The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia is a film that couldn’t have been made in the 20th century effectively – it relies so heavily on special effects and digital tricks that even attempting to make it without all the digital trickery would have resulted in a B-film, regardless of its budget. With his experience as the special effects guy on several of the Batman films, director and producer Andrew Adamson did manage to put together one hell of a display. With all the visual do-goodery in place, and one of the best stories ever told to drive it forward, there wasn’t a lot to make the Witch and the Wardrobe fail… And of course, it doesn’t.

Striding from strength to strength, effortlessly combining the magical with the mythical, the impossible with the improbable, and the beautiful with the gorgeous, this was two hours that couldn’t possibly have been filled with more heartwarming surprises. I’d say it got almost everything right. Of course nothings perfect But all they really had to get right was being faithful enough to capture the essence of the story, most importantly it’s sense of heart, which it does well enough. These characters had a hell of a lot more going for them in the emotional-identification department than most and it carries the movie and any flaws through.

If they’d tried to attempt anymore then they’d have entered the “trying to please everyone” zone of impossibility. Somehow I found both the personality traits in Peter and Edmund, and their character arcs, rang true. Edmund’s selfishness, the little brother who can’t seem to do anything right, who must learn the error of his ways by bitter experience, forced to grow up fast… and Peter’s struggle to live up to his responsibilities, the boy forced to be something that he isn’t certain he can be, the boy who must become the man of the family. I’m not a fan of precocious child actors, but each one here seemed very natural.  I liked the fact that nobody just morphed into a mighty hero. They remained consistently grounded and very human.

The graphics work especially well with the live action stars because any evidence of animation adds to the dream quality of the story. The battle scenes are simply breath-taking and the pending attack by wolves frightening even for adults. This is not a movie for preschoolers but one which ought to be required viewing for every teenager with any interest in literature or the Christian faith. This film works on so many levels that it is difficult to highlight its successes. The make-up for the imaginary creatures leaves viewers as believers for starters. The scenery– from New Zealand, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Los Angeles & Poland suggest someone had a lot of fun tracking down film locations. References to the Blitz and Turkish Delight bring a charming English quality to the film, but it transcends all nationalities.

There is a smattering of new material in the film that appeared in neither the book that had die-hard fans spitting feathers. But the added scenes, including a stand-off on a slowly-melting frozen river and a prologue in wartime London, serve to add necessary depth to the characters. The final battle scene is also considerably extended from the two pages it had in C. S. Lewis’s book to a battle to nearly rival some of the Lord of the Rings conflicts. Andrew Adamson has created a magical interpretation of the ultimate fantasyland, an accurate translation from page to screen, an exciting and captivating story and enchanting characters. As the original story was rather short, he does not need to get bogged down in detail and can therefore proceed through the film at a brisk pace, picking up speed to reach full throttle in time for the final battle. The standout performance for me is Liam Neeson’s voice for Aslan. He breathes life into such a noble character. Nice score by Harry Gregson-Williams should be mentioned as well. He’s created a wonderful musical setting to complement the visual feast.

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