PictureWalt Disney has clearly got a lot of time for the Blu-ray format. Pretty much everything they've done is up there for video quality and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does not disappoint. It's a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode and it's as clean as a whistle.
Clarity of image is astounding and the sense of depth is as bottomless as the back of that wardrobe. The blacks are solid and the contrast draws all the detail out of the picture. Viewed on a FullHD screen you will be peering into a window glass.
During the early scenes the colours appear somewhat muted but this is partly by design due to the depiction of the war torn backdrop. Things move along very rapidly after that. The wintry scenes in Narnia, whilst being very clean and noiseless do on occasion have a blue tint to them. The lushness of colours that come through as winter turns to spring is a however quite a revelation. The lushness of greens are simply fantastic and the feel of absolute quality throughout the colour palette comes through quite vividly so.
It's a great disc to showcase High Definition material.
SoundThe audio comes in the form of an uncompressed linear PCM Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack. Whilst the resolution is only at 16-bit as opposed to 24-bit, the sound is nevertheless rich and full of character. Disney have not skimped on anything and you should feel at complete ease because this soundtrack is a corker. Should you speak Spanish or Dutch then the audio is also offered up in an alternative DTS 5.1 form whereas English strangely is not.
In a nutshell the audio is terrific. Right from the start the World War Two air raid scenes utilise all the audio channels and fill you with reassuring delight. From the moment the aeroplanes fly over London and the bombs are released to when the LFE kicks in, you know that there is some serious substance behind this mix. The bass fills out the room and it underlines everything in the movie with an assured resonance that all but the very best soundtracks struggle to achieve.
That's not all. The dialogue remains as crisp and as clear as you would ever wish to hear and it blends beautifully with the ambient sounds. Not to forget to mention that the surround channels are constantly used to good effect from sound effects to the musical score.
The sound engineers have made sure that there's never a dull moment and they certainly went about earning their corn on this one. Not only are you encompassed with appropriately surrounding sound, they have made it sound as if it swirls all around you virtually all of the time. It's impressive stuff and it will also give your system a work over should you wish to crank it up a notch or two.
ExtrasThis is a two-disc set and although there are a few extras on the first disc the second is entirely dedicated to them. What is disappointing though is a clear opportunity has been missed to really pack the package with a host of extras. Also, even though both discs are blu-ray discs there is actually very little HD content on offer on the second disc. What you are given by way of all these extra is however still of a very high quality.
Audio commentaries - The commentary is split into two audio tracks. The first features Andrew Adamson along with four of the young cast, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. It's a fun take on the commentary and it's good to hear the children's view on the film. After all they really did contribute to making it what it was. The second audio commentary features Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, and Roger Ford and it's more of what you would expect of a commentary. This is altogether more serious and goes into the technical detail as well as analytical insight into the many sequences of the movie.
The Bloopers of Narnia - (4mins 36secs) A quite funny and highly entertaining look at some of the on set bloopers.
Discover Narnia Fun Facts - (9mins 47secs) This feature is introduced by Douglas Gresham who is the stepson of C.S.Lewis. Throughout the movie, if the feature is switched on, you'll get pop-ups stating facts about the original novel, characters and their background. It's all quite interesting and informative but the pop-ups are all far too few and in-between.
Sneak Peeks - (8mins 7secs) Walt Disney's chance to plug some of their other upcoming material and bloat about the wonderful features of Blu-ray. Trailers include Sleeping Beauty, Prince Caspian amongst others.
Battle for Narnia - An interactive strategy based game presented in HD. After a lengthy intro you get to choose one of two characters. It's basically a role-play game and you have to make a selection of choices most suited to the battles you are pitted against. You make the choices from a selection of attack or defend moves and you are then shown a sketchbook animation sequence determining the outcome. Due to the limitations of the format it's all rather lethargic and tough going to take on board. However, whilst it is lengthy it has enough depth if this sort of thing is really your bag.
Creating Narnia - (195mins) This feature is split into six sections : Chronicles of a Director, The Children's Magical Journey, Cinematic Storytellers, Anatomy of a Scene, From One Man's Mind, Creating Creatures. There is over 3 solid hours of thoroughly excellent material packed in here. That's a lot to take on in one big hit but thankfully it's all broken down into these logical sections so that you can work though them at your leisure. There even a short look at the life of C.S.Lewis but the majority of the material is based upon the views of the cast, the director and the crew.
Creatures, Lands and Legends - There are two sub-sections to this feature. Firstly you get Creatures of Narnia, which is a 14-minute sketchbook presentation introducing as you may guess, the creatures of Narnia. It's narration based expanding on the myths surrounding the creatures and their backgrounds. It's primarily aimed for children, although by no means limited to them. Secondly, you get the chance to Explore Narnia. Once again this 7-minute feature is narrated. You are presented with a map of Narnia and as you select each region the map expands and the narration begins. It's told in a very storybook fashion and it will only enhance the pleasure for children. I can imagine children glued to the TV set listening to the lady telling them all about Narnia.
VerdictThe Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a classic children's story and as with any classic that's made into a movie, it simply had to be done absolutely right. Walt Disney stumped up an $180m budget for the movie and Andrew Adamson was given the duties to direct it. Whilst the big budget certainly helped, it was by no means guaranteed that everything would come together. Having only had experience of directing Shrek and Shrek 2, both being animations, there were also question marks over the choice of director and whether or not he could deliver.
Have no fear; what we have ended up with is a faithful and honest translation of the novel. The script was adapted directly from the novel by Adamson himself. Consequently, it flows as fluently as the book itself and almost with as much imagination. The child actors are also a revelation and there is much to commend for their efforts.
Walt Disney has certainly got itself a bit of a reputation for the quality of Blu-ray discs it puts out and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is thankfully no exception. The video quality is simply fantastic and the audio quality is terrific. Technically this is a very strong release and it comes in the form of a rather promising twin-disc set. The second disc is entirely dedicated to extras and whilst its not exactly bumper filled with extras, what you do get is all of high quality.
In conclusion this is a wonderful film taken from a wonderful book presented to you in glorious high definition. It's no wonder therefore that this UK Blu-ray release comes highly recommended.
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