STARRING: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson (voice)

2005, 139 Minutes, Directed by: Andrew Adamson

If you were expecting Chronicles of Narnia to be the next Lord of the Rings as the trailers might have led you to believe, then the odds are quite good that you’d exit the movie theatre pretty much disappointed.

It should be remembered that Narnia is a Disney movie based on a rather thin children’s book written by an arch advocate of conservative Christianity, which is why you have a scene halfway thorough the movie in which Father Christmas pops out of nowhere to supply some young children with medieval weapons such as swords, bow & arrows, etc. (I suppose that the NRA probably also had a hand in the movie too.)

Whereas Peter Jackson transformed Tolkien’s rather genteel fantasy novels into a violent and morbid special effects extravaganza, director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) does nothing of the sort with C.S. Lewis’ popular children’s book. Adamson instead remains diligently true to the source material and even the much touted battle scene towards the end of the movie remains curiously bloodless in keeping with the tone of the rest of the movie.

"The problem is with the original Lewis novel: it remains a rather iffy story . . ."

It is World War II and four young children two brothers and two sisters are sent off to the English countryside to avoid London’s bombing by the Germans. They stay in the stately mansion belonging to an eccentric professor and during a game of hide ‘n’ seek the youngest child stumbles across a magical cupboard which somehow teleports whoever enters it to a fantastical kingdom where magic exist known as Narnia.

Narnia is however under the yoke of the oppressive Ice Queen (an effective Tilda Swinton who was born to play this role), but the appearance of the children galvanizes the kingdom’s inhabitants into rebellion. The rebellion is led by the Christ-like Aslan, a talking lion.

In addition to the talking lion we also have other talking animals (horses, beavers, foxes, etc.) as well as a host of other mystical creatures such as unicorns, Cyclopses, satyrs, and so forth. The evil Ice Queen’s carriage is towed by polar bears for instance and oh yeah, and did I mention Father Christmas?

Even if you weren’t expecting Narnia to be as good as Lord of the Rings, the movie is still somewhat disappointing. It all feels rather flat and lifeless. Adamson tries his best at bringing the material to life with state-of-the-art special effects, grand costume design, a rousing symphonic score, etc. but the problem remains with the original Lewis novel: it is a rather thin and iffy story with one-dimensional characters with which to fill a running time of almost two-and-and-half hours.

You may feel OK taking your children to see it (beware: some bits will scare smaller children though) but after the excellent Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and King Kong, Narnia comes a distant third when it comes to December 2005’s blockbuster fantasy offerings.


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