The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Blu-ray Review
PictureDisney have presented The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in a theatrically correct 2.35:1 ratio with a 1080P transfer, and this easily stands alongside The Pirates of the Carribean franchise as HD reference quality.
The quality is apparent in the sheer sense of depth present in the transfer - it is quite easy to imagine you are looking in on a real world rather than an image. In a fantasy film such as this, the additional sense of immersion that a great HD transfer can provide cannot be underestimated.
Colours have a wonderful, natural quality to them - a rarity in this day and age. There is no sign of “over processing” and everything just seems so real. The subtle change from the blue and whites of snow-bound Narnia to the beautiful oranges and reds of the fertile land that is revealed as the film progresses is even more pronounced in this HD transfer and is beautifully rendered.
Blacks are deep and well saturated all the way through the film, and the contrast is well balanced without any sense of artificiality present.
Often, and HD transfer will betray the special effects of the film. This has been a problem in even some more recent movies, but the opposite is true here. When the beavers are walking through the snow, for example, the footprints they leave behind are clear and well realised. The tree spirits are even clearer in this transfer, and the level of detail present within them is revealed more clearly. Aslan, too, is an even more majestic creature in this transfer - although one slight weakness is that the contrast between the animatronic version and the CGI version is probably a little clearer.
Overall, though, this is another excellent transfer from Disney.
SoundI already own the R2 standard and director's 4 disc cut of this movie, as well as the R1 DTS director's cut version so it is easy to compare the soundtracks. The step up from the standard DD 5.1 sound on the R2 and the DTS on the R1 was very noticeable, so I was fascinated to compare the uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix (48Khz/16 bit) as provided on this disc.
I have to say that when I realised it was at 16bit rather than 24bit I did feel a little short changed, but once this baby kicks in I really didn't miss the extra sound resolution that may have been provided.
Narnia actually kicks in with one of the most impressive sounding sequence in the film, as German bombers attack London. The rattle of the old planes is clearly captured and the drone is as menacing as it must have been for Londoners at the time. The crash and burn of one of the planes from tracer fire is clearly captured as it plunges across the soundfield.
From this moment on this is one of the discs that truly embraces what home theatre should be all about. Whether the subtlest of scenes, or the most bombastic of battle scenes, the sound mix is beautifully balanced and clear all the way through. There is plenty of low bass to give your Sub a true workout, and the rears are always used to subtle and realistic effect. Directionality is superb all the way through.
I am not a great buyer of movie soundtracks, but Narnia was so good that I did purchase a copy of the CD. The score is presented perfectly all the way through the film, never overwhelming the action on the screen and superbly balanced with the dialogue which is always clear and precise.
ExtrasThis, as I seem to be saying far too often with Blu ray these days, is a complete and utter travesty. On SD we got an excellent four disc set - but on HD a lot of the extras seem to have gone missing in action. What we do get is excellent, admittedly, but there really is no excuse for leaving things off HD discs and it is a habit I am getting thoroughly fed up with.
Disney have presented us with two blu ray discs, and here is what we get:
Audio Commentaries. We get both audio commentaries from the original disc on this blu ray. Uniquely, the children are given their own voice, providing one commentary alongside Andrew Adamson. They may be a little undisciplined, but it is very interesting to hear their views on the making of the film and their relationship with their director really does seem to be excellent. The latter does interject occasionally to point out some interesting points about the film but this is generally the children's commentary.
More serious is the second commentary, provided by Adamson again, this time alongside the producer and Production designer. It lacks the energy of the first commentary but not the enthusiasm - it is not hard to see how this team managed to create such a wonderful imagining of the Narnia world. This commentary goes into much more detail than the first but is always interesting and never dry.
Both these commentaries are very good and provide a nice counterpoint to each other.
The Bloopers of Narnia is a funny 5 minute SD look at various gaffs and goofs made during the production.
Discover Narnia Fun Facts This is an extra which appeared on the 4 disc re-release of the film with factoids popping up at various points during the film. On Blu ray it is simply an option that can be turned on and off. The facts are provided by Douglas Gresham (step-son of Lewis as played by Joseph Mazzano in Shadowlands) and are mainly concerned with the relationship between the book and the film. Very interesting, but perhaps a little Spartan in content - there could certainly have been more material here.
Theatrical Trailers for various Disney films are included, notably upcoming cinema releases Wall-E and The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian
Creating Narnia is a fascinating 64 minute documentary exploring every facet of the production and does so in revealing and refreshing detail. About as far from being a puff piece as it is possible to be, we are shown everything from original casting sessions right through to behind the scenes footage, interviews, and other interesting detail. Someday, every documentary will be made like this.
Or just maybe they will be even better. Just like the 124 minute Evolution of an Epic which is also included here. This documentary manages to go into even more detail, without repeating anything that is in the first doc. Most interesting here is the look at the level of detail that WETA went into for the creature and weapon design, but we also get a detailed breakdown of the ice dam scene, and an all too short look at the life of CS Lewis.
Creatures, Lands, and Legends is aimed more at the kiddies but I have to say that I found much to enjoy here too. Central to this is a 14 minute documentary on the creatures of Narnia - a sort of Life on Narnia without David Attenborough, if you will. There is also a Narnia timeline, and a chance to manually explore a map of Narnia.
Disc Two also includes a much vaunted Interactive Game : The Battle for Narnia. I have never seen a decent “Interactive Game” on one of these discs yet, and although this one does make an effort to be different the limitations inherent in the medium doom it to failure. So, we have a turn based strategy game involving you fighting various denizens of the titular kingdom. Choose to defend, attack conservatively, or all-out attack - and watch a brief animation of the consequences. Long and involving admittedly - but also quick to bore.
There is admittedly a stunning array of extras here, but sadly alongside the omission of the director's cut we also have to wave bye bye to the excellent documentary on the life of CS Lewis as included on the third disc of the four disc SD set. And that is criminal as it was a fascinating documentary lasting over an hour.
VerdictAfter already having to double dip on DVD even in the short time this movie has been with us, true enthusiasts are now being asked to triple dip already with the blu ray edition. Caught up in Prince Caspian fever, and in particular the delay in waiting for it to arrive in UK cinemas - this might be a tempting concept for Narnia fans with Blu ray capabilities.
Should they do so though? Well, picture and sound is a considerable jump over the SD version and is amongst the best on the format. If you only own the standard one or two disc SD versions then upgrading is pretty much a necessity. If you own the four disc version, though, things are not so cut and dried. Yes, you are going to get the picture and sound upgrades but you are going to lose the director's cut and the excellent Lewis documentary. These people might want to wait for either a new release on blu ray, or a drop in price.
If you have never visited the world of Narnia on film though, then you really do owe it to yourself to pick this up. You may have heard it being criticised as Fantasy-lite, but it is really nothing of the sort. It is the film of a much loved children's book being brought to life in the most faithful way possible. It is an excellent achievement and a film that is likely to appeal to the whole family. The superlative picture and sound are just the icing on the cake. Narnia virgins should most definitely start here.
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