The Chronicles of Narnia - the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe review by The Grim Ringler

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

Wow, this has got to be one of the longest damned titles ever for a movie. It’s good that they’re pushing the Narnia part as it’d never succeed with people trying to remember the title of it, that’s for sure. Welcome to the Next Big Franchise, well, so the studio hopes. I have my doubts though, to be honest. I think this is a great film, I think it’s an amazing book series, but I can’t see the fervor for this series that kid’s have for the Harry Potter films and books. Which will be a shame as this is a great series, but, if nothing else, maybe some new people will get into reading the entire series from this film. As adaptations go, you can’t get much closer than this does, which is a blessing, but can also be a curse.

It’s World War II and the Nazis have targeted London. The city isn’t safe and so the children are shipped out to the country for safety’s sake while the parents remain and watch the skies. Four young children are sent off by their mother to stay with a reclusive professor and his housekeeper far away from the falling bombs, though to the children, this is far worse than the world they are leaving. The mansion they arrive at is enormous, and full of wonderful places for children to hide, and the grounds are expansive and waiting for adventure but as soon as they arrive they are given a very strict list of guidelines to follow, setting the tone for their stay and sending them a clear message – they are not wanted there. The children make do as best they can and, upon the first rainy day, manage to find good use for the great house they find themselves within – a rousing game of hide and go seek. Three of the children take their places as the eldest boy counts. When she can’t find a hiding place of her own, the youngest, Lucy, finds an open room that is empty save for a large wardrobe full of the professor’s fur coats. She slips into the room to hide and, while moving to the back of the wardrobe finds that there is no back, that in fact it leads to a veritable winter wonderland. Shocked and excited she explores a bit and comes upon a strange man with cloven hoofs who calls himself Tumnus and who invites her to tea. Alas, tea is not the only thing on the mind of Mr. Tumnus as a decree has been issued by the self-appointed queen of Narnia that any humans that find themselves in the lands must be brought before her majesty, and those who do not abide by this command will suffer her wrath. Tumnus cannot bring himself to turn in his innocent new friend so he smuggles her out of Narnia before she is seen. When the girl returns to her own world and tells her siblings where she’s been no one believes her, much to her dismay, but it won’t be long until they more than believe, but find themselves in this very dangerous world. Narnia is a world perched on the edge of war, the tyranny of the queen, known by many as the White Witch, has doomed the world to ice but the real king, a great lion named Aslan, is prepared to return, but needs the assistance of four human children to do it. So these four children, who have been sheltered from the war by their mother, must now actively take part in the greatest battle another world has ever seen in order to redeem a sin one of them has committed there, and to restore peace and happiness to this world. But battle has its costs, and they have yet to fully understand that, but shall soon enough.

It’s a shame that so many big Hollywood movies are forced into the same release dates during the year as this is a film that really deserves an audience. It’s a terrific fantasy and is a good film for children. Sadly it has to battle Harry Potter and a big ape and it’s not going to be a great thing for any of the three films. This is a very fine film though. The special effects, save for some awkward blue screens in the background once in a while, are great. The children are fine actors. They got a fantastic voice for Aslan in Liam Neeson. I love the way the filmmakers mimic the film’s opening, the bombing of London by the Nazis, during the beginning of the great war at the end of the film. This is about as true and fine an adaptation as you can ask for. I loved that they let the movie be what it is. Yes, it’s a religious film, and book, if you are looking, but these are not things that get in the way of, or become a focal point for the film. So if you are looking for it, it’s there, if not, then you miss nothing.

Though being a perfectly true adaptation can be a problem in and of itself. The thing that made Lord of the Rings so great was that they fleshed the books out in the adaptation. They added a lot more depth to the characters. The same needed to be done here. There is so much going on that C.S. Lewis didn’t take a lot of time to really flesh the characters out, at least not to me. They were outlines with shading. The film does the same thing. You meet a lot of great characters but none of them, save for Tumnus and the children, do you feel really connected to, which harms the film during the battle when characters are falling to their deaths and you can’t really get too upset for them as you don’t know them as more than a face. The power of the Harry Potter films is that you really know these kids through the films and so you care about them. You don’t quite get that in Narnia. Some have been put off by the appearance of a character in the film, who I won’t name, but this is a classic character in literature and yes, he’s in the book, check it out.

The thing we forget these days is how generally bad fantasy films were in the past. Not all, no, no, but a lot of them were very bad. And while we were spoiled by the LOTR films, there are some damned good fantasy films being made these days, as well as some very good book adaptations being done. I hope that this will become a film that finds a second life on DVD and on the television so people can get a better feel for how good this film is. I wouldn’t say it’s an instant classic, but it’s a solid film that some day may well be seen as a near miss classic.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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