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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The WardrobeMovie Review
by Bertha Chin
Genre: Fantasy / Action / Adventure
Director: Andrew Adamson
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton.
We are led into the frozen world of Narnia through four children -- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie -- who were sent to live with a mysterious professor (Jim Broadbent) in the English countryside during the London Blitz. While playing hide and seek in the old mansion, Lucy (Georgie Henley) discovers an empty room with a large wardrobe and proceeds to hide in it, stumbling out of the back of the wardrobe in the process and encountering Mr. Tumnus, the faun (James McAvoy). Welcomed as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, Lucy, and later, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), find themselves embroiled in a battle of good versus evil to overthrow the tyranny of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), bringing an end to the hundred-year winter and restore Christmas to the land of Narnia. With the aid of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French) and various talking animals along the way, the children are brought to Aslan, the great lion (voiced by Liam Neeson), who created the world of Narnia and who is now gathering an army to battle for the reclamation of the land.
It is tempting to compare the universe of Narnia to that of Tolkien's Middle Earth -- C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends and members of the literary group The Inklings while in Oxford; both literary universes featured an array of different races of mythical creatures such as fauns, centaurs, dwarfs and elves; and both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first instalment of the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed in New Zealand, universally associated as Middle Earth by fans of Peter Jackson's mega-successful trilogy that graced cinema screens for three Christmases from 2001 to 2003.
However, comparisons should end there. Tolkien's universe is far more complex and Frodo's quest to destroy the ring a much more dismal journey. Lewis's tale, while it contains betrayal, is as much about love, forgiveness, and resurrection -- allegories of Christianity, as some critics claimed, particularly for those familiar with the references. (Aslan is clearly a Christ-like figure who sacrifices his own life to save another, while the children are continuously referred to as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.) Christian allegories aside, the Chronicles of Narnia is also a rich fairytale of sorts for children (and adults) who were already familiar with the worlds of Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter way before Harry Potter graced the consciousness of the public.
And the film, helmed by New Zealander Andrew Adamson (of Shrek and Shrek 2 fame), successfully brings the world of Narnia to life. The stunning visuals of New Zealand (and Prague) sequester the audience's imagination into the world of Narnia, where one gets swept into the plight of the children to help Aslan and the various inhabitants of Narnia. Tilda Swinton sizzles as the conniving White Witch, and commendation must definitely be paid to Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy Pevensie with aching beauty. Save for Anna Popplewell, who plays Susan Pevensie, none of the other children are professional actors, but their inexperience hardly shows in a film that requires the children to interact with blue screens and animal puppets half of the time.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is director Adamson's first live-action film. While he manages to put together a stellar cast featuring some of the cream of British talents as well as introducing a group of unknown child actors, the final battle scene lacks the pace and impact of an epic battle the viewer is now familiar with, with the introduction of Peter Jackson's filmmaking talents to the world of international cinema.
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