The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Review
By Shawn McKenzie 12/11/2005
Everyone can read their own interpretation of virtually every movie if they want to badly enough. In the case of the Disney adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I didn’t see the movie as being this year’s Passion of the Christ. I read the book when I was a kid, and probably since I’ve never been religious, I just saw it as just another fantasy book. Yet, there are religious groups who are buying tickets in bulk to spread the Good Word. If I didn’t know about its allusions to religious stories, I would say that it is just a very well made children’s movie.
In London during World War II, Helen Pevensie (Judy McIntosh) is taking her four kids…teenagers Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) and their younger siblings Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley)…to an air raid shelter to protect them from the bombing raids by the Nazis. Their father is off fighting in the war, and it is no longer safe for them in London. After surviving the latest raid, Helen takes them to the train station and sends them to live in a countryside manor owned by Professor Digory Kirke (Jim Broadbent) in the town of Coome-Halt. When they arrive, his housekeeper, Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne), tells them not to touch anything or to disturb the professor. Since they can’t do anything, they get bored and decide to play a game of hide and seek. Peter counts down and the other children go off and hide. While trying to find a hiding place, Lucy comes across an empty room with a wardrobe in it, covered by a white sheet. She pulls back the sheet and looks in the wardrobe. She decides to hide in the wardrobe filled with fur coats, but she discovers that the back of the wardrobe leads to a snowy forest. She wanders around the forest until she encounters a lamppost. She then meets a faun (a half man-half goat creature) named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), who is startled by her presence (she is freaked out by him as well.) Once they realize that neither of them are intending to do each other harm, Tumnus asks if Lucy is a “Daughter of Eve,” a.k.a. a human (males are “Sons of Adam.”) He invites her back to his place for some tea. She is nervous, because she is afraid that she has been gone a little too long and the others might come looking for her. He manages to charm her anyway, and they go back to his place for some tea. He explains that this place is called Narnia, and that it has been in wintertime for a hundred years without a single Christmas. They both find out that each other’s fathers are off fighting in wars. He then plays a tune on his flute, which begins to lull her to sleep. He starts to feel guilty, and right before she falls completely to sleep, he wakes her up and explains that Jadis, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), created the never-ending winter. He further explains that he was paid to deliver any humans he encountered to her. Tumnus was feeling so guilty about his attempt to make the delivery that he wanted to help bring Lucy back to the wardrobe. He does just this, and when Lucy walks back through the wardrobe, she discovers that no time has passed since she first went through it. She tells her siblings about Narnia, but they don’t believe her. That night, Lucy goes back to the room with the wardrobe, and Edmund follows her. He realizes that Lucy wasn’t making Narnia up, and he begins to wander around the land himself. He comes across Jadis, along with her sleigh driver Ginarrbrik (Kiran Shah), who offers Edmund some magical hot tea and candy called Turkish Delight. She tells Edmund that she is the Queen of Narnia and asks him if he is a human. She also gets him to tell her that he has three other siblings, who all don’t think too highly of him. She tells him that she will make him Prince of Narnia if he will bring his siblings to her at her Ice Castle, located between two mountains, and she will have them serve as his servants. She also finds out from Edmund about Lucy’s encounter with Tumnus. Jadis drives off and Edmund runs into Lucy. He doesn’t tell her about Jadis and they go back through the wardrobe. Lucy tells Peter and Susan that she went to Narnia again, and this time Edmund went there as well. Edmund lies and tells them that Lucy is crazy, which upsets Lucy. The next morning, the children are playing cricket when Edmund hits the ball through a window. All four of them run away to hide from Mrs. MacReady, and they go into the wardrobe. That is when Peter and Susan realize that Lucy was telling the truth, and she tells them that they should all go back to Tumnus’s place and meet the friendly faun. When they get there, they discover that Tumnus’s place has been ransacked and that he has been arrested by the Secret Police for allowing a human to escape. A talking beaver named Mr. Beaver (voice of Ray Winstone) tells them to go back to his home where they will be safe. After bringing them back to his home and introducing them to his wife, Mrs. Beaver (voice of Dawn French), he tells them all about the never-ending winter and the no-Christmas thing. He also tells them about a prophecy which states that the two sons of Adam and the two daughters of Eve will fight along with Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), the true Lion King of Narnia, to defeat Jadis and restore the peace in Narnia. Edmund ducks out and heads toward the Ice Castle to fulfill his promise to the Queen. Once the other kids realize that Edmund has headed to the Ice Castle, Mr. Beaver tells them that the only one who can save him now is Aslan. Meanwhile, Edmund arrives at the Ice Castle and tells Jadis all about their encounter with the Beavers. She sends out a pack of wolves, headed by the Lead Wolf (voice of Sim Evan-Jones), to capture the kids. She shackles Edmund in a prison, alongside Tumnus, and finds out that the other kids are on their way to see Aslan. She turns Tumnus into stone, and that’s when Edmund realizes that the Queen is the White Witch. Back at the Beaver home, the Beavers and the kids escape from the wolves and find aid from a slinky Fox (voice of Rupert Everett), who helps them further evade the clenches of the wolves. After narrowly escaping from Jadis herself, the kids run into Father Christmas (James Cosmo), who gives them each a gift in which to defeat the White Witch. After a few more harrowing encounters with the wolves, the kids manage to make it to Aslan’s camp. Aslan tells them to train for battle, because they are the chosen ones who will fight to save Narnia. Edmund eventually makes it back with his siblings, but his life and the fate of Narnia may lie in a sacrifice from one of the characters.
Andrew Adamson directed this movie, and this is his first live action flick, following his directorial work for 2001’s Oscar-winning Shrek and 2004’s Oscar-nominated Shrek 2. The movie is very similar in style to fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, especially in the impressive special effects and the battle scenes. In fact, during the climatic battle scene, it felt like I was watching an outtake from a Rings movie.
The acting was terrific all around. I would like to say that there might be some Oscar nominations, but I think that Oscar is only going to give kudos to the special effects. The kids were all great, with newcomer Henley stealing the show. Swinton was perfect, if not a little typecast, as the White Witch. She had this look on her face that screamed “evil.” I say “typecast” because she always seems to have that look.
Lewis and Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien were good friends, and they were both devout Christians. Honestly, I don’t remember the Rings movies having any Christian “messages,” but Chronicles apparently does. Aside from the sacrifice mentioned above being inspired by the story of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, and the whole Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve thing, I didn’t see it as any kind of religious propaganda. With all of the stories told in the Bible, you could make almost any movie a version of a Bible tale.
So…if you want to see a Christian message in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…go right ahead. For any non-Christians, it will just be a really cool movie with an interesting story and remarkable special effects that will delight audiences of all ages. Speaking of Rings, and this might be geek blasphemy…but I thought it was better than Fellowship (I always thought that the first chapter of that trilogy was the most boring one.) I will say that for very small kids, the wolves might be a little scary and the battle scenes are pretty intense, but overall, kids and adults will be able to enjoy it (if they can sit through two hours and twenty minutes of running time…which goes quickly in this fairly fast paced flick.) If the box office is kind to it, maybe we will see the other six books in Lewis’s Chronicles series. I certainly wouldn’t mind it.
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