The Chronicles of Narnia

Final Grade: A-

Moviegoers have seen beloved novels both butchered and perfected by Hollywood in the past few years. C.S. Lewis’ legacy is safe in the hands of Andrew Adamson, who possesses both a love for the material and a background in visual effects.

In an effort to hide them from the bomb raids of London during World War II, Mrs. Pevensie, mother of four, sends her children away to live in the country where they will be safe from the dangers of the war. Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) find themselves in the care of Professor Kirke at his very large country estate. The children quickly find boredom though, and the young Lucy asks to play a game of hide and seek. Attempting to find a hiding place Lucy finds a decorative wardrobe that leads her into the beautiful world of Narnia. Lucy’s claims are dismissed by her family, due to her age and overactive imagination.

Lucy eventually succeeds by delivering her siblings into the snow filled world of Narnia, where her brother Edmund is coaxed by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) into betraying his family and consequently delivering them toward impending doom. Along the way, the other three children meet some friends who attempt to lead the future rulers of Narnia to their destiny. The children quickly realize that their destiny is to end the hundred year winter. With help from a friendly but mysterious Lion (Aslan, played by Liam Neeson), the children must defeat the Witch, freeing Narnia from her grasp and claiming their thrones as the Kings and Queens of the mythical land.

This film is an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel of the same title. The translation from text to film proves to be a controversial subject for many, but director Andrew Adamson proved to be the right man for the job. Adamson tells us within the special feature Chronicles of a Director that initially he didn’t want the task of Narnia. After he thought about it though, he realized that if he passed on the opportunity and some other guy totally screwed everything up it would be completely his fault. I can respect a man that wants to pay homage and show respect to an already established idea and its fanfare. Adamson did a wonderful job at commanding the young foursome, tinkering at the special effects and not allowing the highly discussed Christian theological undertones of the tale to overshadow the true innocence and simplicity of the story. While the acting and directing were certainly solid, the film could have used a bit more character development. Realizing that since this film is one part of a series, Adamson didn’t want to give away too much of the plot; although some details within this film are used to suggest parts of Prince Caspian, the next installment in Lewis’ saga.

Technically this DVD is on par to any Disney encoding. The DTS and Disney Home theater mixes are beautiful. For me the most climactic feature of the battle for Narnia was the sounds reverberating from my rear speakers and subwoofer. The video transfer was also solid, but somewhat sketchy at times. The special features garnishing the single disc version of the film are pretty pitiful, basically just bloopers and a trailer. The two-disc collectors edition on the other hand is absolutely packed with special features that showcase from storyboard to CG.

In the end, this is a great DVD to own; an essential for any collector. Will it stack up to Star Wars or Lord of The Rings? Probably not. The legacy of this story as a film will probably be defined by its future installments. Look for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian due out in 2007.

The Upside:
An almost perfect adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel.
The Downside:
The plot was a bit rushed, could have used another 40 minutes.
On The Side:
When the adults’ swearing got out of hand on the set, Georgie Henley (Lucy) set up a swear bucket. James McAvoy was supposedly the worst offender.

Breaking Down the DVD:
The Film: B+
The Delivery: A-
The Extras: A-

DVD Stats:
Release Date: April 4, 2006
Starring: Georgie Henley, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson (voice),
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Writing Credits: Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, C.S. Lewis
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Sound Mix: DTS, Dolby Digital
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: USA
Run Time: 134 min.
Studio: Walt Disney Video