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

This review was done by a few writers – I edited their reviews into a “conversation.” Thanks to Anthony, Nicholas, and Athanasius.

TitleThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Director: Andrew Adamson
Production Company: Disney
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Excellence: 4 Stars
TradReviews Rating: Family 7
Why: For some battle scenes which may not be appropriate for very young children.
Summary: Beautiful Christian allegory in which 4 children bring an end to the rule of an evil witch, by aiding Aslan the lion.

Anthony: When I was eight years old and home sick from school, my older brother lent me his copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This marked my first entry into Narnia, but I would return over a dozen times until I was fifteen. The Narnia books are extraordinary in their timeless grip on the imaginations of children. For over fifty years, the seven Chronicles have pulled millions of children into an alternate fantasy world. Nor is this the dubious world of Harry Potter, but a rich and moral world which presents author C.S. Lewis’ prized Christianity in an allegorical context. In short, the series is the perfect reading material for children: fun, engaging, and good for the soul.

Nicholas: The Chronicles of Narnia, the latest film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ children’s classic, is the newest to come forth from Hollyweird. However, unlike the rest of the dribble out there, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe promises to be one of the year’s best movies.

This adaptation faithfully produces on screen the story of 4 children from England who stay at a home in the country in the house of a brilliant professor. When the children wander into a wardrobe, they enter a magical world ruled by an evil witch. Soon the children discover they are part of a prophecy to liberate this land from her dominion. (I’m being vague on purpose, I won’t spoil it).

As has been pointed out, the Narnia film does have a few political correct moments (for example, the removal of Father Christmas’ line that women should not fight in wars), but they weren’t as bad as I expected them to be. Deo gratias that Andrew Adamson didn’t feel the need to update the film any … Susan and Lucy in low-rise stretch jeans and tank tops would have sucked all the goodness out of the film in an instant. Keeping it period added some (unintentional, I’m sure) subtle but wholly positive examples of modesty and femininity. That alone made the film great, in my mind (I can’t think of any other film where potential role-models for young girls were so lady-like and modest).

Anthony: There are a myriad of changes from the book, but they can be forgiven because they are obviously there to help the story work as a movie, and because they remain true to the feel of the book and the characters. This is Narnia’s greatest triumph. Take, for an example, the opening scene of the movie, which depicts the London bombings of 1940, and the four Pevensie children running to a bomb shelter with their mother. This scene is not in the book—it is only mentioned in passing that the children were sent to the country because of the bombings. The book was published in 1950, and the war would still have been very much in everyone’s mind. Modern audiences, however, especially children, need to be reminded of what the Pevensies were escaping from. The filmmakers also use the scene as an opportunity to flesh out the characters a bit, which could have been disastrous but instead succeeds very well. While the scene puts the characters in an environment I never imagined them in as a child, they still feel like the same Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy I know from the books.

Athanasius: Perhaps the best element, is that they didn’t have Peter doubting that he can be a king, and all the children are prepared to take their place as high kings. Peter’s only doubts are the safety of his brothers and sisters. That’s a problem with movies made by modern people, they have issues with monarchy. So in LOR, they had to make Aragorn doubt his prophetic calling to be king of Gondor and Arnor. They have in virtually every movie on the Romans from I Claudius to Gladiator made it look like the Romans wanted to return to republican government, when in fact after Cicero no one wanted to go back even if they could.

Anthony: Narnia is director Andrew Adamson’s first live-action film, and, technically, it shows. The movie is not as competently or sumptuously directed as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, for instance (Though, one might competently argue that so much technical imagery detracted from LOR as a movie). Adamson’s choices of camera angles are sometimes puzzling, and the way certain scenes unfold is not as coherent as it perhaps should be. Even worse on a technical side is the editing, which is far too fast and too much. The viewer would be pulled into the movie a lot more if there were not so many cuts. Some images remain on the screen for less than two seconds, giving even peaceful scenes a slightly discombobulated feel. If the filmmakers had not been concerned with showing more angles and shots during a scene and had instead concentrated on letting the imagery remain on screen for a few beats longer, the movie would have felt more coherent.

This is not to say, however, that the movie is badly directed; it’s not. While I was very doubtful about the choice of Adamson as director (I pessimistically attributed it to his previous work with “talking animals” in Shrek), I am heartily glad that he was picked, because what keeps the movie from being simply an average adventure is Adamson’s vision. Adamson has a real respect for the source material, since he read the books as a child. He based the movie on his childhood memory of the books, creating an interpretation that is true to his own memories, and it is a resounding success. This movie is true to my memories as well, from the perfectly-realized visuals to the accurate interpretation of the characters.

The sound track was overall quite good although the two pop songs in it (I think it was the title track and the end credits) were turn-offs. Said soundtrack didn’t hold a candle to Howard Shore’s masterpiece for Lord of the Rings, however. Oh, and Tilda Swinton was fantastic as the White Witch.

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