Thursday, December 01, 2005

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

This afternoon I had the distinct privilege of attending a screening of the upcoming film: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

It was amazing.

Many thanks to Bob Beltz and Walden Media for making it possible to see this rare advanced screening.

If you love the story, you'll love this film.

It is a very faithful adaptation of the book. It has the advantage of being an adaptation of a very short book. Lewis' style is very compact, reminiscent of the Hebrew Bible. This helps this film to succeed where others fail.

The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter for example are so lengthy and detailed that they are difficult to credibly realize on film. Narnia is literary world rendered in brief detail. This film fills in detail and ornament creating a very satisfying result.

It is difficult for me to put myself in the mind of someone seeing the film who has not read the book and the whole Narnia series. I have to believe that it is a great film even for those with no prior knowledge of the story.

For me the entire film felt like a Rockwell painting.

Not that there's a hint of Americana in it but rather the film captures the essence of each scene of the book so well that it's difficult to improve on.

Richard Taylor who oversaw special effects for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy brings the same magic to this film. I can't say that he deserves all the credit but the same attention to detail is clearly on display.

The children's faces, are classic in every sense, capturing both the universal characteristics of children and young adulthood and the distinct particulars of each individual character:

Lucy and her wide innocent eyes and childish moon cheeks.

Edmund with the furrowed brow and scowl of immature boyhood.

Susan in the bloom of youthful beauty and noble character.

Peter's steely, determined eyes set in a still boyish face.

Each childs face is fascinating. The casting director gets an A.

Lucy actually reminded me of my youngest Kathryn and Edmund of my own son with his pug nose and freckles. And the always delightful Jim Broadbent looking like my dear Uncle Bob it watching a family reunion.

Surprise cameos(?) by Liam Neeson and Rupert Everett add lustre to the cast and Tilda Swinton is the best evil person/creature/witch/angel/being in recent memory. What's next for her, playing Maleficent?

The battle scenes are compelling and at times visually stunning, on par with a PG Lord of the Rings. The digital animals are usually amazing. The centaurs were most impressive.

I was disappointed that there was not more blood. This sounds very odd I'm sure but one of the most refreshing things about this children's story is that punishment and justice are not watered down or distorted.

In a metaphor about blood sacrifice I expected to see a hint of blood but there was none. Not even in battle. I understand that this is a children's film and I can respect the choice to sanitize the death and injury. Still I wouldn't have removed this central part of the Christian metaphor.

However, the bad guys don't fall off cliffs in this Disney movie. They get killed by good guys. Not murdered. Killed, as just punishment for their many crimes, including murder. All save one who is spared and redeemed, yet the punishment is still meted out. This moral universe, I expect, will be very jarring to many who have attended graduate school.

The film is appropriate for kids age 7 and up in my estimation. My 7 year old will get edgy or upset during some of the intense scenes but she bawls at commercials so your mileage may vary. She will cheer at the end though.

The genius and insight of Lewis is vivid throughout the film. His brief but profound metaphor of Christ brought me to tears several times in this wonderful adaptation.

It is one, almost unheard of example of a film perhaps surpassing the book that it is based on. It is a triumph. Idon't know what my expectations were but they were exceeded; an achievement that will become part of my DVD library as soon as is legally possible.

My Rating: Own it (but don't you dare miss it on the big screen)

BTW if you want to read my past reviews, type "my rating" into the search box on the top left and you'll get a list.

This guy liked it too.


r.fuel said...

Thanks for the review. Very insightful. I can't wait to see it.

rob said...

Thanks for the great review. Blogged!

tom goodwin said...

Jack Lewis remains my most cherished author and your review was a stunning epitath to his life. Can't wait to see and bring the 8 4th graders I taught this year in my CS Lewis Primer course.

Loves2wrt said...

Great commentary. You were very descriptive and insightful. Your review proved to both educate me and heighten my anticipation for seeing the movie myself.

Schick said...


I read the book and saw the cartoon back in 1988. Recently, I called my Mom and had her mail me the book so I could read it again before I saw the movie. Book showed up on Friday, it was finished by Sunday (hey, a guy's gotta work). Just a fabulous read, and I can't wait to see the movie.

The best line in the book:
"Of course he's not safe. But he's good."

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