Thursday, December 15, 2005

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



I guess I should write more of a review than that. Hmmm...

In my opinion, there are three authors who have so convincingly and completely managed to create the world in which their characters live that you accept that they have no choice in what they write because that is simply what happens. These three authors are JRR Tolkein, JK Rowling and CS Lewis.

If you want to send me hate mail because I've included JK Rowling in that list then kindly direct it to

It's clear from this that to become a literary genius you must only be known by your initials and your surname. But that's really besides the point.

Some may criticise this film for being slow in places... my point is simply that it is not slow... this is how these events happened. (Yes... I know it's not real... [ok, it is real, but the film isn't...]).

You can tell by this poorly structured review that I'm never likely to be considered a literary genius. Mind you, if both Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte can be considered literary genius's (geni?) then it's quite possible that anyone could.

I grew up with the Chronicles of Narnia. By that I don't simply mean that I read them as a child and I enjoyed them. I grew up with them, they were an integral part of my upbringing. My parents both loved the books and my dad read them all to me at bed time for what seemed like my entire childhood. He also played me the radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, but Lewis always had more of an appeal than Tolkein. Despite my short stature and hairy feet I have never particularly identified myself with Frodo, the Pevensie children, however, are a completely different matter. My oldest sister was most responsible, however, for ensuring that the Chronicles of Narnia were more than just books for me. She painstakingly traced the maps from the books and combined them together into a complete map of Narnia. These days a fantasy novel isn't complete without a map in the front, but when I was a child these maps were really something special. They helped bring the books to life because close study showed that the world of Narnia really did extend beyond the bounds of the books. It felt like a real, living, breathing world.

This isn't, of course, the first screen adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. When I was a little buy, we had to make do with what was, really, a quite awful cartoon, where the Pevensie children all wore flares and Lucy was blonde. Still, although generally rubbish, it was better than nothing. It was magical because it was Narnia. Then there was the BBC adaptation. Hmmm. Some people really loved this, but, personally, I feel that casting a fat, ugly kid as Lucy was a fairly unforgivable mistake. Also, the animatronic Aslan was animatronic Lion. No matter how well done it is it's never going to be Aslan.

So, we come to this latest effort. Oh boy. It's so good it hurts. Let's deal with one important issue first - why make The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe first? For some people this is a moot point, they made it first because it's the first book. By this they mean that it wa sthe first book set in Narnia to be published. However, Lewis himself admitted that he's not entirely sure what order he wrote them in, and that the order in which they happen is probably the best order to read them. there is no wrong or right order though, and the film makers seem to have chosen the order of publication. This probably makes commercial sense because The Lion, The Wicth and The Wardrobe is by far the best known of all seven books. That said, I really, really, really want to see an adaptation of The Magician's Nephew, in order of Narnian history is should come first, but in order of publication it's book 6, which means I could have a looooong wait ahead of me.

Back to the film. The cast are fantastic. The William Moseley is just incredible as Peter. His portrayal of the growth in his character from boy to High King is just superb. But the kids playing Edmund, Susan and Lucy are equally as good. Edmund is especially hard to get right because you have to hate him at the start but deeply care for him by the end. Young Skander Keynes doesn't let us down. Anna Popplewell is totally believable as the sceptic, Susan, and has that "English Rose" kind of innocent beauty. Little Georgie Henley steals the show, of course, as Lucy. It's quite possible that she's actually cuter than a button.

The voice acting si also superb, with Ray Winstone, Dawn French and Rupert Everett standing out, but never over-playing their parts. The real casting genius though is a part which they really struggled with - Aslan.

Liam Neeson really couldn't be any more perfect for this role. His voice is at once soft and gentle but tinged with a hint of hidden danger, he conveys an authority that doesn't come from physical strength but from something deeper...from within.

The effects are fantastic too. Provided by WETA, the people who gave us the stunning visuals in Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy, they're not quite up to that standard throughout. The key digital characters, however, Aslan, the Beavers, are pretty much perfect and at times you just find yourself completely suspending your disbelief.

So...ahem...I liked it.

Mr Tumnus is great too. Actually, it would be quicker to list what was rubbish.



Wow. That was a long list. What is rubbish, actually, is that I now have to wait for the next film, and I don't know if they're actually going to make all seven (let's face it, a film of The Horse and His Boy isn't going to be an easy sell). One assumes that Prince Caspian will be next up.

To close, this is a very special film. I'm left wondering if, actually, I haven't had a personal relationship with Jesus all these years...but with Aslan.

[Yes...I know they're the same...shut up...]

Rating: 100/10 (Not a typo).

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