A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 539 – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) – August 21st, 2011

I cannot tell you how excited and nervous I was when I heard that new versions of the Chronicles of Narnia stories were being made for theatrical release. I’d read the books when I was a child and I’d loved them, overwhelmingly obvious Christ allegory aside, and then I’d watched the BBC adaptations over and over and over until I knew every line (we’ll be watching those this weekend). So a new version? With a new cast and new sets and new director? Done for the big screen? Well, it could have gone very well or it could have gone very poorly, hence the excitement and the nerves. Fortunately, I was not disappointed by this new adaptation. And I knew I wouldn’t be as soon as I saw the children cast as the four Pevensie siblings.

Casting can’t carry a movie on its own, it has to be backed up with a number of other successful factors. That being said, the casting here was excellent, especially Georgie Henley as Lucy. Lucy, as you might know if you’ve read the books, is a pivotal figure in the story. She has to be young enough to be believable as the baby of the family, but the actress playing her has to shoulder a ton of scenes and a lot of plot. Lucy, after all, is the one who first discovers that there’s a whole other world accessible through the back of a mysterious wardrobe in a spare room of the house she and her siblings are staying in. She’s the first one to go through the wardrobe into Narnia and she’s the first one to meet one of its people and she’s the most vocal about its importance. And Georgie Henley is fantastic in the role. I cannot say enough about how awesome she is.

The rest of the Pevensies are also fantastic, which is such a relief. Skandar Keynes as the initially duplicitous Edmund, Anna Popplewell as elder sister Susan and William Mosely as eldest brother Peter are all wonderful and thoroughly believable both as siblings and as children of the time period the movie takes place in. I couldn’t be more impressed by them and therefore I’d like to offer some thanks to the casting crew. The story needs its four leads to shine and shine they do. Of course, it helps that they’re given a whole lot of faithful-to-the-book material to work with. I’m not going to get ahead of myself by commenting too much on the next two adaptations, but suffice it to say that this one, at least, kept things very close to the book that I remember. There were some fairly hefty changes made to the next two, but whatever changes were made to the first one, they didn’t alter the main characters or main story enough to draw my notice.

I’m assuming most people who might find this review will have read the book already, even though I know that’s an optimistic assumption. After all, I know my Hoot review routinely gets views from kids trying to do compare/contrast assignments without reading the book. Fat lot of good it does them. So I’m not going to do a point by point comparison. I’m just going to go over the basic story. Which is that four children, while staying in the country to avoid London during World War II, discover the magical land of Narnia after going through a portal in the back of a wardrobe. Narnia is under the control of an evil witch who makes it winter all the time (but never Christmas, since the Christ allegory has been banished for the time being). Only four human children will be able to save Narnia from the witch and end the long winter, allowing the lion Aslan (the aforementioned Christ allegory) to return to the land. So they embark on a quest, meeting talking animals, centaurs, fauns, dryads and so on and so forth, all of whom have been waiting for the day when Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve arrive to save them. Told you the allegory was obvious.

Of course there has to be more to stand in the way of the witch’s downfall than a bunch of snow and a missing lion. One of the siblings, Edmund, wanting to be more important than his older brother, is tempted by the witch and betrays his brother and sisters, eventually leading to Aslan’s sacrifice at the witch’s hands. Aslan being a Christ allegory, I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about how well that ends up working out for the witch. So then there’s a big climactic battle and the four children are named kings and queens of Narnia.

Now. I could go into all sorts of discussion about the story and the allegory and how since they’re all siblings and the only humans in the kingdom clearly they’re never meant to have kids or anything and how looking at it as an adult I can come up with lots of Things To Say. But since the book this movie is based on was required reading in at least half of the freshman English classes at my high school. It’s been around for a while. I’m sure it’s all been said. And when it comes to this movie that’s not really the important point. The important point here is that the movie was able to take the spirit of the book, the tone and mood and feel of the book, which is full of this sense of wonder and magic and destiny, and put it on screen. It is an absolutely gorgeous movie that uses CG to wonderful effect to back up some fantastic acting. It feels right.

I really don’t know what else to say about this movie. It’s a lovely story that I remember fondly from my childhood. It’s got that whole vibe of kids who’ve got no power over their lives suddenly finding that they can save the world, which I love (and really, I should have written my thesis on in college). It’s got a fantastic cast, with the amazing Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and Liam Neeson as Aslan’s voice, plus James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, the first Narnian Lucy meets. And the visuals are fantastic, from the setting to the animals to the costumes. I am still in awe at Tilda Swinton’s outfits, which are all amazingly sculpted felt dresses that I’m sure were a bitch to wear but suit the character amazingly. It is simply an excellently made movie from top to bottom and it is a pleasure to watch it again.

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August 21, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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