clearly the parallel between Edmund and Judas, Edmund betraying Aslan as Judas betrayed Jesus. Very powerful. But then the white witch demands Edmund’s blood, claiming that betrayers belong to her. Aslan chooses to sacrifice himself for Edmund, and in doing so, sacrificing himself for all of Narnia, including the wicked minions of the white witch, who chant out that they want him dead, just as the mob did against Jesus when they shouted, “CRUCIFY!” What I liked about Aslan’s death scene was that Aslan went completely willingly, not trying in any way to stop what they did to him. I was afraid they would try to put some tremendous struggle there in which Aslan kicks some goblin butt, but no, they didn’t, further emphasizing the parallels between Jesus and Aslan. At one point, Susan and Lucy, staring on at everything, shake their heads in wonder, and one of them says, “Why doesn’t he do anything?” This shows how Aslan could have done something, but didn’t. He could easily have destroyed every last one of the bad guys, but he doesn’t. He accepts his fate, for he knows that it must be done.

Of course, soon after this, he is resurrected, in a scene of very powerful emotion. I was a little sad, though, that the great cracking of the Stone Table was so mute as it is in the movie. It is simply a small shudder of the Earth, and then Lucy and Susan turn around to see the table cracked, and Aslan stepping forth. Then they journey off to the white witch’s castle to free all the stone creatures, intercut with scenes of the final battle where Edmund and Peter are fighting. Another thing that is different from the books here is that Aslan, while running to the castle, takes great leaps and bounds, whereas in the movie, he just runs, which, though slightly disappointing, does not negatively affect the movie in any way.

The climactic battle scene is a magnificent special effects achievement, nearly on par with Lord of the Rings, though of course not as intense, as it is rated PG. The visuals, though, are breath-taking, and not disappointing in the least. Right before the clash, everything falls silent, except for the sound of a steady heartbeat….and then, everything dissolves into chaos as the armies of light and darkness ram into each other. This scene is one of the best in the movie, and even though it is not described in such detail in Lewis’s book, it is still a wonderful addition. Another great part of this scene is the sword fight between Peter and the white witch – and I was quite glad they did not over-simplify the witch’s moves to compensate for a younger actor’s inability to sword fight. The sword fight was heart-stopping and wonderful, and the part where Edmund destroys the white witch’s wand in a flash of blue brilliance was breathtaking. Finally, though, Aslan kills the white witch, and then he and Lucy go around the battlefield to heal the wounded, after Lucy, of course, heals Edmund. This was a place that could have used a bit more of “Edmund’s dead!”, instead of Lucy just reaching right for her vial. It is still a very tender moment, though, in the movie. Another part that slight annoyed me was the way Peter’s sword, at times, looked like it wobbled a bit too much – it did not have the majesty of the swords that you see in Lord of the Rings, though this was probably due to the fact that it was a younger actor holding a smaller sword.

As we see Aslan and Lucy running off to heal people, we make a fast-forward run to several days later at Caer Paravel, where Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, all are being crowned kings and queens of Narnia, and Aslan says those immortal words, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen.” Fast-forward some twenty years or so, and we see them, much older, chasing a white stag, then finding their old lamppost, which apparently they’d completely forgotten about. A few minutes later they are back in the spare room with the wardrobe, with Peter saying sheepishly to the professor, “You wouldn’t believe us if we’d told you.”

The professor, with a coy smile on his face, says, “Try me.”

A brief epilogue comes after a couple of minues of credits, where the professor is talking to Lucy about how “Narnia always comes when you least expect it”, clearly setting the stage for the next book in the series.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a fantastical film that will stand the test of time as one of the greatest movie-book adaptations ever made, right alongside with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. It is a movie that arrests our hearts with its brilliance, ensnares our minds with its cleverness, and captures our imaginations with its wonder. Undoubtedly the best film so far this year, surpassing Harry Potter 4, and Episode III by miles. A wonderful adaptation of CS Lewis’s classic, this is a film that is for anybody who has read the books, and for anyone who has is just looking for a darn good fantasy. Go see this movie. You’ll love it.

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