The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia was an unbelievably beautiful and moving film. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical before attending the advance screening of The Chronicles of Narnia. I was both excited, having anticipated this release for a long time, but simultaneously concerned that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. Well, I can tell you truthfully that I was wrong. It not only lived up to my expectations – it exceeded them. But as a measure of my own reaction I sometimes check with my teenage daughter to see how she feels about a movie (acts as a counter to make sure I am not viewing it from my older, much older perspective). So, if you don’t want to take my word for it, my daughter said it was the best movie she has ever seen and plans to see it at the theater several times.
First let me tell you that if you enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ book as a child, you will be brought back to that time of wonderment when you watch this film. The film stayed as true to the book as is possible with any movie. And if not a word-for-word recount of the original book, I believe that it certainly maintained the intent Lewis wished to convey. I am sure this faithfulness to the original story was the result of Douglas Gresham involvement. Gresham is C.S. Lewis’ stepson and was co-producer of the film adaptation. He also recently published a biography of his stepfather called, "Jack's Life"; which I heard was very detailed and insightful. He has been steadfast, in the past, to maintain the integrity of Lewis’ work. This was not the first request to bring The Chronicles of Narnia to the screen, but the first time that the Lewis estate (including Gresham) has approved the adaptation -- which should say something about this production.
As the movie opened I wasn’t sure how it would flow. After seeing the big battle scene in the movie trailer and knowing that the Director, Andrew Adamson, was another New Zealander, I was thinking – oh-oh, another Lord of the Rings. That they were going to try and build on the success of LoTRs and duplicate it’s action and activity. And even though I LOVED Lord of the Rings, I did not want to see Lewis’ book remade as a copy of the LoTRs.
To my relief, Narnia is not a repeat of LoTRs at all, but a movie that stands on its own. Not to spoil it for anyone, but while the battle shown in the movie trailer is very important to the story – and pretty magnificent in itself, it is only a part of the movie, not the majority of the movie as portrayed in the trailer. The real story is in the individual actions of the characters. I was enthralled with not only the epic story, but the actors, the special effects, and the cinematography. And let me say, the cinematography was exceptional. While LoTRs showed the grander and scope of the landscape, Narnia focused on the intimacy of the characters. The use of close-ups at the beginning gave you a real feel for the wonder young Lucy experienced as she innocently explored the snowy woods of Narnia. I actually felt like a little kid as she wandered around looking up at the falling snowflakes and her amazement at the single light-post in the middle of the forest.
I think this was one of the biggest differences between the two movies. The scope. LoTRs also had many personal stories and issues that the characters dealt with, but Narnia made this the central focus of the movie.
The CGI effects in this movie are no less phenomenal than the cinematography. Again, when watching the movie trailers (which does not do the movie justice at all) I got the impression that the “talking animals” were almost cartoonish. But as I sat in the theater and watched the interchange between Mr. Beaver and Mrs. Beaver, or watched Aslan’s sacrifice – you really had to remind yourself – animal’s can’t talk.
I was very impressed with the young actors that portrayed the four Pevensie children. From the oldest Willaim Mosely (Peter) at 18, Anna Popplewell (Susan) who turn 17 next week, Skandar Keynes (Edmund) at 14, to the youngest Georgie Henley (Lucy) at just 10 year of age – they all brought their characters to the screen with extensive realism. You just wanted to sit Edmund down at the beginning of the film and tell him to quit being so selfish. And little Lucy – again, you just got to love her. And Peter, the reluctant leader (hmmmm, sounds like another Peter I have heard about). And you would not want to meet Jadis, the White Witch (played by Tilda Swinton) in a dark ally (especially on a snowy night).
The Message in the Movie is pretty obvious. C.S. Lewis wrote this book as an analogy of the Gospels. And that comes across without too much imagination. And this also came across in the film adaptation. But what surprised me was the intimacy that was portrayed. I looked around the audience, during the analogy scenes of Christ’s sacrifice, and saw many tears. Many films have portrayed the Gospel’s from Jesus perspective – what he went through. But in this movie, you see it from the perspective of those around Aslan (the lion and analogical creature representing Christ). The personal experiences of these followers and how they are impacted by their relationship with Aslan.
But while the message was pretty obvious, I was surprise (or maybe shouldn’t have been) that some people missed the intent of the film. In the theater I was sitting in the Press section with other Reviewers. I started up a conversation with a man sitting next to me. We had dissimilar backgrounds and Reviewed for somewhat different outlets. So I was curious to find out his reaction to the film as we left the theater. He did not like the film at all. When I asked why, he responded, “For a movie that is supposed to be all about Love and Peace, how could they put all that violence in it.” Needless to say I was floored, and realized that not everyone would get the movie. I started to explain that, yes, it was all about Love, but not the boy-meets-girl type of love, but a Sacrificial Love and a Love that far exceeds what one sees in a Romantic Comedy or Drama. And that this type of Love was not always pretty. That sometimes it required you to fight for it. And that from this fight Peace can eventually come, but not without some effort. Yet, I could tell from this person’s look and attitude, that they weren’t ready to hear my explanation. What I, and evidently many others, saw in the film was a beautiful story of love and forgiveness and redemption. What this other person saw was just a story with a climatic battle. But I guess that what movies are all about. Everyone sees something different.
I have heard that Disney and Walden are considering a number of sequels to “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” depending upon the success of this release. From the reaction of the crowd (I have only seen the audience applaud a film like I saw this audience do) I think we can easily expect to see the sequels. And from what I have heard, this will most likely be the Prince of Caspian.
Also, you might check out the several sound tracks for the film. It reads like a head-liners list for the Gospel Music Awards. Stephen Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Kutless, Delirious?, Jeremy Camp, Rebecca St. James, Nichole Nordem
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