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Gavin Greig [userpic]

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

December 10th, 2005 (10:12 pm)

I remember lying in bed at the age of six or (more probably) seven, reading The Last Battle, then turning the page to come across Pauline Baynes' first illustration of Tash. I was terrified, and burst out crying.

Despite that, The Chronicles of Narnia were the books that initially interested me in fantasy fiction and later led to my involvement in roleplaying. The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the works of Alan Garner confirmed that interest, but it was C.S. Lewis that started it for me.

Having said that, The Chronicles of Narnia clearly have a lot of baggage. I didn't notice or care when I was seven, and I don't care now. Reading and enjoying the Chronicles of Narnia will not save/corrupt you (depending on your point of view) and the people who get all worked up - in either direction - about C.S. Lewis's intentions and/or prejudices in writing the books would do better to find something important to worry about. They're just fairy tales, people, and there are counter-arguments to every argument about them. I don't know which version is actually "true", and I don't think it's important. Get over it.

So, was the film any good?

It started quite well, with a Luftwaffe bombing raid over London, which did a good job of showing why the Pevensey children were being evacuated. However, there was also a hint of things to come, with the character of Edmund running back into the house to rescue a photograph of his father. A bit Hollywood, I'm afraid.

It was fairly faithful to the book, but departed from it in a few places, and generally by adding action scenes where, in my opinion, tension would have been more effective. This was most notable in the flight from the beavers' house, where numerous changes were made to make the chase more exciting. These included the introduction of an escape tunnel, new characters, and a completely gratuitous sequence with a melting waterfall and ice-floes.

The acting was fair, though I wasn't always entirely convinced, and there were some accent oddities - Mrs. Macready sounded more Irish than Scots, Maugrim was American for some reason when no-one else sounds like it, and although Liam Neeson's voice is pretty good for Aslan in terms of its general qualities, again the Irish accent didn't sound quite right. Ray Winstone is very recognisably Ray Winstone as Mr. Beaver.

The film didn't grip me early on, but I did find it improving towards the end. Tilda Swinton was probably the best character throughout as the White Witch, but even she notably improved once she was able to cast aside any subtlety and go Boadicea.

One bit that does seem to have been notably well handled was the death of Aslan. I was surprised by how powerful the scene was for a childrens' movie, and I could hear several people (ages unknown) crying in the cinema. That's pretty unusual, in my experience.

Although a small thing, I was also pleased to see quite a brave portrayal of Father Christmas in autumn colours, rather than red and white. I think it was the right choice for a more credible movie, but I do wonder whether children unfamiliar with the story would understand who the old beardy bloke handing out presents was. There were fairly strong hints in dialogue, but I don't think it was ever explicitly stated who he was.

On the whole the effects are as good as you would expect, but there are a few points where they let the movie down a bit. The talking animals were mostly good, but they don't seem to have got the canine characters right; both wolves and foxes looked a bit cartoony.

The battle scenes, even though they're in the book, feel a bit like they're there in order to show off what can be done. However, watch out for the interesting tactical deployment of a phœnix. For no very good reason, I also enjoyed seeing the White Witch's polar-bear-drawn chariot.

It's an OK movie. It has better acting and effects than the BBC adaptation, but is less faithful to the books. I wish it lived up to my hopes in the way that the movies of The Lord of the Rings did, but it doesn't.

Comments

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: December 11th, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC)
Conrad

Liam Neeson's voice is pretty good for Aslan in terms of its general qualities, again the Irish accent didn't sound quite right.

Perhaps a nod to the author also being from N Ireland?
Similarly, I'd have thought Mrs McCready (or however one spells it), from her name, was also more likely to be Irish.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: December 11th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC)

I guess I'm influenced in my views on Mrs. Macready by the BBC version, in which she was Scottish.

Aslan, however, is one of these roles in which, Scot though I may be, I expect to hear a posh English voice as the voice of authority. When I analyse it, that's a bit sad, but it's true nonetheless.

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: December 12th, 2005 03:11 pm (UTC)
Conrad

I do love Pauline Baynes's illustrations. The Magician's Nephew was the first of the books I read at primary school, and I fell in love with Jadis in her Queen of Charn regalia.

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