Friday, 10 October 2014

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

As I kid, I was a big fan of the Narnia books and read the entire series at least three times. Giant talking Lions!  Wicked witches!  What was not to love?

Of course, I was completely oblivious to the Christian themes that permeate the work.  I certainly can't lay any blame for that on author C S Lewis - it's far from subtle.  But then, I also didn't twig to the fact that the heroes of The Borribles were assassinating the Wombles, so maybe I was just a really obtuse child.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  The film adaptation of the first Narnia book.  (And yes, it is the first.  I know Magician's Nephew is set earlier, but it was written later, and is clearly written for older readers, so don't be giving me that Harper Collins chronological order nonsense.)

In case there's someone who doesn't know, this is the tale of four children from London who discover a wardrobe that is also a doorway to another world: the fantastical realm of Narnia, full of fauns and talking animals.  Alas, Narnia is also a land locked in eternal winter ("but never Christmas") by the malevolent power of the evil White Witch.

As is the nature of such tales, however, a prophecy foretells that the Witch will be overthrown.  In this case, by "two sons of Adam, and two daughters of Eve".  So the Witch is understandably eager to find the children and do unpleasant things to them.  In this she is initially aided by one of the four, Edmund, whose jealousy of his siblings blinds him to Witch's evil.  His treachery puts the Witch's wolf pack on their trail, and thus the other three children must flee to meet Aslan, the rightful King of Narnia.  And also the Giant Talking Lion I mentioned earlier.

After an encounter with Santa Claus, whose presence shows that the Witch's power is waning, the three reach Aslan.  With his help, Edmund is freed, but the Witch invokes her rights under the Deep Magic, exacting a terrible price in exchange.  Fortunately, Aslan has some tricks up his sleeve.

... okay, look.  At the risk of spoiling it for you: Aslan dies for Edmund's sins, and is reborn.  He doesn't even wait three days to do it, just until the next morning.  I did say the Christian themes were kind of obvious.

That leads us into the end game of the movie, which I may as well spoil too: the good guys win.

This movie is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, though it "actions it up" a bit.  The script is solid and the effects top notch, but I think it profits most from strong casting choices.  All four of the kids - but especially the youngest boy and girl, on whom the greatest burden falls - turn in good performances, and Tilda Swinton is an excellent choice for their wintry nemesis.

If you don't mind the hammeringly obvious Christian themes, and aren't the sort to turn up your nose at "fairy tales", then this is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

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