C.S. Lewis was ahead of his time. A hot stove topic of late has been that shortly before his death in 1963; Lewis made public his wishes that no film or TV version of his Narnia books was to be made with live actors portraying the animal characters. Well, someone has found and exploited the loophole in that statement. Now we have the wonderful technology of CGI, so Lewis must approve of that, right?
I’d like to think not. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an overlong, bloated, and surprisingly stale venture into yet another wondrous world that is better left to the written page and our overactive imaginations. Disney is no doubt assuming that this will be an enormous cash cow considering the world’s current obsession with fantasy, sorcery, and wizards. They’ll get what they want, but we don’t get what we deserve.
After being sent a professor’s country home to ensure protection during World War II, siblings Lucy (Henley), Edmund (Keynes), Peter (Moseley), and Susan (Popplewell) soon discover a mysterious wardrobe that has a room all too itself. Lucy is the first to discover that the wardrobe is in fact a gateway to the world of Narnia, which is ruled by the evil White Witch (Swinton). She befriends Mr. Tumnus (McAvoy), a half-man-half-fawn creature who is supposed to kidnap her because humans are not welcome in Narnia. Tumnus is apprehended, and now the siblings must save Tumnus and Narnia from the White Witch. Led by the wisdom of Aslan, a wise old lion, the children soon discover that they may be the saviors of Narnia. The adventure begins.
The director is Andrew Adamson (of Shrek fame), and he has some serious problems pacing this film. The story starts off sluggishly and doesn’t really pick up much steam until the White Witch is introduced. The third act goes on for eternity and I guess we’re not supposed to ask how, so suddenly, the children become so comfortable handling deadly weapons and killing. The film culminates in a Braveheart-light battle sequence that is constantly interrupted by weeping and heavy-handedness. Unintentional humor abounds.
The impressive special effects, as much as one would not like to admit it, are the driving force behind the film instead of character interaction and heart. Adamson constantly reminds of what $150,000,000 can buy you these days, almost to the point of exhaustion. The wide-open landscapes are a sight to behold as are several stunning indoor locales.
The performances are solid across the board, especially from Tilda Swinton. She makes for a menacing figure that is truly despicable. Her performance is all the more intriguing considering she had not read any of the books prior to the shooting. The four children are also impressive, particularly young Georgie Henley, whose sense of wonder and excitement is truly contagious.
Overlong and torpid at times, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is not an awful film by any means, but probably an unnecessary one. These big budget fantasy films are dangerously close to becoming a dime a dozen and the wonder will soon be gone. Lewis’ wishes, regardless of loopholes, should have been respected.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 140 Minutes
Rating: PG for battle sequences and frightening moments.
Theatrical Release: December 9, 2005
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Written by: Ann Peacock & Andrew Adamson & Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Based upon the novel by C.S. Lewis.
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy