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:Movie Reviews

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Directed by Andrew Adamson
From the novel by C.S. Lewis
screenplay by
Ann Peacock
Alex Hillman

It being almost Christmas and all I was encouraged on Thursday to go and see the most recent incarnation of the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. I can’t say I was particularly looking forward to it – the stuffy side of me was inclined to think that, this being a kids’ film, there was not a whole lot in it of interest to me. However, it turns out I was mostly wrong.

Most people know the story of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, though I will regale you with the details just in case you are one of the few who don’t – essentially the story is based around four children; Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan Pevensie, and their adventures in a mysterious place known as Narnia, which houses an array of interesting characters, most notably, a White Witch and a lion called Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson). The children develop a fascination with the place and eventually become embroiled both with the characters and situations that are developing in Narnia.

There was a lot that was exceedingly good in this film – most notably the performances from the central four characters, played by Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell and, especially, ten year old Georgie Henley, who captured the wide-eyed wonder of a little girl faced with such a place as Narnia perfectly. As she says, "It is quite tiring and it was a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone is doing everything they can to help, so it's cool." Well it would appear that it has paid off.

Tilda Swinton, as the White Witch, also gives a watchable and enjoyable performance (even if everyone thought they were watching Cate Blanchett) and clearly relishes the chance to play an entirely evil character without any subtext whatsoever. Her cold steely gaze is effectively unnerving and no doubt will scare children all over the country! Her iciness contrasts well with the warmth and fatherliness of Aslan, the lion of the title who gives the film (and the story) a comfortable warm presence of trust and loyalty. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aslan soft toys are gracing the shelves of Woolworth’s as I write these very words. The added factor of voice work by Liam Neeson is especially effective.

Other effective voice work includes that of the fox, voiced by Rupert Everett, who essentially acts as a sympathetic martyr to the cause, and the comic relief in the shape of Mr and Mrs Beaver, voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French who provide light entertainment at times of crisis.

I feel it necessary to also give credit to those in charge of special effects for this film as they were, mostly, superb. The entrance from the wardrobe to Narnia, with its snowy pines and mysterious creatures, was magical and enthralling, the characters in Narnia (often based around leopards, bison etc.) were all fantastic and the battle scenes, some of which perhaps a little scary for younger children, were excellent.

If I had one criticism it would be that everything seems a little too rushed. To condense The Chronicles of Narnia into a film is a tough challenge, and it does show. The development of the characters, especially Peter’s (from a young war-time boy to a fully fledged knight) seems incredibly quick and a tad unbelievable, but this is essentially a minor criticism of what is basically a very accomplished family film, though not one I’d recommend for young children.
© Alex Hillman December 2005

Alex recently appeared as Cook and White Rabbit in a musical version of Alice of Wonderland at the University of Portsmouth and will be again taking up the role in the New year when it transfers to the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth.

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