Well, here we are folks. This is the end of the “Flashback Reviews”. This means that I only have a couple more movie reviews to do and then I will be taking a break. But that is a ways off so lets get into this movie. Now I am an avid reader and I have mentioned that “The Lord Of The Rings” is my favorite series to read. As I am always open to suggestions for new books to read, my friend Paul had introduced me to several other series I might like, such as “The Pyrdain Chronicles”, “The Shannara Series”, and “The Chronicles Of Narnia”. Now any one of those would make for a great movie and, after the success of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Disney decided to do exactly that. Now Disney had tried doing the Pyrdain Chronicles in animated form back in the 80’s with The Black Cauldron, which didn’t quite work out. This time, they decided to try their hand at The Chronicles Of Narnia, but in a live action format. I will admit, my interest was definitely piqued and I was curious to see if Disney could do to The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe as Peter Jackson did with The Lord Of The Rings.
The plot: During the Blitz of World War II, the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) are running to their family’s bomb shelter with their mom. When Edmund races back into the house to grab a picture of their dad, Peter follows him to drag him back to the shelter, then admonishes him for being selfish and not doing what he is told. The next day, their mother sends them to Professor Digory Kirke’s house in the country, though Edmund is resentful about being forced to evacuate their home. After taking the train out of the city, the eventually reach the station they are supposed to be going to but find nobody there and they start to worry. Eventually, a woman driving a horse and buggy pulls up and when Peter asks if she is Mrs. Macready, she confirms it and they get in the cart. After driving to the professor’s home, Mrs. Macready tells them that Professor Kirke is not accustomed to dealing with children and tells them the rules they must follow. As the children try to think of something fun to do, Lucy suggests a game of hide and seek and pleads with Peter, who suddenly begins counting. Lucy, Edmund, and Susan all go and hide and as Lucy tries to find a spot, she enters a room and finds a large wardrobe covered by a sheet. Hearing Peter still counting, Lucy climbs into the wardrobe but as she backs up into the coats, she suddenly finds herself in a snow covered forest. Amazed at what she is seeing, Lucy wanders around the forest, eventually finding a lamppost in the middle of it. Hearing something moving around in the woods, Lucy screams when she sees a faun carrying an umbrella and some present approaching the lamppost, startling the faun into dropping his gifts. As Lucy goes to pick up his packages and hand them to him, the faun asks if she is a “Daughter of Eve” (human), and when Lucy says yes, he introduces himself as Mr. Tumnus and welcomes her to Narnia. Mr. Tumnus then invites her to have tea at his house and as they talk over tea, Mr. Tumnus plays her a song on his flute, which causes images to form in the fire that puts Lucy to sleep. As Mr. Tumnus finishes playing, he glances at the images in the fire when they suddenly change into a lion’s face, which roars and all of the flames are quickly snuffed out. Lucy wakes up and finds Mr. Tumnus crying and he tells her that the White Witch has cursed Narnia with an endless winter and she gave orders that if anyone finds a human, they are to bring them to her at once, which is why he had kidnapped her. When Lucy haltingly states that she thought they were friends, Mr. Tumnus decides he can’t go through with it and takes her back to the lamppost, telling her that he is glad to have met her. Lucy makes her way back to the wardrobe, thinking everyone will be worried, but discovers that almost no time has passed since she first entered Narnia. Lucy tries to tell her siblings about Narnia but Susan and Peter don’t believe her while Edmund teases her, causing Peter to scold him. That night, Lucy sneaks back into the room with the wardrobe, not realizing that Edmund sees her and follows after her. When Edmund enters Narnia, he calls out to Lucy as he wanders around and eventually encounters the White Witch, who drives up on her sleigh. The White Witch’s driver, Ginarrbrik, attacks Edmund and moves to kill him for disrespecting the White Witch but she stops him and begins to question Edmund. Edmund tells her that he has 3 siblings and Lucy had been here before and met Tumnus. Seeing Edmund shiver, the White Witch invites him to sit in her sleigh with her, using her magic to give him Turkish Delight and a drink. She then tells Edmund that she would like to meet the rest of his family, telling him she can make him king and they could be his servants and Edmund agrees to bring them to her. The White Witch leaves and Edmund encounters Lucy, who is excited to find him there and tells him that Mr. Tumnus is ok, as the White Witch doesn’t know she was there. Lucy and Edmund return and Lucy goes to wake Peter and tell him that Narnia is real and Edmund was there too but Edmund lies and says he was simply playing along with her. Lucy runs off crying and runs into Professor Kirke, and she quickly hugs him. When Mrs. Macready appears, Professor Kirke sends Lucy with her to try and console her, while he speaks with Peter and Susan. Peter and Susan explain what has upset Lucy and Kirke seems to believe Lucy did go to Narnia and is surprised that they don’t believe her. Later that day, the kids are outside, with Peter and Edmund playing cricket when Edmund hits the ball, breaking a stained glass window and knocking over a suit of armor. Hearing Mrs. Macready coming, the children go to hid and end up in the room with the wardrobe, where Edmund quickly says they should get inside. Once inside, they all find themselves in Narnia and Peter apologizes to Lucy for not believing her, then realizes Edmund had lied and tells him to apologize to Lucy. Edmund says they should explore the area, intending to bring them to the White Witch’s castle, but Peter says that Lucy should decide what they should do and she wants to introduce them to Mr. Tumnus. They head off to Mr. Tumnus’ house only find the door broken in and when they look inside, they find a notice that Mr. Tumnus was charged with treason and imprisoned on orders of the “Queen” (the White Witch). As they decide what they should do, they hear someone say “psst” outside and are confronted by a beaver, who hands Lucy the handkerchief she had given Mr. Tumnus. The beaver says that this isn’t a safe place to talk and motions for them to follow him. Lucy and Peter start to follow but Susan is hesitant to do so, as a talking beaver defies logic, while Edmund agrees with her, as he is still trying to get them to the White Witch. Peter says the beaver knows Mr. Tumnus and they head off, with the beaver leading them to his home atop a currently frozen lake. The beaver’s wife greets them and invites them inside, where the beavers tell the children about Aslan and the prophesy. Hearing that the 4 of them are supposed to lead an army to defeat the White Witch, Susan says they are mistaken and Peter agrees with them. but when they go to leave, they find that Edmund isn’t there and the beaver asks if he has ever been to Narnia before. Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the beaver race off and see Edmund entering the White Witch’s castle and Peter moves to go after him but beaver stops him. Beaver explains that Edmund is bait so that the White Witch can capture and kill all of them and tells them that Aslan is the only one who can help them and Peter tells him to take them to him. Inside the White Witch’s castle, Edmund moves through the courtyard and sees dozens of statues littering the ground. Suddenly, Edmund is knocked down by a wolf, who demands to know who he is, and Edmund tells him and the wolf lets him up and escorts him to the White Witch. When the White Witch arrives, she is upset with Edmund for not bringing his siblings with him but when he tells her where they are, she has Ginarrbrik escort him to get some more Turkish Delight while she sends her wolves after Peter and the others. Back at the Beaver’s home, Mrs. Beaver is packing some supplies for them to escape, with Beaver telling her to hurry, when the wolves appear at the home and begin breaking in. When the wolves finally get inside the dam, they find it empty but soon uncover a secret tunnel. Inside the tunnel, Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the beavers make it outside only to encounter a fox, who quickly tells them where to hide, then tells the wolves they went North, though he is injured during their questioning. After the wolves leave, the fox tells them that Aslan has told him to gather an army to fight the White Witch but Peter and the others are still reluctant to fight. Inside the White Witch’s castle, Edmund finds him self shackled in the dungeon, with Mr. Tumnus in the cell next to him. When the White Witch enters and tells him his siblings weren’t at the dam, she goes to kill him but Edmund tells him the beavers said something about Aslan. The White Witch asks where Aslan is and Mr. Tumnus tries to interject, keeping Edmund from saying anything, but the White Witch silences him, then asks Edmund where Aslan is and he tells her that he doesn’t know. The White Witch orders her guard to take Mr. Tumnus outside, where she turns him to stone, and Edmund reluctantly tells her. Meanwhile, Peter and the others are walking to where Aslan is waiting at the Stone Table when they see a sleigh rapidly approaching them. Thinking it is the White Witch, the quickly hide only to discover that it isn’t the White Witch but Santa Claus, who says that since they have arrived, the White Witch’s powers have diminished and Christmas is able to come once again. Santa gives the children some weapons as gifts, as well as a healing elixer for Lucy and a horn that can always summon help for Susan. Santa heads off, telling them that winter will soon be over and Peter realizes that the ice will be melting. The come to a frozen waterfall and see some of the ice already breaking apart. Hearing the wolves approaching, they quickly make their way out on the ice, with Beaver heading out first to test it but he is soon captured by one of the wolves. The leader of the wolves threatens to kill him unless Peter surrenders but when he notices more of the waterfall defrosting, he tells Susan and Lucy to hold onto him, then jams his sword into the ice at his feet, just as the waterfall fully defrosts and sends the ice flow flowing down river. The wolves are washed down stream while the beavers help Peter, Susan, and Lucy reach the shore, where they notice the trees are starting to bloom. Back at the waterfall, the White Witch stares in disbelief at the flowing water, just as the wolves return with the fox. The fox apologizes to Edmund and the White Witch goes to kill him unless he tells her where Aslan is. When he refuses, Edmund tells her in the hopes she will spare the fox but she uses her scepter to turn him to stone. At the Stone Table, Peter, Susan, and Lucy make their way through the camp of the assembled army and are brought before Aslan, a large lion, who greets them but asks where there brother is. Peter tells them that Edmund is a prisoner of the White Witch and Beaver admits that he betrayed them. Aslan tells Peter, Susan, and Lucy that he will do what he can to save Edmund, then speaks with Peter alone about the prophecy. Susan and Lucy are playing in a nearby creek when the wolf leader and another wolf confront them. Susan blows her horn before climbing a tree with Lucy and Peter runs off to help them. Peter confronts the wolf leader, while Aslan holds the other wolf down, and Peter ends up killing the wolf leader. Asland lets the other wolf go and as it runs off, he tells some of his men to follow it as it will lead them to Edmund. That night, the White Witch is getting her own forces ready for war when the wolf returns, and Aslan’s troops make a quick raid into the camp to rescue Edmund. The next morning, Peter wakes up and sees Aslan talking with Edmund and as Susan and Lucy join him, Aslan and Edmund walk over to them, with Aslan saying what’s done is done and shouldn’t be brought up again. The family is reunited and Peter wants to send Lucy and Susan back to the wardrobe where it is safe while he stays behind and Edmund chooses to stay too, as he has seen what the White Witch will do to Narnia and wants to make amends for his part in helping her. When Lucy and Susan say they will stay and help, the children begin practicing with their weapons until Beaver shows up and says that the White Witch is coming to speak with Aslan. Peter and the others race back to camp just as the White Witch and her entourage arrive. The White Witch tells Aslan that since Edmund is a traitor, the ancient laws say that he belongs to her and should be sacrificed. Aslan tells the White Witch he will speak with her alone and they enter his tent. Some time later, they exit and Aslan says that the White Witch has renounced her claim on Edmund, which brings a cheer from the crowd, but the White Witch asks Aslan how can she know he will keep his promise, to which Aslan roars at her and she quickly leaves. That night, Aslan leaves camp and Lucy and Susan notice and follow him. Aslan hears them and asks why they aren’t in bed but allows them to walk with him for a ways, until he reaches a spot and tells them that he must go alone the rest of the way, saying it must be done. Susan and Lucy follow and see that Aslan is going to the White Witch’s camp, where she orders her soldiers to bind him and shave his mane. Aslan is then dragged to the Stone Table that the White Witch is standing on and to Susan and Lucy’s horror, she stabs him and kills him, as her minions cheer. The White Witch tells her general to prepare the soldiers for battle and after they leave, Susan and Lucy make their way to Aslan’s body. The girls cry over him and Lucy wants to use her elixer but Susan says it is too late. They notice some mice chewing away the bindings and the girls remove them but continue to sit there with Aslan’s body. Susan finally says that they have to leave and warn Peter about what happened before it is too late and Lucy says they can use the trees. Peter receives the news and confirms it with Edmund and Oreius, a centaur who is second in command of the army. Edmund tells Peter that he will have to lead the army and after saying Aslan and him both believe in him, Peter gets ready. As the White Witch’s army advance on them, Peter uses his flying units to drop boulders on them, mimicking the bombings from the blitz back home. The White Witch sends her own flying units to attack them, while her archers fire on them, and Peter leads a charge with his own army to take the battle to hers. Back at the Stone Table, Lucy and Susan awaken and go to help Peter in the battle when they hear the Stone Table break and Aslan has returned to life. Aslan explains to them that if an innocent man willingly takes the place of a traitor, then the table will break and death will be turned back. Lucy says that they have to help Peter and Edmund and Aslan says they will, then tells them to climb on his back. They ride to the White Witch’s castle and Aslan begins restoring all of the creatures that the White Witch turned to stone back to flesh and blood, starting with Mr. Tumnus. Back on the battle field, Peter orders his troops to fall back and when they continue to get overrun, Peter yells at Edmund to find Lucy and Susan and get them back home. Beaver starts dragging Edmund away but Edmund sees the White Witch approaching Peter from behind and he quickly goes to help, destroying her scepter but getting stabbed by the White Withc in return. Peter begins to attack the White Witch, who starts to overpower him but they are surprised when Aslan and the restored creatures appear to turn the tide of battle, with Aslan killing the White Witch. Lucy and Susan race to Peter and when they ask about Edmund, they race over to him and Lucy uses her elixer to heal him, then begins healing all of the wounded creatures. Some time later, Aslan escorts Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy to the throne room in Cair Paravel, where they are each crowned and given reign of the 4 corners of Narnia. After the ceremony, Aslan leaves the city and as Lucy watches him leave, Mr. Tumnis tells her that Aslan will come back one day. 15 years later, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy (all adults now) are hunting a stag in the woods when they come across the lamppost and make their way back to the wardrobe. As they all pile out, they find it is still the same day that they had first entered the wardrobe and Professor Kirke asks them what they were all doing there. Some time later, Lucy tries to use the wardrobe to get back to Narnia but Professor Kirke tells her that she won’t be able to get back there that way. When Lucy asks him if she will ever get back, he says that he is sure she will but she will just have to keep her eyes open and as they walk away, the wardrobe door glows and cracks open, as Aslan can be heard roaring behind the door.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe met with positive results from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “With first-rate special effects and compelling storytelling, this adaptation stays faithful to its source material and will please moviegoers of all ages.” Georgie Henley’s (Lucy) reactions to the snow covered world of Narnia were genuine, as she was blindfolded and carried into the set so her wide eyed, delighted reaction was authentic. The same can be said for her reaction when she first sees Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), as she had not seen McAvoy in his costume before so her scream was that of pure surprise. Plot similarities between J.R.R. Tolkiens’s “The Lord Of The Rings” and C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles Of Narnia” is no coincidence. The two authors were close friends and part of a literary discussion group called The Inklings. The movie was a box office success, earning $745 million off of a $180 million budget and spawned 2 sequels, with a fourth movie announced to begin filming.
It has been way too long since I have read this series (I should rectify that) but as far as the movie goes, I thought it was pretty good. The acting was good, with William Mosely (Peter), Anna Popplewell (Susan), Skander Keynes (Edmund), and Georgie Henley (Lucy) doing a great job in their roles. I thought that Liam Neeson did a good job voicing Aslan but was kind of “meh” regarding Tilda Swinton (the White Witch). The story was good and while I don’t recall how closely it followed the book, I think they did a good job with it while keeping many of the important aspects intact. The special effects were incredible while the location scenery and set designs only added to them, especially during the final battle. A great movie to watch and one that will hopefully inspire you to read, or re-read, the books.
Rating: 4 out of 5