The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch and the Wardbrobe (2005)

Dir. Andrew Adamson
140 minutes

From the thread, “Recently Watched Movies (Second Round)”

Tony Said:
December 17, 2005 at 6:06 pm

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was well-done. The small scenes got to me. Visually brilliant. The acting was solid. Still, I prefer the book.

Joel Said:
December 18, 2005 at 4:32 pm

“The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” (4/10)

If anybody is familiar with my rating scale getting a “4″ is pretty bad. I thought the character development along with the fighting sequences looked to unrealistic…some of them were comical….although you could tell it wasn’t intended to be.. I disliked the acting from many of the characters in the film…to many to mention really.

I liked the scenery…layouts…although it was obviously cg’d, it did give me a sense of escape…that “Alice in wonderland” sort of feel. The fighting scenes are pretty graphic…especially at the end…and I would not recommend it for children. With the overall film being boring as it was I probably wouldn’t recommend it to adults either.

Mitchell Said:
December 19, 2005 at 11:43 pm

Joel, how was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe compared to the earlier, animated movie? What about in comparison to the novel?

Mitchell Said:
December 30, 2005 at 6:49 pm

I don’t know what came over me, but I saw two films in theaters yesterday, a day I had planned to spend quietly at home.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
This will be a non-spoiler review if you’ve read the book. If you haven’t read the book, I will be revealing a few plot details that I don’t think are spoilers, but Reid and Grace would consider them so (but then, they’ve read the book).

A film based on a novel as widely read and much-beloved at this begs comparison, and I think it’s worth comparing to its animated predecessor, as well.

But first, on its own merits:

This is a big film and viewers will be hard-pressed not to compare it to The Lord of the Rings. There are sweeping, overhead, flying views of the Pevensie siblings as they trudge through the snow (led by two beavers, of course), forests with trees who might be spying, and a sense of reluctance on the parts of the heroes, thrust into this ancient war they would never have imagined in their previous lives.

The actors are quite good; I was especially pleased with the Pevensie girls, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell). Popplewell looks exactly like an adolescent Jeanine Garofalo, and plays the brainy older sister with a mix of disbelief and wonder. Henley took a while to win me over, but her charm eventually did it. As for Edmund (Skander Keynes) and Peter (William Moseley), the roles didn’t ask much of them, range-wise, but they played their parts just fine. In fact, I thought Edmund was not obnoxious enough and Peter not charismatic or confident enough, but as the film moved along, I realized that these were good interpretations of the characters. I first read the novel in fourth grade, so of course I saw Peter as a much older, much cooler almost-grownup and Edmund as a jerky contemporary, but I think now that the film’s portrayal is probably a lot more likely.

The professor was a slight disappointment, and I disagree with the way he’s presented near the end, but I’ll have to save that for after you’ve all seen the film.

The White Witch is played by Tilda Swinton, whom I’d never heard of (though she was in Adaptation, a movie I enjoyed), and she is terrific. At the same time sexy and horrifying, I think she plays it a little too coolly; I would like to have seen a little more psycho-ness at the Stone Table. Her icy crown was kinda dumb-looking, but it is replaced in the battle sequence by what looks like a crown designed to resemble the skull of an animal — perhaps a lion — and a strange cloak (or something) that is either her long hair worn down or the mane of a lion. In fact, I couldn’t tell where her hair ended and the “mane” begain. It was really cool.

The armies are pretty neat, but overall, the CGI characters were a little cartoony. One minotaur and one centaur are pretty dang cool, though; the minotaur is the White Witch’s general, and the centaur is Peter’s general. There’s one cool shot of the centaur weilding two longswords, one in each hand, and it would make a great poster. I’d hang that poster on my bedroom wall.

Now, here’s where the film becomes a children’s movie (’though certainly not for young children) and not a grownup movie. The animals talk. Of course they do. That’s Narnia. Here’s the thing, though. It looks dumb when the animals talk, and I’m ALMOST sold on it by the end of the film, but not quite. Once the animals talk, they join a long history of goofy talking-animal films and it’s going to take a LOT to convince me that this isn’t one of those. Perhaps with the beavers and wolves, I wouldn’t have minded to much, but Aslan, mighty, regal Aslan, looks kinda dumb when he talks. All by itself, that was bad, but when he talks, it’s the voice of Liam Neeson, which is a GREAT (or should I say, “Grrrrrrrrrreat!”) voice for Aslan, except that it’s LIAM NEESON. I just couldn’t get that out of my head, and neither could most adults, I’d guess.

For someone who’s never read the novel, I guess it would be fine, but my feeling has always been that Aslan talks to your heart. It would have been a far more effective movie for me if Aslan’s mouth never moved while he was talking, if instead his words came to your from within yourself. There’s something more majestic and mysterious about that, but that would have made it not as good for kids.

In fact, my general feeling about this movie is that it LOOKS magical and SOUNDS magical, but it’s missing the heart of the novel: It doesn’t FEEL magical. The story by itself is maybe enough to make this a successful film, but if you love the novel and love the characters, I think you will feel slightly disappointed. While the Stone Table sequence is pretty dang good, the sequence immediately preceding it, where Aslan takes Susan and Lucy through the woods, doesn’t communicate the love that these girls have for Aslan.

One really nice moment that I thought maybe the film might have overlooked: The mice still come to Aslan at the Stone Table. It was kinda cool, and my eyes got watery.

Okay. One major divergence from the novel: Caer Paravel. The kids don’t get their weapons there, and I can’t tell you where they get them, but I think it’s kinda lame.

I’m leaving something out, but I can’t tell what it is. Anyway, it is a good movie, and I want to see it again. It’s tough to mess up a great story like this.


1 Response to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch and the Wardbrobe (2005)”

  1. Reid

    I’m with Joel on this. 4/10

    The movie just felt flat to me. I don’t know what it is. I liked the actor that played Lucy and Mr. Tumnus. Tilda Swinton was a good choice, but something was missing. Mitchell pointed out problems with Liam Neeson as Aslan, and I don’t know if I agree with everything he said, but the casting there should’ve been great, but it wasn’t. (I liked Mitchell’s suggestion about Aslan’s mouth not moving, but I don’t know how much that would have helped.)

    I think the quality of the cgi was a big factor too. It just looked phony–like it was made for TV. The whole film felt like a made for TV movie.

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