Friday, October 12, 2012

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

I've never read the books in the Narnia series since they never really interested me all that much (probably because all the kids in grade school talked about them so much that it got 'over-hyped'). The Lord of the Rings movies got me into the whole fantasy epic genre and when the trailers for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe began screening I liked what I saw and decided to give them a shot, regardless of what some people I know were calling it: Christian Propaganda. Now that I've seen the film version I can say that I want to see a sequel, but I still have no interest in reading the books.

The plot is that during the London Blitz, the four children of the Pevensie family; Susan (Anna Popplewell), Peter (William Moseley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), are placed in 'foster care' so they won't get caught up in the violence of the war. They end up in the care of an eccentric inventor (Jim Broadbent) and discover the magical world of Narnia within a dusty old wardrobe in a spare room. In this world there has been a coup of sorts, where the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) has assumed control of the land and in doing so has caused a 100 year winter. The former ruler, Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), has been trying to reclaim his empire for all that time. When the Pevensie children arrive they are told that they are to fulfill a prophecy that they will help to restore Narnia to its former glory and defeat the White Witch.

Basically, it's The Lord of the Rings lite. That's not necessarily a bad thing since you can sit down and watch this flick without having to keep in mind a buttload of sub-plots and little details that might pop up later. It's simple and charming.
The young actors that are the heart of the film are all decent actors/actresses. I particularly thought that the two younger siblings, Edmund and Lucy, were the best of the bunch. The older two, Susan and Peter, seemed a little stiff and weren't able to get across the sense of wonder that the other two pulled off throughout the entire film. The voice cast for the CGI characters was great as well. Liam Neeson was awesome as Aslan, the Lion of the title. His distinctive voice lent an air of regality and authority to his character. But the androgynous Tilda Swinton as the White Witch owned this flick. She came across as a manipulative seductress who could wield a sword and wage war as well. The costume choices her character is given are bizarre and added to her character a great deal. I loved every minute she was on screen.

The CGI is flawless. Every single CGI animal creation, and there are many, looked almost photorealistic and moved with the grace of the real deal. Even the fantastical creatures, like the centaurs, satyrs and gryphons looked great. I have to give credit to the artists who populated this world with some amazing creatures. Director Adam Adamson, who directed the first two Shrek films, apparently was striving for realism at every turn and he pulled it off. Aslan looks, moves and talks (if lions could talk) like a real lion.
The cinematography, while at times reminiscent of  The Lord of the Rings, was breathtaking as well. The outdoor scenes, which were filmed on a set or against greenscreen, actually looked like the outdoors which is hard to accomplish.

Musically the film is a mixed bag. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams (a protégé of Hans Zimmer) is epic and booming at times, while sweet and sentimental in others. But the addition of a female vocalist to certain scenes was a bit of a cheesy touch that made me cringe a few times.

While this film has one of the coolest fantasy battle scenes ever put to film (the sheer number of mythical beasts that were included was staggering, plus the violence quotient was high), there is little else in the way of fast paced action. Sure there's a couple of chase scenes, but they are few and far between. There were a couple of times that I wished they would speed things up a little bit.

My biggest problems with the film were the leaps in logic. For example: People who have never held a sword before in their life suddenly become blade masters. I thought I was watching Kingdom of Heaven all over again. Sure this is a fantasy film, but I still want an explanation given. Like what the hell a gateway to Narnia is doing inside that wardrobe. HELLO?! Major plot point got glossed over! And where was all the blood during the battle? My other gripe is the inclusion of Santa Claus. It just came off as silly and hokey. He just pops up and says "For Christmas I'm going to give you presents with which you can kill and maim!" as he hands over swords, knives and bows to the children. It's a big WTF moment.
Lastly, the film goes on way too long. The final scene was unnecessary and baffled me at first, but it was explained and therefore fit into things, but I think it should have been left out altogether. Lots of dialogue scenes could have been truncated and compressed to make things move a little faster. Lastly, plot points are repeated ad nauseum about the prophecy and all the details (kind of like Troy). I got the point the first time I heard that crap and I don't need you to constantly be beating me over the head with it. Plus there are way too many shots of the children mugging for the camera.

But one thing that surprised me the most was the Christian angle. One person I know said that the film was supposed to be like "The Passion of the Christ for kids" and that it's nothing but a big ad for that religion since the author was a hardcore Christian. Upon watching the movie I have to say that's a load of crap. Sure there were a couple of parts where there was something similar to bible events going on, but nothing like blind men being made to see, water turning to blood or overly violent crucifixions. It's just a movie based on a book that was written by a Christian. Nothing more. The Matrix trilogy had more Christian themes than this did.

In the end, it's an enjoyable fantasy film filled with awesome sights and sounds, but it's no The Lord of the Rings.

4 out of 5


*written 12/9/05

No comments:

Post a Comment