Saturday, December 31, 2005


Chronicles Of Narnia Review

So I said in my King Kong review that I'd explain my predisposition against this movie. In the fall, I got the big book with all of the Narnia novels in one hefty tome. The stories themselves are ok. I certainly didn't feel like I had wasted my time reading them. I'll probably read them again sometime. But they all seemed really short. Sure The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe had a lot going on, but many of the others didn't seem like they could support a full movie. If this first film is successful, well, it's not like waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out; they're already done. I suppose my fear was that they'll try to squeeze movies out of these other novels that can't support full movies, and the crap that gets added will ruin the stories.

That said, LWW runs over two hours, and it was actually good. Certainly better than Kong. Almost everyone is head over heels for Kong, so I'm awfully lonely over here. I asked a Kong lover to explain to me what makes Kong so great, because I just wasn't getting it. I couldn't suspend disbelief long enough to accept and care about the characters. The answer was two words long: your loss.

I can accept that. No one is required to like everything. I'll admit that I was hoping for a bit more about what he liked about the movie, rather than his thoughts on me not liking it, but people like different things, and it isn't necessarily necessary to be able to articulate it. I did like LWW, and I'll try to tell you why. Keep in mind that in both cases (Kong and LWW) I knew the story ahead of time.

The film opens during the blitz in London, which is the excuse for sending the kids off to live in a country mansion. From oldest to youngest, the siblings are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, and while the older three seem to be about a year apart, Lucy seems about three or four years younger than Edmund, maybe eight or nine.

Peter and Susan play the "mom and dad" of the group, Lucy is the cute kid, and Edmund is the jerk of the bunch. Edmund comes off like that one friend that's in your group that no one likes too much. That's not exactly it though. He seems very put upon. He strikes back in petty ways, such as when he mocks Lucy's claim to have found a world beyond the wardrobe. Peter and Susan often act sick of him. I'd really love to see more about how he ended up in that position. He's the outsider, the outcast, the one you have in mind when you say you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. Another way to put it: he's got a lot of potential. And he needs it, because when he follows Lucy into Narnia on her second trip, he bumps into the White Queen, who has kept Narnia in one hundred years of winter, and is easy prey for a few soft words and kindness.

Soon enough, all four children get to Narnia, with Peter, Susan and Lucy befriending the talking animals and Edmund sneaking off to the White Queen, realizing too late who and what she really is. Fortunately, Aslan the lion has returned, and the stage is set for a battle to free Narnia from the icy grip of the evil queen.

The story does have Christian overtones, but it doesn't preach at you. Aslan is a Christ figure, but he doesn't give a lot of sermons. He comes across more like a father figure, one who will go the last mile for his children.

The kids are all well played. Edmund and Lucy are particularly well done, Edmund for the reasons noted above, and Lucy for communicating that childlike innocence the others are too old for. Susan shows some growth as well. She starts off with some rough edges, coming across as a little harsh, but the more she accepts the situation she is in, the world she is in, the more those edges soften into a pleasant young woman. Peter has the least amount of change; he's pretty much the same guy from beginning to end. I really need to single out Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the White Queen. There's a moment, and I hope you'll know it when you see it, when she strikes a blow at Aslan. And even though she has an ultimate advantage over him at this point, and even though I knew what would happen, I still almost wondered if she would be won over by his majesty. As if she was thinking that victory was in her grasp, but she was afraid to take it. It's a subtle moment, that brief recognition in her facial expression of what she is about to do, but it speaks volumes.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe is an entertaining, exciting movie that's not only safe for your kids to see, but actually worthy of them. It's worthy of you too. Go see it.
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