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

Director: Andrew Adamson
With: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes

Runtime: 140 mins

I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to this big-screen outing of one of my childhood favourites. Having been slightly mystified by the success of a certain hobbit, I was afraid that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would turn out to just be LOTR-lite, an easy opportunity to foist another hundredweight of filthy orcs upon us. It’s nice when a film surpasses your expectations.

LWW isn’t just another sword and sorcery epic. Yes, there are huge battles and mythical creatures, but by constantly keeping the focus on the Pevensie children, allowing us to see Narnia through their eyes, Adamson ensures that the bizarre creatures and places never become humdrum. While LOTR suffered from taking itself too seriously, in LWW whenever things start to get a little overblown, they are swiftly punctured by a self-aware aside (“We’re not heroes, we’re from Finchley!”) Neither is too much made of the Christian analogies of the books. For a film promoted by the Church of England (Manchester Cathedral recently held an Aslan Worship ceremony – I’m not lying…) there is surprisingly little evangelism. Adamson has managed to capture the charm and magic of the books and successfully present it on a huge scale.

In this he is greatly aided by some excellent casting. The four children are played by unknown young British actors who are refreshingly talented. Special mention must go to Georgie Henley who, despite being the youngest of the four, is very much the centre of the story, but who deals with the position marvellously. They are supported by an excellent cast of stalwarts, both in voice (Ray Winstone, Dawn French and Liam Neeson) and in person (the chilling Tilda Swinton as the White Witch). Without doubt, however, this film’s major triumph lies in the fact that these performances are not overshadowed by the phenomenal makeup and SFX on show. Lions, tigers and bears (oh my…) but also centaurs, minotaurs, fauns and unicorns are on show and, unusually in this age of CGI, mostly done by the use of animatronics and prosthetics.

There are also a few points in this film that jar, though. The talking animals can sometimes be slightly too caricatured and, while in general the CGI is effective, it falls flat in its most important task. Aslan is one of the most important parts of this film (along with the Witch and the Wardrobe), but in making him look so true to life, the designers have made him rather unemotive and one-dimensional. This isn’t a major problem as all he has to do is stand around looking noble, but it does make it rather difficult to empathise with him.

But these are simply problems which arise with all big movies and none of them spoil the story in the slightest. This is a perfect Christmas blockbuster with even a cameo from the man himself, Father Christmas. A must-see.