Sunday, November 27, 2005

A movie for all ages...

WHEN news came through that a film of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was planned, many must have dismissed the idea as eccentric.

In this age of Harry Potter, and the atheist children's author Philip Pullman, surely C.S. Lewis was quaint, old-fashioned and too closely associated with Christianity to work in this climate?

How could a tale of London war-time evacuee children, a magical wardrobe, a terrifying witch and a lion who serves as a metaphor for Christ translate to an epic film that would take on the other major franchises?

But then, another epic from another crusty Oxford University figure of the 1950s -- J.R.R. Tolkien -- hasn't done badly.

And if this amazing film is anything to go by, C.S. Lewis is about to enjoy a similarly spectacular and well-deserved revival.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a wonderful, colossal film that should entertain people of any age, nationality or religion.

It is not merely a "must-see" but a "must-see again and again". As a film critic of many years, I've given it five out of five. If I could give it six out of five, I would.

Not only does it do full justice to Lewis's classic fantasy, it improves on it and gives a more sophisticated sense of humour.

Above all, there's a spectacular sense of scale that turns the children's saga into a worthy successor to The Lord of the Rings.

Even the Christian subtext of Lewis's book is handled with taste and sensitivity.

Though shot in New Zealand by a US-based director, it remains lovingly true to its British background.

With only a few weeks to go until the end of 2005, I was certain Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit would be carrying off my plaudits as Film of the Year.

But now I have seen this beautiful epic, I would have to give Narnia the award.

The script sticks amazingly -- religiously -- close to Lewis's novel.

The four Pevensie children are sent from London as Blitz evacuees to the rambling country house of the mysterious, eccentric, but benevolent Prof Kirke (Jim Broadbent).

Peter (William Moseley) is the oldest, but his authority is disputed by his stroppy younger brother Edmund. Peter's somewhat priggish sister Susan regards herself as a more responsible guardian of their small sister Lucy. It is Lucy who, in a game of hide-and-seek, discovers that a huge Jacobean wardrobe on the top floor contains more than merely coats and mothballs.

"It's an awfully big wardrobe," she comments in a masterpiece of English understatement as she stumbles out of its back and into the enchanted landscape of Narnia. The White Witch (Tilda Swinton) has ruled the land for a winter lasting 100 years.

Director Andrew Adamson proves not only a master of effects and animation -- that may be expected of the director of Shrek and Shrek 2 -- but an accomplished director of children.

The quality of the four young leads is exceptional -- light years ahead of the Harry Potter cast. They make an utterly convincing and captivating family and provide marvellous depth to characters that were sketchy in Lewis's original.

Even their comic timing is impeccable, as when Peter resists the responsibility of saving Narnia from the White Witch by objecting, "We're not heroes".

The direction is a delight in both its sweep and detail, as when the White Witch casually torches a passing butterfly and turns it to stone without bothering to watch it plummet to earth.

Tilda Swinton must be singled out for her cold, cruel and commanding performance; Ray Winstone and Dawn French are hugely funny as the voices of Mr and Mrs Beaver (two of many animated triumphs); Liam Neeson is impeccably leonine as the voice of the kind, but powerful Aslan.

Despite the long running time (more than two hours) I would recommend Narnia even for small children. Whatever your age, this is a magical movie and far classier and more imaginative than I dared to hope.

More importantly, expect your heart and the hearts of your children to soar.

-Herald Sun


  • I'm going to love that movie! I throughly enjoyed the books when I read them a couple years ago. I hope they make the rest of the movies in the series!!

    By Blogger Lindsey, at 8:55 PM  

  • I hope his other work gets recognition during this hype. I just published a good C.S. Lewis bibliography on my blog.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 11:22 PM  

  • I'm going to the midnight premiere at he Cinerama in Seattle. It'll be sweet.

    Although, I disagree with the Sun's reporter. How could anyone think that a Narnia movie would be eccentric after the triple Middle Earth blockbusters?

    By Blogger Rabenstrange, at 1:38 AM  

  • I am really looking forward to this movie! As Lindsey said, the books were really great and I loved reading them!
    That's true though, with the success of the LOTR trilogy, it does make one wonder why they would doubt the Narnia series.

    By Blogger Sara, at 12:23 AM  

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