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

Posted by Peter

On Friday night my wife and I made it to a showing of the new film, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". I grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia, and because of that I've been anticipating the release of this movie for quite some time. Judging upon the movie's first weekend numbers ($67.1 million), there were a good number of others out there like me who couldn't wait to get a peek into the fanciful world that C.S. Lewis created for us in his series of books.

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The movie opens with a scene of terror as Nazi bombers rain down fire and destruction on the city of London. The Pevensie children and their mother huddle in the relative safety of their bomb shelter as the explosions pierce the night air. The mother realizing that the children won't be safe in the city, sends them away to live at an estate in the English countryside, where their adventures quickly ensue.

This beginning to the movie, although I don't think it was in the book, is helpful movie shorthand for laying the groundwork for the relationships between the siblings, and what roles they're going to play in the movie. Edmund begins to shows his rebellious and careless ways, and Peter shows up as the caring, albeit domineering older brother. Susan comes in as the questioning doubting pessimist and Lucy as the carefree believing child.

Once at the estate the story begins quickly with Lucy entering the wardrobe and discovering Narnia for the first time. I have to say that the performance of the actor portraying Lucy (Georgie Henley) was for me one of the highlights of this film. She was very believable and engaging, the kind of child that you just love and want to pick up and squeeze. Throughout the movie, she kept making me smile - and you could just tell that she really is a child full of joy and wonderment. In some respects she stole the whole movie - upstaging the performances of the other actors to some degree.

After the rest of the children enter the world of Narnia the movie begins revealing some of the wonderful talking creatures including Mr. Tumnus, the beavers, the wolves and their secret police force and many others. Most of them came off wonderfully - with my personal favorites being the beavers. They seemed very believable to me. Aslan was also especially good, sometimes i almost forgot that it wasn't a real lion talking and interacting with the other characters. Some of the other characters, however, to me felt a little to "CG-ish". There were times that you could really tell that there was computer animation at work, and it was a bit distracting at times. For example in several scenes I noticed that animals didn't seem to blend in with their surroundings very well (shadowing not quite right), or that they didn't seem to follow the laws of physics quite how they should. Some seemed almost like they were wire models.

For the most part I thought the visual scenery was very stunning, from the snow covered forests and mountains, to Aslan's camp in the hills. The Beavers home was also just how I'd imagined it from the book. The only setting in the movie that I didn't really like was the witches castle. In my mind I had always imagined it as this huge forboding place with acres upon acre of frozen stone Narnians, and vast cold halls and filled with evil creatures of every stripe. In the movie I almost felt like the witches lair was cramped, that it didn't really speak to how evil and powerful she was.

The plot of the movie follows the book very closely, with the elements of sin, redemption, salvation and sacrifice playing a prominent role. Some of the strongest scenes for me were the ones in which Aslan offers himself up as a sacrifice in place of Edmund. Aslan leaves the camp in the wee hours of the night, and walks with Lucy and Susan as he makes his way to the stone table. The scene gave me chills, and really drove home the anguish that Aslan was in. Also the sacrifice scene really drove home how there is a battle between good and evil, and that sometimes things can seem very dark indeed. Maybe a good lesson for the times that we're in - even though things may look grim, there is the hope that comes with the morning.

The one other thing I didn't like about the movie was how the children's characters just picked up their weapons before battle and instantly became experts in their use, despite the fact that they were fighting obviously more experienced fighters on the other side. On this note you have to suspend your disbelief in favor of following the storyline.

All in all I thought the movie was very good. The strong points were the plot, characters, strong moral message and beautiful and stunning locations. For me the strong points were VERY strong. Weak points for me included some of the CG work, a couple of the locations and a fewsituations that asked you to suspend your disbelief. On a scale of 1-5 stars, I give "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" 4 stars.