So the sequel has finally arrived in theatres, eh?
I'll probably wait until Prince Caspian comes out on DVD. ;-D
When the original came out I had the opportunity to attend a free screening of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, at the AMC Theatre, at The Block of Orange.
All across the country Christian Churches were buying up whole screenings so that their parishners, and members of the community at large could see the film.
One such church was Elements Church, an Assembly of God Affiliated Congregation known as The Church at the Block.
It bought over 400 tickets for a showing one morning,, and aside from a brief introduction before the film, and a 5 minute "mini-sermon", with prayer, at the end, there was no discussion of the film, or attempt to thrust the Church into the filmgoers life.
I have never read any of the Narnia Books, but was aware of the Christian, or at least religious, themes of the series.
I am not the most religious of people, but do enjoy a good religiously themed film, and the occasional book.
From what I understand the books were not published in Chronological order of the events they tell about and, "If you're going to read them, the correct order is as follows: 1) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, 2) Prince Caspian, 3)The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 4) The Silver Chair, 5) The Horse and His Boy, 6) The Magician's Nephew, and 7) The Last Battle."
It seems that what order to read them is controversial to many.
Some say that reading them Chronologically...
1. The Magician's Nephew; 2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; 3. The Horse and His Boy; 4. Prince Caspian; 5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; 6. The Silver Chair; 7. The Last Battle.
... "makes the books more strictly allegorical than they really were intended to be, and gives the impression that they are an extended allegory rather than incidental allusions."
I'll leave that to folks who have read them to squabble over as you can discover by reading the excellent book reviews on Amazon, and other sites.
Being a fan of Fantasy Films, and expecting this one to be a quality production of the genre, I looked forward to seeing it.
What follows is what I thought at the time, and my opinion has not changed after future viewings:
Unifomally quite good, especially Swindon as the Witch, and the 2 Boys.
The youngest child actor only had to run around smiling at everything she encountered, cry a few times, and then spoil the reality of the effects of w ( Ah, but I'll get to that ).
The other human actors made little impression in their moments on screen:
The loving Mom, the Housekeeper with a "Thorn up her Ass" attitude, and the Absent-minded Prof who, in the end, maybe knows more than he lets on.
The actor who played the Witches dwarf lacky was a hoot.
The Actor who played Santa was not playing him as the Jolly Ol' Elf, and that's a good thing.
The Animals, and the actors who played/voiced them?
All the main animal characters were realistically drawn, and given voices, and personalities, that kept you interested, and entertained.
The actor who plays the pivital character Fawn was quite good.
The bickering, though loving, Beavers were a hoot, and the wolves suitably menacing.
Aslan, the Lion was suitably mysterious, commanding, and royal.
The other animal characters, of a fantasy nature, were well drawn, and adequate to their various parts in the film, mostly as soldiers, and camp follwers.
The Effects, and Cinematography?
Impressive, and beautifully done.
The landscapes were beautiful to behold.
The rendering of various unfortunate characters turned into frozen Gargolyles by the witch lent a sense of menace to the proceedings.
The Climactic Battle was as violently hectic, and impressively staged as any Fantasy, or Medieval, battle ever filmed, though bloodless ( By that I mean that this wasn't Braveheart, Gladiator, or the Lord of the Rings films. ).
Fans of the books, like with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, know what's going to happen, and have various expectations, and for the most part people seem satisfied with the result as presented.
Those inclined to see the religious elements see them in spades, and will spend hours happily talking them up in Church, and on Blogs, and online forums.
For people like me, though, various things, in the end, detracted from total appreciation of the whole.
Keeping all the actors grounded in the world of 1940's England, through accents, and cultural touches was a pleasant suprise since a lot of times Americn Filmmakers will Americanize things ( Think Lord of the Flies, for one example ), sometimes to the detriment of the material.
The opening sequence of the Blitz was impressive, and set the stage for why the kids were sent out of town for their own safety.
The beginning of the film set up quite well the conficts amongst the siblings, telegraphing to the unfamiliar that Edmund was going to be a problem.
The inital discovery of the secret of the Wardrobe by little Lucy was suitably full of mystery, and wonder, and the sequence where the Fawn plays his Flute has some nice halucinatory effects.
The handling of the doubt by the other children re-enfored the turmoil among them.
Edmonds encounter with the witch, and seduction into betrayal, was well handled.
The scene with Santa was meant to be a solemn moment that moved the plot into the realm of the more menacing, by giving the kids more of an inkling that something else is going on here than they understand.
I wish they'd been less in awe of the moment, and had asked more questions, and that Lucy would stop with that silly smile.
The continuing duplicity by Edmund ( Quick! Someone tell him sweets are bad for your teeth! ), then his growing realization that he was being used, and his eventual rescue, and re-uniting with his siblings were nicely handled.
The chase, and battle with the wolves, was menacing, and thrilling, yes, but since even us folks who never read the books know the kids survive, the suspense is lost.
The 1st encounter with Aslan was appropriately regal, and awe inspiring, and the initial encounter between the witch, and Aslan full of a controlled sense of menace.
What happened next is at the heart of the many religious aspects of the book, and is the 3rd of the 4 religious themes introduced into the film ( Edmunds temptation being the 1st, his forgiveness the 2nd, and his redemption in battle being the 4th. ).
From the "disciples" walking with the "Christ-like" figure before he goes on alone to meet his destiny, to the Christ-like death, and mystical ressurection this was all powerfully, though obviously, rendered.
What happened to Aslan would upset PETA no end, "in service of the story" be damned. ;-D
In my opinion the ultimate pay-off of this part was diluted by the needs of the plot.
We are made to wait for the "resurrection" because there's a battle to stage.
When we get the explanation for the return of Aslan all I could think was...
Well, SHIT! If those 2 sniveling girls hadn't draped themselves all over his dead carcass for most of the night, and half the morning, the ressurection could have happened soon enough to save everyone all the pain, and violence of a big-assed, hours long, battle!
Then, after everyone gets hacked to pieces, or severely wounded, and the battle is won, Lucy drops a bit of potion on the wounded Edmund, and, it's implied, everyone in sight, and all's well again.
Except for some unlucky fighters on the other end of the witches sword the effects of violence in battle are seemingly reversed.
The kids are crowned, get cool nicknames, and grow into young Adults, happily ruling their new kingdoms, memories of their parents, and the Blitz, all seemingly forgotten, until a fortuitous route choice for a horseback ride leads them back to the other side of the wardrobe, and their old lives.
A nice setting of the stage, regardless, for the innevitable 2nd film.
Overall, I'd give this film a strong 3 1/2 out of 5 Stars.