The Chronicles of Narnia encompasses a series of seven books penned by C.S Lewis. I had read the first of these series The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe collectively with my class in grade 7. It was no doubt a book filled with awe-inspiring scenes and situations that led us far away into an imaginary world; a world that I thought could not be replicated onto celluloid. BBC came out with a mini-series on the same books, and while they were a commendable series, they just did not click right. Till the movie version came out recently.
Andrew Adamson, who directed Shrek 2, directs the Chronicles of Narnia and while some may have questioned his foray into live action movie from an animated movie, I had a delightful time watching the movie. Those who hold these books to be sacred may not be quite yet satisfied with the treatment the book got on the big screen, but generally speaking, I think everyone will have a wonderful time.
The setting is WW2, where the four Pevensies children are relocated to the English countryside from London to escape the Blitz. Living with the “professor” at a rather large mansion proves boring for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, the youngest. During a game of hide and seek, Lucy stumbles upon a cloak covered wardrobe in the spare room. In an attempt to hide in the cupboard, she realizes that there is no back wall, and instead walks right into the snow filled world of Narnia.
She meets Mr. Tumnus, the fawn (human-goat), who explains to Lucy that the White Witch has control over Narnia, who has cast a spell of snow and ice for the last 100 years. Mr. Tumnus explains further that the arrival of four children, two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve, will help Aslan, the talking lion, and his army defeat the Witch and restore peace in Narnia. Lucy goes back, and convinces other about Narnia, and how they all come to Narnia, meet Aslan and defeat the White Witch forms the crux of the story.
As we all know, C.S Lewis was a great friend of J.R.R Tolkien, who had written The Lord of the Rings, and it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia. Some may see this movie as a family-friendly version of the Lord of the Rings. Narnia has all the ingredients that a fantasy epic would: grand scale epic settings, fawns, centaurs, mentaurs, flying horses, unicorn and an icy villain in the White Witch.
Lewis was also a devout Christian, and for those people who want to find it, will find Christian subtext in the movie. Aslan is Christ, who is killed and resurrected. The children are referred to as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. However, the Christian subtext is not hammered into you head. It is subtle enough for some of us to merely glance over, while glaringly obvious to those who want it to be there.
The acting is consistently performed by all the child actors. Their acting actually gets better as the movie moves along, evidence of the decision to shoot the movie sequentially. Peter, the eldest boy, and Susan, the second eldest were somewhat weaker. Edmund, the third child, is the rebellious one, and his character had shades of gray making his character more interesting. Finally, a lot depended on Lucy, because it is through her we enter Narnia. Lucy did a fine job, neither being irritating nor overly sentimental. Tilda Swinton, of The Beach fame, portrays the White Witch with much aplomb and glee. She is delightful, and scary, as the Witch, using her powers to lure in Edmund with Turkish delight, and to turn others into icy stone.
Finally, I have to say that CG effects had me fooled this time. Aslan, the lion, voiced by Liam Neeson had so much grace, dignity and power. Half way through the movie, I had forgotten I was watching a CG-ed lion. The makers had me convinced that Aslan is a real lion. Save for a few shoddy CG work, over all, the movie has done a very commendable job of successfully integrating the effects into the movie, so they become a part of the movie and not stand out on its own. (The effects were done by the team in New Zealand, who also worked for The Lord of the Rings)
I enjoyed the movie immensely, primarily because I had read the book and so had fond memories of it. I am not sure however, if I will be the first in line to watch the sequels. Some may compare Narnia to The Lord of the Rings, but I think Narnia is solid enough to hold its own standing.