The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Review
If I was to mention the name Clive Staples Lewis some of you would wonder “who was he?” However, if I was to say the name C.S.Lewis, then the name becomes instantly recognisable the world over as the man who wrote 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'.
Born in 1898 C.S Lewis wrote the seven stories that compiled the Chronicles of Narnia between the years of 1949 and 1954. The books that you all probably know so well, have now sold in excess of 100 million copies worldwide across a multitude of languages. Many generations of both children and adults have grown up either having read them or have had them read to. Undoubtedly his most popular works as well as his most widely read they have become an essential part of post-modern children's literature.
C.S Lewis soon became a leading figure at the faculty for English at Oxford University where he studied. However he was not alone there as there was another who went by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien. Both became good friends and through their familiarity of each other, they encouraged each other in writing their respective fantasy novels. Whether it was through encouragement, competitiveness or whatever other reason it matters little. What is important is the influence they had and left on each other. Thankfully though for whatever the reasons neither writer was remotely short of imagination when it came to putting pen to paper.
The Lord of the Rings transition to celluloid by Peter Jackson was clearly a remarkable success. In written form, it was and remains for some quite a difficult read. The transition into an onscreen adaptation managed to bring with it all the fantasy and imagination that Tolkien had ever mustered in the book. It was a job well done. So, when Walt Disney undertook the project of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the expectation was that much higher. The Chronicles of Narnia should in many ways take kinder to onscreen adaptations though given the success of LOTR anything short of perfection for this first installment would have been a travesty.
Now, in my memory the only other credit worthy video adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was actually made by the BBC back in 1988. Well at least it was for me as the memory of it takes me back to my childhood somewhat. Personally, I loved that television series; good old aunty Beeb, they put our licence money to good use when they commissioned that. The problem is though, ever since then the stories have literally been crying out for the big screen Hollywood treatment. Why this opportunity was passed by for so long remains a little bemusing? Looking back on it now, it's quite surprising that such a project wasn't picked up long before 2005?
Andrew Adamson was chosen to direct and having only directed Shrek and Shrek 2 it was actually quite a bit of a risk allowing him to take the reigns of this one. Furthermore, not only was he the director, he was also executive producer as well as co-scriptwriter along with Ann Peacock. Whilst the original books reels you in via your imagination, it is definitely the acuteness of the script that does so for the film. Adamson and Peacock have been able to translate the story into a fluid movie script that flows beautifully. When it comes to perspective, it's very one-dimensional and it's been absolutely nailed from the eyes of children. That's not entirely a bad thing but it is quite limiting in some ways.
Whilst there is little point in me re-telling a story that you all already know so well, there is much point in letting you know how well the young cast portray themselves as the Pevensie family. Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skander Keynes), Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Ann Popplewell) all fall naturally into their roles and play the parts with the appropriate degree of childhood poignancy. The singular standout performance has though to be that played by Georgie Henley who plays Lucy impeccably so. Not only is she immensely likable, she is also utterly believable. Her facial expressions light up the screen and you can share her wonderment as both she and you are slowly immersed into the world of Narnia.
From the moment the children start to play hide and seek on that rainy day to the first time Lucy sets eyes upon the great wardrobe. With a tug of the drape the great wardrobe is revealed. As she slowly opens the door and the mothballs scatter out across the floor you sense all the magic opening up before you leading to another world. Adamson simply hits the spot. He doesn't just draw you in, it's far more than that, you are actually compelled towards believing in the story.
The wintry world of Narnia on the other side is beautifully presented, so much so that you can almost feel the crisp chill in the air reach out and touch you. From Lucy's first tentative backward steps into the snow to Edmunds misguided first encounter with the White Witch, it all feels so real. Tilda Swann as the Witch is perfectly cast for the role. Not only does she possess the right look, she's also rather good at doing the 'evil' thing on screen. Her icy grip over Narnia feels firm, it feels real and it feels wonderfully threatening. Yet all of this is tempered by fragility when the grip of winter is finally broken by the outbreak of spring. You know that Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) has returned when the wondrous explosion of colours and lushness of greens boldly erupt across the screen.
Speaking of Aslan, he is presented as he should be, a quite magnificent and majestic lion. The CGI is very lifelike and the sheer scale of him comes across as imposing without being overpowering. You always feel a sense of grandeur around him and viewing him in the splendour of high definition only heightens the experience. If there was to be a slight criticism it would be when Aslan speaks. The movement of his mouth is never quite synchronised with the words being spoken. A rather surprising oversight of detail given his central significance you might say? No matter, it's a small criticism as many other facets of the film amply make up for it.
Whilst capturing imagination is one thing someone also had to stump up the $180m budget in order to bring everything to life. The money was certainly well spent and whilst as you can probably gather there is plenty of CGI used throughout the film, most of it is sympathetically done. Faithful reproduction of true to life creatures, action and scenery help to give all the right levels of realism required.
This blu-ray disc also brings with it a wonderfully enriched and clean transfer that allows you to simply revel in all the detail that went into making this film. Although when compared to the Lord of the Rings in production terms there are a number of scenes which are not quite on a par, namely the battle scenes. They do fall someway short of being comparable, but not unacceptably so and there is more than enough there for children to be both magically and wonderfully enthralled.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe remains a wondrous family story. It does of course have foundations based on the quasi-religious beliefs of C.S.Lewis, though Adamson has been incredibly careful that these overtones don't overshadow the film. In actual fact if anything any inferences are extremely subtle. Even so, it matters little when a story such as this has transcended through to so many generations of children from so many walks of life all over the world. It's a beloved story and it's quite believingly told.
Whether you're young or old, this is a film you are likely going to end up watching sometime or other in your life. It's a classic and recommended family viewing.