December 09, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia - a Review

I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe today. I was impressed, they did a great job and were very faithful to the book. They spiced up some of the action scenes to make it a bit more scary when the children and beavers were fleeing the beavers' home with the wolves on their heels (the wolves actually had run ahead of them in the book to cut them off at the Stone Table). That and a few minor modifications to dialog were about all I could see different between the book and the movie.

The casting was excellent, all the children were very closely cast to how I had already pictured them in my imagination while reading the book. The scene with Lucy and Tumnus was pure beauty, even better than I had imagined it before, and I will appreciate that chapter from the book in a whole new light with the images from that scene in my mind.

Acting was good, though I believe the best perfomances were by Peter and Lucy. Edmund and Susan came off a little stiff, though not enough to ruin the movie. Aslan was portrayed really well. I was afraid in advance that he might look too much like a puppet or stuffed toy, but that was not the case at all. He looked real, and the voice-over (Liam Neeson's voice) was superb.

The plot and drama of the story were well-presented even if the movie devotes much more attention to the last battle than the book did. The book certainly makes clear that the battle began before Aslan arrived on the battlefield in his post-resurrection state, so the movie is simply emphasizing what went on at the battlefield rather than Susan's and Lucy's romp on Aslan's back to the castle to resuscitate the witch's past victims. When Aslan finally arrives, Peter is fighting the witch, who has had her wand knocked away (book) or destroyed (movie) by Edmund. So it's merely an effect of emphasizing a different detail while remaining true to the book.

And of course, there's the famous scene of the Stone Table. I'm sure this scene is the sole reason for the PG rating rather than a simple G, as it is much more graphic than the rest of the movie, with its portrayal of the witches evil minions, who mock and harass Aslan as he approaches his fate. The movie is tamer in his treatment than I imagined the scene as I read the book, but I'm sure Walden and Disney did not want to over-emphasize the violence of this scene. Aslan is hit, mocked, and shaved - all shown. The witch says her last words to him and kills him with her knife, but that last blow is not shown in graphic detail, just the motion of her arm from above, with Aslan's body below the bottom of the screen. However, when the full screen shot is in view, and later when the girls appear, he is clearly shown to have died.

A strange image came through my mind when Aslan was talking with the witch about Edmund and his fate. Instead of thinking about Jesus and His atonement for us, the image of Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin (from Genesis) came into my mind - how Judah pleaded for Benjamin's life before Joseph (who Judah did not recognize at the time, as Joseph was living as an Egyptian then). Joseph had demanded that his brothers return to Canaan without their youngest brother, and Judah offered to stay behind in his place. Of course, this event was a sign of Christ offering Himself up in our place, as was Aslan's act of offering himself up for Edmund.

One image right at the end of the movie was a real nice touch, pointing to another book of the Chronicles, The Magician's Nephew. When the children emerge from the wardrobe, the Professor meets them and asks what they were doing in there. Peter says, "You wouldn't believe us if we told you", whereupon the Professor tosses him an apple and says with a smile "Try me!" Readers of that other story will know the significance of that apple and the Professor.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at December 9, 2005 11:01 PM

Thanks for the review! I look forward to seeing it myself.

Posted by: Jason at December 12, 2005 09:19 PM

Hopefully, I will be able to finally get to see this film on Monday. I really look forward to it!

Posted by: Susan B. at December 24, 2005 12:36 PM