Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The (2005)
Release Date: December 9th, 2005 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Andrew Adamson Actors: Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, James Cosmo, Kiran Shah, Liam Neeson
he Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is perhaps the most un-PG rated children’s film ever made, brimming with battle sequences and frightening moments. Additionally packed with special effects, epic battle sequences, fantastical characters, and occasionally annoying children, this first of several Narnia adaptations from C.S. Lewis’ popular book series is action-oriented and routinely exciting. A bit lengthy at times and overdramatic at others, this chapter is still off to a good start with its rewarding fantasy blend of the magic of Harry Potter and the adventure of “The Lord of the Rings.”
The Pevensie family is separated due to the growing dangers of World War II, with the four young children shipped off to the country for safekeeping. Arriving at the monstrous mansion of Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent), they realize that fun may entirely elude them during their stay. Peter (William Moseley), the eldest, tries to govern over the other three, but he often scolds cynically and unnecessarily, forgetting that they are all just children. Susan (Anna Popplewell) is the oldest girl, and the most reasonable of the group, taking care to keep a level head during every situation. Edmund (Skandar Keynes) is the troublemaker, who whines incessantly, letting his jealousy of others’ attention cloud his judgment. He’s not evil, but he’s too easily persuaded into jeopardous situations. And finally there’s Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest of the four, a little girl who is really only interested in mischievousness and games.
Lucy discovers a giant wardrobe tucked away in a dusty room, and climbs inside during an innocent game of hide-and-seek. Serving as an unexplainable portal, the back of the wardrobe leads to an entirely different world – one that is cursed with winter snows and ruled by a twisted tyrant. When Lucy meets the half-human, half-goat faun named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), he explains that she is in Narnia, a realm of magic and wonder and mythical creatures. Initially, Lucy has great difficulty convincing her siblings of Narnia’s existence, but eventually the lot of them stumble into the midst of an otherworldly war that has been brewing between the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and the righteous talking lion, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), which will result in prophecies unfolding and the children being forced to become heroes and warriors.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” keeps up the audience’s interest with plenty of fantasy spectacles, but forgets the importance of the lead children, who must somehow cement them in Narnia’s reality. All four of the Pevensies are flawed just enough that many viewers will find it difficult to keep the typical allegiance to these intermittently unsympathetic protagonists. Throughout the film, each one is given moments to be particularly frustrating, eclipsing their rousing teamwork and allowing their unremarkable personalities to be overtaken by the humor of the talking beavers or the CG lion effects.
Further failing the sensibility of Narnia itself is a great number of unbelievable conveniences that continue to crop up, making way for clean escapes and easy counterblows. These are twinned with several underdeveloped ideas that simply couldn’t be been given as much attention as in the novel. Although seemingly anything can happen in Narnia, it’s still a bit much to see Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) handing out magical weaponry, a prophecy get fulfilled that just so happens to allow for reincarnation, beavers digging human-sized escape tunnels, and magic that can undo deadly acts.
The epic conclusion is overwrought, focusing heavily on the striking of impressive slow-motion poses before wielding table-turning blows. But that can be easily forgiven with the uniqueness and intensity of the warring cyclops, phoenixes, centaurs, griffins, minotaurs, trolls, giants, unicorns, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), and more that clash in bloodless action. Despite its generic swords-and-sorcery storyline, the picture is amusingly padded with extensive fantasy elements, which makes it a must-see for those itching for magic-doused adventure – and for the presold audiences who grew up with C.S. Lewis’ famous stories.
– Mike Massie