Friday, December 09, 2005

 

GUY'S NIGHT OUT: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, he said 5.0


Watching "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" made me feel like a kid again. I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis, and I love the Narnia stories. I was super excited about seeing this story brought to life on screen but also justifiably apprehensive. Would the talking animals look good? Would the child actors be good? Would they do the Stone Table scene the way it's meant to be done? Would everything "look right?" Would they capture that sense of "joy" that one gets from the books? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes!

First off, the animals. I was a little worried about this. CGI characters have come a long way in the past few years (just look at the progression from Jar Jar to Gollum to Yoda), but one thing that still seems to trouble animators the most is hair. So how would they be able to pull off animating a bunch of mammals? Well, they do it. The Beavers look so cool. When Mr. Beaver hands Lucy her handkerchief, I was amazed how real it all looked. The animals do not always seem completely realistic, but it is a fantasy. They move in realistic ways, and the interactions between them and the live actors is mostly seamless. During the wolf chase, the footage changes between CGI wolves and real wolves, and I could not tell the difference. And Aslan is awe-inspiring, as he should be.

The acting is great. All four of the kids do a great job. They are nearly all newcomers (in fact, Anna Popplewell, who plays Susan, is the only one with real experience and she is the weakest link). William Moseley did an awesome job portraying my favorite character, Peter. He managed to capture the responsibility that drives Peter despite his reluctance. The real breakout star is Georgie Henley as Lucy. She is amazing. As the youngest Pevensie, she is the first to discover Narnia, and Henley totally sells it with wide-eyed wonder. I also really enjoyed James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, the faun. Tilda Swinton does a great job at creating the chilling White Witch. Jim Broadbent has basically a cameo as Professor Kirke. Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan was a bit distracting at first. Not quite as commanding as I expected, but once I got past my expectations, I realized it worked.

Yes, the Stone Table scene is here and it is heartbreaking. In fact, pretty much everything that is in the book is here. Walden Media is building a good name for themselves at making very faithful adaptation of children's books into good movies (I'm looking at you "Harry Potter" series). One of the few deviations from the book really adds to the story. In the book, Lewis simply begins by saying that "this story is about something that happened to [the children] when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids." Director Andrew Adamson opens by showing the air-raids. We see the children and their mother hiding in the cellar. We see her send them away to the country. This opening had me tearing up. It really does a good job of quickly capturing the personality of each child and the relationships between them. A nice addition to the story.

This movie made me feel like a kid again, just like reading the books do. Adamson and company do a fantastic job creating the fantasy world of Narnia. Watching the movie, I really felt like I was seeing the book come alive. It is a great story that elicits joy, which Lewis defined as an intense longing. When this movie ended, I desperately longed to return to Narnia. I hope that there will be more movies to enjoy in the future, particularly "Prince Caspian," probably my favorite of the books.

Warning: Don't leave as soon as the credits start to roll.

What did you think of this movie? Are you a fan of the book? What children's book would you like to see Walden Media adapt to film?
Comments:
Good review. I was also a little misty-eyed during the train station scene. The whole idea of having to send your children away is just awful.

As for your last question, I really couldn't say. I am not much in the way of remembering children's books, but I can think of a number of comic books they could do. BONE, for example.
 
Bone would be good. I still have not read it, but I am familiar with it and think it could make a good movie.
 
I loved the beavers!

And Georgie Henley was excellent. Especially with her dagger/little knife.

However, I didn't see anything special during the credits, except that the company that worked on it is called Rhythm and Hues.

What kind of movies does Walden do? I would like someone to do a better version of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story that is closer to the book. The second movie only took one aspect of the book and Jonathan Brandis was absolutely ridiculous.

Anyway, back to Narnia. I think it will be a great way to talk to people about the references to the Bible in a non-threatening way. We had two people come to the movie who asked about the stone tablet scene.

The only sad part is that the golden retrievers and otters were missing because there was a lion and two beavers...
 
Megan, yes, sadly, I was not represented (in either aspect) in Narnia.

I was referring to the scene between Lucy and the Professor that starts after the credits begin to roll. When I saw it, a lot of people had already left when that came on.

Walden Media takes surveys from school teachers about what books they would like to have movie versions of and then makes movies that are faithful and will encourage kids to read.

So far, they have done this, Holes, I am David, Because of Winn-Dixie, a few IMAX documentaries, and the PBS series "The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud." Next year, they are releasing Hoot and Charlotte's Web. They are also working on a favorite of mine "Bridge to Terabithia."

"NeverEnding Story," hmm. I have never read the book, but I grew up loving the first movie. The sequels, ugh!

Walden has some cool ones in development (Terabithia and How To Eat Fried Worms). Some others I would like to see include good, faithful versions of the Little House books, "Hatchet," and "A Wrinkle in Time."
 
I have to disagree with you on this one, as I felt the movie lacked cinematic drama. As far as the story goes, the stakes were sufficiently high and the adventure was exciting, but I didn't feel it came across on screen in a compelling way. This story could have been told in an hour and a half, but two plus hours is the standard set by "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings", and it seems this movie felt obligated to go that distance. I agree that the CGI animals were terrific, especially Aslan, but I was a little disappointed that the movie never gave life to Narnia in a tangible way... In "Fellowship of the Ring" we already get a sense of life in Middle Earth, and a little bit of the geography... it came to life, but Narnia remained flat to me, even though all of the elements were there. The kid actors didn't do much for me, with the exception of Georgie Henley who is a standout. Tilda Swinton is also great, as expected as the White Witch. These kids never seems to be awed by Narnia or their adventure the way they rightfully should be — the way the Hobbits were in "Rings" and the way the Harry Potter is. The movie just seemed flat and unemotional to me — all technique and no life.
 
Jason, I can agree with your comments about Narnia not coming to life in the same way that Middle Earth does. I think that however is due to the source material. I love Narnia, but "Lord of the Rings" is my all-time favorite book and the two really don't compare. Tolkien created a dense, detailed world whereas Lewis leaves much, much more to the imagination. The filmakers put what was on the page on the screen.

I refuse to put Harry Potter on the same level as Lewis and Tolkien. Maybe in a few decades, but I will have to see how well they hold up in a few decades. And as I am sure you know, I just don't really care for the movies of that series.

"Chronicles" (the movie) was not perfect, but I did love it. It is not as strong a movie as "Lord of the Rings," but I think that is largely due to the fact that the story is much simpler.
 
Well, I'm not saying the "Potter" books on are on the same level as "Narnia", but the movies are better than this one is, in my opinion.

And because "Narnia" is a much simpler story is the reason I think the movie should have been shorter, and moved at a quicker pace.
 
I agree with Brandon, i'd give the movie a 4.5. The acting was good, the thing is I loved the books (and I think the age group that CS writes for is different than Tolkiens, thus the difference in complexity and yes, denseness) and so i was recalling sentences from the book as i watched. like when the children met aslan, i remember that lucy felt happy, susan felt a little scared, and peter felt courageous. And i saw this reflected in the children's faces. I agree with JAson that the added stuff was not necessary and it'd been nicer if they took that time and showed us post-witch narnia. I wanted to have some time to enjoy narnia before we saw all the kids grown up. It was a sparse book but the movie hit the mark with how i imagined it.
 
But it isn't that movie is bad because it's not as complex as "Lord of the Rings", I don't like it because it isn't as complex as it needs to be — it's a very shallow representation of the story. "Harry Potter" are kids movies that are complex, "The NeverEnding Story" has more depth... "The Polar Express" is a masterpiece... all kids movies that succeed as movies much more than "Narnia"... to me.
 
The Polar Express was a horrible movie. That is a very poor example of a 'complex movie'. Tom Hanks took a great children night tale and by adding superfluous story points turned the film into on of the poorest Christmas cartoons of all time. This does not bode well for your case...please try again
 
I love "The Polar Express"; out of all the movies I've mentioned here — "Lord of the Rings" included — it is my favorite and the one I think is the best made. I think the new characters and events make the movie a richer story than the book, and it's a perfect example to me of a movie that can be altered from the source material and retain the same spirit. Some of the extra characters and story points even bolster the Christian parallels of the original story.

But even if you don't like it and I can't move you, I mention it and the others to point out that I don't have a bias against "kiddie movies" and that I think some are great. I don't feel like they necessarily are or need to be less complex or enriched than flicks for grown-ups...
 
Wow, missroberson, harsh words! Though I do agree with your take on "Polar Express." I love that book, but I only barely enjoyed the movie. It looked gorgeous (although the animated Tom Hanks conductor was a little creepy to me), but I did not like all the superflous wacky antics that were added to the story. It felt like they took a simple (in scope, not meaning) children's story and turned into a typical Hollywood "kid's movie."

Jason, that seems to be what you are saying about "Narnia." I think I understand what you are saying, but not quite why you feel that way. But these things are all very subjective and can be hard to explain, so to each his own. I would say that "Polar Express" and the "Harry Potter" movies are shallow representations of the stories they are trying to tell, but obviously, we disagree here.

jas, I too could have dealt without some of the added stuff such as the borderline ridiculous river crossing scene (though I loved the opening with the Blitz). As for showing post-witch Narnia, I felt that the movie kind of did it like the book if I remember correctly. After the crowning, it says they ruled for years, were chasing a stag, and found their way back. However, "The Horse and His Boy" does show us an event that took place in that interlude.
 
Has anyone ever read Lois Lowry's The Giver? It won a Newberry Award for outstanding childrens' literature. I started to read it but didn't finish. It seems like something Walden might consider doing.

Brandon, are you going to buy Batman Begins when it comes out?
 
i think Batman Begins is already out
 
Yeah, Megan I got it back in October. And you will be happy to know that Walden already has "The Giver" in development. I have never read it, but it's one of those I've always meant to go back and read. I also think that Walden should do "Maniac Magee."
 
Oh my, you guys are right.

I work in the library now and I process that DVD a lot. Every time it comes in, someone has it on hold.

That's great that Walden is doing The Giver.

Toodles.
 
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