By JANE WILSON,Special To The Bulletin | Published December 15, 2005
Gorgeous, thrilling, imaginative, touching: these are all words that can be used to describe the new film version of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”
Directed by Andrew Adamson, the film is based on the classic novel by C.S. Lewis and follows the exploits of the four Pevensie children as they journey through the magical kingdom of Narnia. The movie begins as the four siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—flee London to escape the bombings of the blitz during World War II. They must leave their mother to live with a reclusive professor on his estate in the country. While there, they discover the portal to Narnia through an old wardrobe in a deserted room in the house. Narnia, they find, has been enchanted by an evil witch and has suffered through 100 years of winter. As the children are swept up in the struggle to free Narnia and its inhabitants from the tyranny of the white witch, they face danger from both the physical world and their own fears and disillusionments.
Often considered a Christian allegory, the story contains, but is not overpowered by, elements that could be considered religious. Most notable is the character of Aslan, considered the true king of Narnia. He has been gone from the kingdom for a long time, but his prophesized return has been a source of hope and solace for the good creatures of Narnia throughout their long winter. When he does return, he is considered a source of wisdom and strength. Aslan has the ability to return those frozen by the white witch to their living forms, and he must sacrifice his own life in order to save others, which ultimately results in his resurrection. Tellingly, he speaks of a “deep power” that controls the destiny of all creatures, even his own.
At its core, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is a story of the battle between good and evil. It demonstrates how attractive the forces of evil can appear to the unsuspecting and how tyranny can force even good creatures to do despicable things. As they make their way in Narnia, the four children learn important lessons on the importance of truth, bravery, tolerance and loyalty.
In addition to teaching lessons, however, the film is also extremely entertaining. The relationships between the children and their friends are touching without being overly sentimental. Each of the actors does a fine job, but Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund are standouts in the most challenging of the children’s roles. Lucy’s scenes with her friend Mr. Tumnus, the faun (James McAvoy showing just the right combination of humor, cunning and distress), are especially charming and poignant. The movie also contains many moments of humor, many of them provided by the children’s guides through the forest, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French.
Portraying a land inhabited by a variety of creatures foreign to the children, including fauns, centaurs and talking animals, where humans are so rare they are thought to be mythical, offers a variety of technical challenges. For the most part, the creators of the film have done an amazing job bringing C.S. Lewis’s world to life. The scenery, in particular, is realized in beautiful detail, especially the scenes in the frozen forest. The creatures are also rendered believably, with the possible exception of the scene at Aslan’s sacrifice, at which the followers of the white witch appear stiff and overly choreographed as they celebrate her triumph. The white witch herself is a force to be reckoned with, however. Played by Tilda Swinton, she is both beautiful and horrible, with an amazing wardrobe and a chilling demeanor that entirely fits her icy environment.
The principal battle scene is a fitting climax to the story, as the army representing the forces of good faces off against the witch’s evil followers. Though on a smaller scale, this battle is reminiscent of the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a contemporary of Lewis). The armies, led by a witch in a chariot pulled by polar bears and a king on a snow-white unicorn, are populated by leopards, rhinoceroses, minotaurs, wolves and even a phoenix. As the children are forced to quite literally brave their demons and fight for a belief bigger than their own solitary destinies, Adamson is able to draw parallels to the battles being fought and sacrifices being made back in Europe during the Second World War.
Apart from a few scenes that might be frightening for the youngest children, the film is extremely family friendly. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” seems to offer something for everyone—adventure, humanity and humor—on a large scale. It is a heart-warming holiday film that will not fail to entertain.
Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.