The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Review
How our cups runneth over this Christmas! After a decidedly lacklustre summer its been a veritable smorgasbord of an autumn/winter with quality adult fare like The Constant Gardener and fun family movies including Wallace and Gromit, The Brothers Grimm, Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee and now the first of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. Awkward title, but indicative of the intention to film all seven of the Narnia books, a feat not without its problems (the biggest one being the increasingly obviously religiosity of the books, until the point in The Last Battle where the subtext is simply text). But in the first of the franchise, director Andrew Adamson has succeeded marvellously in bringing Narnia to life.
The four Pevensie children, Peter (Moseley), Susan (Popplewell), Edmund (Keynes) and Lucy (Henley), are evacuated from London by their anxious mother after an excitingly filmed Luftwaffe raid, and end up in the house of the elderly and supposedly irascible but actually pretty friendly Professor Kirke (Broadbent). Desperate to amuse themselves on a wet day, they play hide-and-seek, and Lucy finds herself in a room with a gigantic wardrobe. Entering it cautiously, she pushes her way through fur coats until her hands touch fir and she emerges from the trees into a snowy landscape lit by a solitary lamppost. It is by this lamppost that she meets Mr Tumnus (McAvoy), a kindly faun, who explains to her that she is in the land of Narnia, ruled by the White Witch (Swinton), an evil enchantress who has made it always winter and never Christmas. Furthermore, all Narnians have been instructed that any humans found in Narnia must immediately be bought to the Witch.
Risking his own life, Tumnus helps Lucy to escape, and she returns home. As no apparent time has passed, her brothers and sister don’t believe her story, especially as the wardrobe seems to be just that. Lucy retreats into her apparently imaginary world, until, by chance, all the children find themselves in Narnia, and discover that Aslan (Neeson), the true king, is back, and that they are bound to him, the rightful rulers of a free Narnia. Just a small matter of getting rid of that pesky witch… and dealing with Edmund’s treachery… and rescuing Mr Tumnus…
The biggest worry with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was that it might end up looking like a bunch of left over effects shots from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Put your minds at rest. It’s as fresh as a daisy with superb CG work and has a glorious colour palette, from the icy winter wonderland inhabited by the White Witch to the vivid greens of Aslan’s summer. Though Leeson is good as Aslan, a deeper voiced actor might have worked better, but you will believe that it’s a real lion. And a real centaur/griffin/talking beaver/unicorn/faun – Mr Tumnus’ legs are awesome!
Memories of the BBC series, with chubby Lucy and tragically unconvincing animatronic animals have been safely laid to rest. The children are wonderful, convincing as brothers and sisters with their bee-stung lips; Georgie Henley is the standout as Lucy, her cute little face and massive eyes reflecting all the awe and wonder that her character is feeling. Her chemistry with James McAvoy is thrilling. Tilda Swinton is amazing as the Witch, charming and cruel by turns, her seduction of Edmund chilling.
If there are any caveats, well, it’s a bit long. And why is Mr Beaver (Winstone) the only cockney between Cair Paravel and Lantern Waste? Mere bagatelles. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a rich and enjoyable cinematic treat. Go. Enjoy. Merry Christmas.
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