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Film Review: Swinton’s White Witch saves Narnia flick from Disney mediocrity mill

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

6 out of 10
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)

If only I were 30 years younger, I’d probably adore this film.

First of all for the avid C.S. Lewis fans, rest assured, that by far this is the best film adaptation of this book ever, it easily eclipses previous TV versions filmed in 1967, 1979 and 1988.

For non-fans of C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (LWW), is a nice little family film that at times is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, but without its touches of masterpiece. Also unlike the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this Narnia film has slow parts that some viewers may find utterly boring.

And to put one so-called controversy to rest for good. There has been a lot of hype in the media about this film’s Christian overtones. Sure they are there as broad themes – but that’s it. No where in the film are the words “God” or “Jesus” spoken.

I’m suspecting that the PR people at Disney created this controversy to get media attention away from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – which is a better movie, by the way.

But back to this film. Ever since the first teaser previews started appearing in theatres for this film, I was caught up like many others in anticipation of this film. After having seen it, I can say it was well worth the ticket price, but I’m not sure I’ll be buying the DVD when it comes out.

I think the main flaw with this version of LWW is that I am an adult and at its heart, this is a Disney film. When a hero kills a villain with a sword and is told to clean it, I expect to see blood on it – or at least some consequence of the violent act.

As an adult without children, this film was just too sanitized. The violent deaths and blood and … realistic consequences to deadly action happen off camera. That’s OK in many cases. There really is no need to show blood and gore for blood and gore’s sake in a movie like this.

But in this case, I think the film makers went a little overboard. It has been so scrubbed clean … it verges on being boring. And with some of the best special effects, wonderful acting and gorgeous scenery – that was a hard thing to do. But somehow, the makers of this film turned what should have been a blockbuster into something merely OK. Too bad.

Despite that, I found some parts of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to be brilliant, including:

  • Direction by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, Shrek 2). Here Adamson uses his skills honed in 3-D animation to perfection. He also knows enough to play up the comedic parts of what could have become a preachy film.
  • The computer-generated animals. It is amazing how far this technology has progressed. The animals actually look and act like real animals. I was astonished at the realism and how seamlessly the live actors blended in with what are basically high-tech cartoons.
  • Tilda Swinton (Constantine, Vanilla Sky, Orlando) as the “White Witch.” With this performance, we see one of the best villains to appear on screen in the past decade … or longer. Swinton’s witch is pure evil in a befittingly original and chilling way. You actually believe that she is capable of doing the acts she does in this film.
  • The two youngest cast members, Georgie Henley as “Lucy” and Skandar Keynes as “Edmund” shine. These two, and Swinton carry this movie. They saved this show from the mediocrity the producers seemed hellbent to create.

Overall: 6 out of 10
MPAA Rating: PG
Sex: None.
Violence: Fantasy violence. Unrealistic consequences to violent behavior.
Special Effects: Excellent
Other: Definitely a children’s film.

Tilda Swinton … White Witch
Jim Broadbent … Professor Kirke
Georgie Henley … Lucy Pevensie
Skandar Keynes … Edmund Pevensie
William Moseley … Peter Pevensie
Anna Popplewell … Susan Pevensie
James McAvoy … Mr. Tumnus
Liam Neeson … Aslan (voice)
Ray Winstone … Mr. Beaver (voice)
Dawn French … Mrs. Beaver (voice)
Rupert Everett … Fox (voice)

David Speakman

David Speakman has spent more than two decades as a writer/editor, photographer, graphic designer and manager of creative teams in broadcast, print and the Internet. His education is in journalism, graphic design, organizational communication and law.

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