random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Thursday, December 22, 2005

REEL REVIEWS: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (2005) ***

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion , the Witch & the Wardrobe (2005) big early

2 hrs. 12 min.
Rated PG (for battle sequences and frightening moments.)
Written by: C.S. Lewis (novel), Andrew Adamson, Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, & Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
Produced by: Mark Johnson & Philip Steuer
Directed by: Andrew Adamson

Here's what I've found with The Chronicles of Narnia....even if you accept and appreciate the so-called Christian themes, if you don't get into talking animals, magic, & fur coats....this movie ain't gonna be for you. That's just an observation. You're still entitled to go and check it out for yourself. I enjoyed thrilling, good (Aslan the lion) vs. evil (Jadis' the human White Witch) story and I'll tell ya why.....

The story of the four Pevensie children--Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter--starts with the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While not the first chronological book (that would be The Magician's Nephew) in the series, it's still the book in which we are introduced to the children that discover the land of Narnia. After being shipped off to the country home of an elderly professor in order to escape the London bombings of WWII, the youngest child Lucy finds an entrance to Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing hide-and-seek with her siblings.

Lucy enters a snowy, charming land that is introduced to her by a timid faun, Mr. Tumnus (played by James McAvoy), the first creature she runs into near a street lamppost in the middle of a forest. He curiously invites her back to his Pooh-like home for some tea. When she returns to her siblings in the professor's home none of them believe what she's seen. To her it feels like she's been gone an hour or so, but to them only seconds. Georgie Henley plays Lucy with such delight and purity. She experiences life with such awe and optimism that it is just plain fun to look at what we discovers through her eyes.

Edmund is quite the opposite though. He is the type of sibling that is stuck being the second stringer all the time. Often goofing off and sometimes antagonistic, his older brother Peter (William Mosely) is often trying to keep him in line like a father they both obviously don't have. While his other sister Susan (Anna Popplewell) tries her best to keep some type of civility between the two in an effort to retain some type of family for little Lucy.

One night, he secretly follows Lucy back into the wardrobe and stumbles upon the snowy terrain of Narnia himself. He's here! There's no denying the truth behind Lucy's breathless reports. Although there is no Mr. Tumnus for him. Not even Lucy. Instead, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) encounters and is befriended by the ominous White Witch, who sits him up on her frosty carriage and promises him all the Turkish Delight he can eat. Yum! (I guess, never had one). Edmund promises the Witch that he will return with his siblings. She seems suspiciously adamant that this happen. Of course, with Edmund likes the feeling of interest the Witch has in him. He's used to being overlooked and unappreciated. Little does he know the plane she has for him and his family.

Eventually all four of them walk through the wardrobe to Narnia and meet up with friendly Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Here we see the first of many CGI (computer-generated) characters of the film. Some will turn out to be friendly (like the Beavers and Mr. Fox) while others downright mean (the Witch's hench-er-wolf-pack). The Beavers give the kids the lowdown on Narnia. How Mr. Tumnus was taken by the Witch for associating with a human, how the land wasn't always icy and snowy, and how the animals weren't always living in fear. It was Jadis, the White Witch, (the wonderful Tilda Swinton) who has cast Narnia in an eternal winter spell. They stated that they believed that a prophesy that tells of two sons of Adam and two sons of Eve will help the noble and mystical lion ruler Aslan, upon his return, fight the Witch and her minions restore Narnia to its glory.

Edmund doesn't like hearing this about his new found friend the White Witch in such bad light. He bails on his siblings and searches for her ice castle in search of all that she had promised him. Of course that was on the condition that he would bring his family to her. She gets royally ticked and shackles Edmund in her icy dungeon with Tumnus. Dah! All for them gross looking Turkish Delights. Real nice!

Leaving Peter, Susan, and Lucy as his rescuers, as they embark on a perilous journey to save their brother. During which Father Christmas suits them up with some goodies, uh, weapons that it is, that will help in their battle against evil. Of course, the real help comes when they hook up with Aslan (powerfully voiced by Liam Neeson) and his faithful mythical followers of beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs, and giants. An apocalyptic battle ensues with every animal imaginable available, from a unicorn to a cheetah to a phoenix. We know who wins.

There is enough character development and talent in these child actors that you believe the challenges and trails they accept. It doesn't necessarily just happen.You see them bicker and work things out and doubt. They definitely draw inspiration and motivation from Aslan. He is scene as some type messianic leader that will lead the land out of darkness with the help of these children. Who does that sound like I wonder? Heh. There's even a parallel to Christ in a particular decision Aslan makes with the White Witch in order to save man, er, animal-kind.

These books have been scrutinized for years with adults saying they foster racism, depicts sexism, and subliminally hammers Christianity. Sigh. You know what? It's a fantasy book for children, people! Irish Christian apologetic author C.S. Lewis wrote the seven Chronicles of Narnia book back in the mid 1950's as children's fantasy-adventure. Read into it what you will. I read the books as a child and fondly remember the 1979 animated television version. I know the book is better but this was certainly an amazing thing to see in the theater.

Lewis' early life has echoes within the Chronicles stories. Born in Belfast in 1898, Lewis' family moved to a large house in the country when he was seven. Like the movie, the house contained long hallways and empty rooms, and Lewis and his brother invented make-believe worlds while exploring their home. Like Caspian and Tirian (form the other books), Lewis lost his mother at an early age, and like Edmund, Jill and Eustace (other books again), he spent a long, miserable time in English boarding schools. During World War II, many children were evacuated from London because of air raids. Some of these children stayed with Lewis at his home in Oxford. So, he obviously didn't pull all of this outta a hat. He's got some life experience invested in these stories and I can dig that.

With technology as it is now, the story could only have been made today. It makes sense that it comes out now. I went to see it with a group of friends on opening day, December 9th, in Houston, TX to a packed theater. We saw all ages around us enjoying the film. I'd use your discretion as to whether your wee lil ones see this. It does get pretty graphic. Consider it a cinematic combo of the Harry Potter and LOTR flicks. Overall, it's a good time at the movies but ya gotta be able to swallow the whole talking animals and messianic lions....some may not be able to walk through that wardrobe and that's alright.

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