The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has long been one of my favorite movies, as it is based on one of my favorite books by C. S. Lewis, and I think the movie does the book justice for many reasons.
Storyline: As the movie opens, planes fly in out of darkness. It makes for an awesome opening sequence. It very clearly establishes the setting. It is World War 2. Germans are bombing London. We see the swastikas on the planes. We hear the pilots speak in German. It gives the Pevensie family clear motivation to leave to the country, and it gives an audience clear motivation to stay in our seats, or rather, on the edge of our seats.
I also love the title/credit sequence: the train, the music, the anticipation. It feels a bit like I am on the Hogwarts Express, on my way to a magical place. In a way, trains are the best mode of transportation to a magical place, whether it’s Hogwarts or Narnia. I can’t imagine being the children’s mother, though: her husband fighting in the war, sending the children away to the country to keep them safe, staying behind alone.
So much of the storyline is taken directly from the book, which is what makes this movie one of my favorites, and a favorite among many fans. Even the very little things. It is written, “they seemed to find themselves being followed everywhere”, which is very clearly shown in the movie. Later, when the name Aslan is first heard, there is a moment where you see a very inspired look on three of the children’s faces, something about which an entire paragraph is written in the story. So much care is taken with the accuracy of the story that it makes for a great film.
The filmmakers didn’t take away the clear Christian themes from the book. I suppose that’s a testament to having Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’s stepson, as a co-producer. The four Pevensie children are referred to as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, clearly a reference back to Adam and Eve of Eden. This story is very clearly an allegory for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ–Aslan being the Christ, Edmund being Judas, and the White Witch being Satan. The stone table represents the cross and the tomb. Peter, I think, represents Simon Peter, and even shares a name. Susan and Lucy are there during Aslan’s death on the stone table, so they could represent Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who visits the tomb with her. Aslan even uses a quote taken directly from scripture, though a bit out of context, after he kills the Witch: “It is finished.”
One of my favorite parts of the entire story happens after the battle is done, the resolution. Yes, Aslan’s death is very powerful, and the battle is very exciting, but the coronation and the stag chase are still my favorite scenes from the film, the Golden Age of Narnia. I almost wish that Lewis had written another book during the Golden Age of Narnia (The Horse and His Boy is one of my favorites merely because of the time frame), so that I could hope for the possibility of having it adapted to film one day. But then, the Golden Age is named as such for a reason, because it is a peaceful time. There are no wars, hardly any conflicts, and all in all, there is peace in all of Narnia. Which, I suppose, is why Lewis took his story, The Horse and His Boy, south, to Calormen, where life is much less easy and much less peaceful. I still hold out hope for a Horse and His Boy film!
Characters: I really have to hand it to the casting directors, Pippa Hall and Gail Stevens, who worked on this film, as well as the general director Andrew Adamson, who directed these actors so brilliantly. All the actors, and I do mean all of them, portray their characters perfectly. Even the four Pevensie children and their mother look alike. But, appearance isn’t everything. Can they act? I believe so.
Lucy the curious. She always seems to see the wonder in things. Lucy Pevensie is the heroine of this story, so hers is a character that the movie simply has to get right. I believe the movie does get it right with Georgie Henley. She is incredible as Lucy. Not only does she look the part, she embodies the part. The moment when Lucy finds the spare room and the wardrobe is priceless. Lucy’s first glimpse at Narnia, and the look on her face, is so wondrously realistic.
Edmund the disobedient. He looks out a window during the raid. He runs away when he should have been running to the bomb shelter. When he sneaks into the wardrobe after Lucy, he tells the White Witch that his siblings are nothing special, then lies about ever having been there. He betrays everyone for sweets. His character was developed clearly as a brat who refused to listen to or help anyone. He is selfish, which makes his reconciliation more meaningful in the end. A small thing, but I think significant: Edmund pulls away from anyone who tries to hug him in the beginning, including his mother and his sister Lucy. After he is rescued and Aslan speaks with him, he openly embraces Susan and Lucy. Skandar Keynes portrays Edmund well.
Susan the logical. Her character acts as the mother of the two younger children. She looks for logic in every situation, which Peter does not appreciate. A combination of directing, writing, and acting really enforces this characteristic, which would lend some sense as to why she was left out in The Last Battle, something that has always bothered me. Anna Popplewell portrays Susan well.
Peter the brave. His character, as the oldest, acts as the father. However, he wants to do something more than just look after the others. He wants to be an adult. He wants to fight in the war with his father, which you can see clearly in the train station. Despite stating to the beavers that they are not heroes, Peter hesitates very little when presented with a situation when he has an opportunity to be brave, to be a hero. William Mosely portrays Peter well.
All four Pevensie children act like perfect siblings, the way they care for each other, the way they fight for places to hide. Peter and Susan’s faces clearly show their excitement and wonder when they arrive in Narnia, and they quickly make things right with Lucy as they engage in a snowball fight. Peter scolds Edmund, again like a father, then gives him a girl’s coat. He also makes fun of Susan’s very logical nature. They portray siblings flawlessly.
The professor is so kind and so perfect. I think I prefer him as Professor Kirke than as Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter. He looks so excited when Susan mentions the magical land that Lucy found in the wardrobe, obviously because of the backstory in Magician’s Nephew. Knowing this backstory makes the final scene during the credits that much more meaningful for the viewer, knowing that he has been to Narnia before.
Liam Neeson has the perfect bass voice to embody Aslan. There is no actor on this earth who could have lent a better voice to Aslan.
Tilda Swinton is so convincing as the White Witch. She is so evil and so perfect. Her acting and her appearance. You can see how well she portrays this truly evil character in the way she lures Edmund in, then the way she treats him so well, giving him Turkish Delights. Then when he returns to her castle, she turns on him, showing her truly malevolent nature, yelling fiercely at him. You can see in the way she mistreats or destroys everyone in her path, including, for added effect, a butterfly she also turned to stone to prove a point. From a visual standpoint, I have to hand it to her costumer. She changes dresses more often during this film than a presenter at the Oscars, and yet, it is so fitting for her character. While the Witch has her strongest hold on winter, Swinton wears all white, complete with icicles for a crown. As she loses control over winter, her dresses are less white and the icicles are less profound. As she kills Aslan, she wears entirely black, and her eyes are entirely black when it happens as well. During the battle, she wears all brown, as though she is a huntress going in for the kill. She looks fierce and amazing in everything she wears.
Mr. Tumnus is perfect. His acting is perfect. He seems so kind, so funny, so brave, and even momentarily awkward as he shakes Lucy’s hand for the first time. His appearance is perfect. He looks just like the cover art from the book, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.
Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French. I don’t know Winstone, but I’ve seen other characters portrayed by French, notably the Fat Lady in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Both lend their voices to the beavers flawlessly.
Visuals: I wouldn’t change anything about the spare room or the wardrobe, or anything in Narnia for that matter. When Lucy finds the wardrobe for the first time, she pulls the sheet away from it, and suddenly it falls away in slow motion, indicating for us how profound this moment is. The lamppost is also perfect. It looks as if it has grown up from the ground, which, of course, it has, according to the backstory in The Magician’s Nephew.
Our first glimpse inside Narnia, which is also Lucy’s first glimpse, is magical. Actually, all the scenes of the Narnian countryside are breathtaking. You can see some of them as the four children walk from the lamppost to Mr. Tumnus’, then again from there to the Beavers’ dam. Many wonderful locations were chosen for the film. Aslan’s Camp, for example, and the battlefield. Cair Paravel, in the end, is so beautifully depicted too.
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams is brilliant. I love this soundtrack. I particularly like “Only the Beginning of the Adventure”. “From Western Woods to Beaversdam” is also good, along with “Evacuating London”, and “Father Christmas”. Gregson-Williams’ music adds so much to the film that it’s really difficult to imagine what the film would be like without it. Imogen Heap also wrote one of my all-time favorite songs for the movie, “Can’t Take It In”, which is played during Lucy’s and Kirke’s conversation in the spare room during the end credits, one of my favorite scenes.
Summary: As this movie is one of my favorites, I can easily rate it five stars. It is a great adaptation to a great allegory, representing an the greatest story ever told, of a man who laid down his life for his friends. A wondrous film.