The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe

24 Nov

I picked The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to watch recently because I loved the book as a kid, I wanted something fantastical and fun, but I wasn’t in the mood for something overly challenging.  The thing is this movie is missing something, and I’m trying my hardest to put my finger on it.

Ok, the story is simple–a family of four children sent to the country during WWII because of the London blitz find a magical country in a wardrobe and save it.  The story is a bit heavy on the Christian allegory (particularly with Aslan) and the land of Narnia is trapped in a season that is always winter but never Christmas.   The main enemy is the white witch who sacrifices Aslan after Edmund proves himself to be a traitor.  Aslan rises from the dead and after a great battle the children and the lion win.

That’s a broad sketch of the story, but here’s the thing, the Disney version never gets beyond broad sketch, but let me start at the beginning.

Before they go to Narnia, actually this starts off to be a pretty good film.  The children are all good actors that don’t go for cuteness (which was one of my fears, Disney loves pushing cute), and there’s actual menace with their time in London, and the sibling rivalries play out well as they are bored in the house.  However, once they get to Narnia, most of this is swept to the wayside.

Oh and why, exactly, is Edmund such a jerk through most of the movie while the other kids are nearly perfect angels?  It’s frustrating.  I know it was similar in the book, but at least there I remember little moments where all the kids had failings even if they weren’t quite so bad as Edmund’s.  I almost started rooting for Edmund due to how much he was raked over the coals by nearly everybody for not being goody-goody and a bit simple minded.

My biggest issue with this movie is there’s a general lack of danger.   I don’t know exactly why, but at no point did I feel any sort of tension for what the characters were going through.  Even though I like Tilda Swinton, I felt like the White Witch was mostly irritated through the movie rather than being malevolent.  The CGI doesn’t help any, I can think of a few scenes where it was painfully clear the children were in some green-screen room talking to the wall rather than around living beings.  The fight with the wolf seemed to be about as tense as a kid smashing a pinata.

Even if we can’t have the risk, I also miss the sense of enchantment.  Outside of Tumnus’s house, the landscape is bland and barren.  Perhaps this was to show how the neverending winter was a bad thing, it nevertheless made Narnia seem much less magical and wonderous.  Outside Aslan and the Beavers, we don’t see the children interact with magical things very often at all.  Also, beyond their initial arrival in Narnia, the children seem pretty non-plussed to be in a magic land, and after a half-hearted discussion about maybe going back to their respective families, there’s no sense of separation anxiety either.

Weirdly, despite this being a long-ish movie, the action moves a little quickly.  All the scenes are really short–we don’t get a chance to really see much.  None of the travelling seems wide enough in scope, and all the battles end almost as quickly as they begin.  There seems to be a tour bus mentality with this movie, where we have to make all the stops so we can’t ever pause for very long.  This feel makes it hard for us to really connect to most of the characters.

I’m wondering if the CGI might have drained the human element out of this movie, because until they go to Narnia, there’s absolutely no problems with these issues.  And there are some good things, Lucy is a wonderful actress in particular, and the scene in the Beaver’s dam is funny and warm.  If only the rest of the film had more character!

In the end, I would say watch this if you love the series, if you have kids and don’t want to see something annoying, or if you want something inoffensive to watch with the family over the holidays, otherwise you can definitely give it a pass.

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