Sunday, December 18, 2005

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

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Warddrobe

This is a DUAL REVIEW, yay! Why? Because I went to see the movie last week, and then got home and pulled out my copy of the book. Only I'm posting it in two peices.

The film first:
I really, really hate to say this, but I was almost a little dissapointed. You see, my problem with films that are either based on books, or have been made before, is that they need to give me something NEW or I'll just feel like if you see the same play thirty times, with the same sets and director but different actors.

It's just not that compelling, and when you want so badly for it to be amazing, then that causes a little pang. That's what happened here. I know it's not their FAULT entirely that I've been obssessed with this story for years. It's not their problem that I've read the book too many times, and that I've seen the BBC Miniseries several times.

So really, here's a list of pros and cons. First, the pros were obviously, and wholeheartedly, the CGI. It was really brilliant, as advertised, and only a few times did I say "Eeeh, that really needed something better."

There's a story going around that Lewis didn't want the story adapted to a movie because he thought the animals would look ridiculous. In the BBC version, he was really right. The beavers were terrible, as were most of the "animated" things. But this new shiney version? Spot on. All the way down to the way the cats and wolves moved (yes, I know some where real).

The biggest plus was Aslan himself. You see, I said from the beginning that the crucial point for me was going to be Aslan, as I'm a bit of a crazy lion aficianado. The reason that, despite it's shortcomings, I like the old miniseries is because their animatronic Aslan was actually pretty darn good, and made me want to scritch behind his ears.

This Aslan though, went beyond the idea of a "cartoon lion" and was practically a real lion. He very much fit the phrase "not a tame lion." The thing I have to suck up and realize is that lions will never look "right" talking in human speech. Their faces aren't made for it. What Disney did, in both The Lion King and this installment of Narnia, worked out well, but still felt off once in a while.

But there's one moment that for me really sealed the fact that this film felt like it really happened: as they're going to the Stone Table at night, Lucy reaches up to Aslan's mane and his ear, ever so quickly, flicks back. Why does this little movement really blow me away? Because it's the kind of tiny little detail that reminds me of my cat, or of the nature documentaries.

So the movie was beautiful. The film also did a very good job with Edmund, who could have come off much, much worse. But in the end, you really felt his remorse and redemtion. I also really liked Mr. Tumnus. The Witch scared the wits out of me, and really did look ethereal, unhuman, and really wicked. Especially in the final battle.

Which brings me to the cons, and it's a big con. The film was violent, massively so. There were so many things that should not have been in a PG movie, let alone didn't need to be in THIS story itself. The bombings in the beginning? I'm fine with that, because most children these days won't understand the context of the kids being shipped off.

But one of the things I remembered most about the book and the story was that people were turned into stone by the witch, and later revived by Aslan. In the battle, most of the people fell by being turned to stone, and many of the wounded were treated by Lucy. You see, I'm a sucker, I don't think there needs to be massive death on both sides for me to find a battle effective or dramatic.

Lots of the moments in battle, I had no problems with. But there were many, many things that I thought just didn't need to be there, and that fault I lie directly at the feet of a director who openly said that he felt Lewis glossed over too many things. If you want to make a children's film, make a children's film. If you want to make an action movie, do it, but don't try to mix the two.

Aslan's death was done well. The Witch's was not. All we needed was the lion flying through the air at her and knocking her off the screen, and if we get her body lying there later, fine. But instead she's knocked barely off screen and we see Aslan rear back, teeth bared, and lung at what would be the area of her throat, though she's just not quite visable enough to be sure.

I for one never really wanted to think about Aslan as the type of lion who rips people's throats out. It wasn't neccesary, and that's the gist of it. About half the violence in the film was needed for the message, the other half wasn't. This movie was for children, this story has always been for children, and having smaller animals brutally killed by minotaurs doesn't really fit in. While on the one hand, you could argue with me that I'm being too prudish, I think that the telling aspect was that I personally was uncomfortable with it, when I have no history of caring about the violence in many films. I watched Serenity and cheered and cried and never once said it went too far, despite the fact that it did have much worse in it than Narnia ever could.

So in the end, I was and am very much on the fence when it comes to the film. I think the actors and animators all did wonderful jobs, I think the entire thing was gorgeous. I think Liam Neeson was a great Aslan, though I always imagined his voice deeper. I think the parts of the story they didn't include weren't vital, and the ones they did were the ones that needed to be there.

And yet I still can't muster myself up to be gung-ho excited about it, because there wasn't anything there that wasn't already there, except technology. And the opening sequence about the bombings of London, which in fact were the only part that made me cry.

Posting about the book next.

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