Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Second to The Lord of the Rings, I credit this adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for being the movie that made me a movie fan. The Lord of the Rings was a party I was late to, but with Narnia, I was obsessed from seeing the trailer -- in fact, seeing this movie's trailer was the most memorable thing about seeing Revenge of the Sith in theaters. It was my first fandom, and has always been so personal to me that I never reviewed it, but after not watching it for a few years I came back to it, and found that I can view it now... if not without bias, at least with open eyes, so time to give it a review, I think!

It's not perfect by any means, but to me, it's still magical.

Along with not watching it for a long while I also haven't given the book a read in years either. When the film came out, I critiqued every single little change; with this most recent viewing I could hardly remember which things were changes at all. I also saw it in a less Christian light. I still of course appreciate the allegory and symbolism present, but before, I think I saw it almost religiously -- like the Christian meaning in it was the most important part. And since I've realized that in spite of all that, and how neat and thoughtful it is, it's fundamentally a story, and that's where I'm coming from now.

So, story-wise; The Chronicles of Narnia. I've done some serious picking on the changes this movie made in adapting, but truthfully this is an excellent adaptation of the book. It adds scenes of action to keep the pace going, but also takes great pains to preserve the heart of the story -- along with as many little details as possible. Like the bluebonnet in the window. Before I'd complain that the bug was supposed to be dead. Truthfully, the writers and director Andrew Adamson were obviously dedicated to the quality of the film, and I appreciate that so much.

It took a while for me to notice the difference between making changes for artistic reasons, and lazy ones.

The movie starts off beautifully with the raid and subsequent removal to the country -- still one of the most lovely film openings I can think of. They take their time to establish characters and mood, set to gorgeous music that has you drawn into the world of Narnia way before Lucy even steps foot there. Then once she does the world of Narnia is so rich and feels like it could be real. New Zealand's landscapes helped with that, as did Weta's prop and costume designs. This movie took notes from Lord of the Rings and applied it all well. Lord of the Rings has had a huge influence on so many films, but in the more recent years the borrowing has become lazier and lazier. Narnia used the influence to create and be its own thing.

Of course I still find the river crossing scene awkwardly fake. And the more I see it, the the more apparent the spotty acting gets. The four children were well cast as their characters, but the acting and line delivery is sometimes cringe-worthy. Lucy and Edmund -- and -- have a better excuse, being young kids, but they're actually the best of the four with that consideration. Peter and Susan -- and -- had moments of equal awkwardness in spite of being older. However, they look the parts and are perfectly capable of maintaining a character and character progression. After that, line delivery can fall flat and be covered up.

....with the assistance of more seasoned and dedicated actors.

Plus there's a top notch supporting cast to make up for it. 's iconic faun Mr Tumnus -- spot on. 's voicing of Aslan is as great as the lion's animation which is still holding up. And 's Jadis is ever-incredible. She makes a beautiful, deeply evil and deeply captivating villain. These three probably carry the movie more than the kids do. I also love 's Professor Diggory Kirke. He's a wonderfully charming bookend character for the story.

What with the iconic characters, the many roadblocks that probably came with creating the magical and mythical creatures of the world -- not to mention the detail of the world itself -- and the pressures that came with adapting such a story, one of the things I appreciate most now it how simply the story is told. It just is. Pacing is steady and natural and scenes themselves are unrushed, patient and involving. This movie came from and was put together a lot of different places, but there was a clear vision and that vision was maintained consistently. There are parts for me to wrinkle my nose at still, but I love how tidy and complete the movie is as a whole. It's simple, but there's artistry to it; its not just a prewritten story cranked out onto film.

And it kept loyal to the themes of the book too.

I have long known that Lewis's books themselves were permanently set in my affections, but I am pleased to find that this adaption has found it's way there too. With maybe a smidgen less adoration, but seemingly just as permanent. For a long time I was both afraid to see flaws in this film and smugly pointing out flaws where they really didn't exist, but finally the movie has settled to a place of happy contentment with me. So, long live Aslan -- and if you need me, I'll be daydreaming of adventure and checking the backs of wardrobes.

2 comments:

  1. Great review, I can appreciate now that the first Narnia film is a lovely adaptation - but like you I was so picky originally! (I mostly didn't like how they portrayed Susan.) I think it just comes of loving the book too much. So disappointed they stopped making the series - I want to see 'Horse and His Boy' so badly :(

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    1. Thank you! Susan was never my favorite, but this time I noticed that -- she's portrayed pretty annoyingly for the most part, isn't she? True! Me too, I think THAHB would make an excellent movie! And it's sad that Will Poulter never got to come back as Eustace in the Silver Chair too.

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