Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (The)
R1 - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Tom Williams (26th May 2006).
The Film

The film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from the children’s classic book by C.S. Lewis was always a somewhat risky proposition, but director Andrew Adamson does more than make the story work on the big screen- he makes it very good. The road Adamson takes in making the film involves fleshing out some of the missing details of the novel, such as characterisation, as well as adding more believable interactions and detailed action sequences. Perhaps the most important thing to notice about Adamson’s changes is that they perform that rare task of improving upon the subject matter. His attempts to give depth to the characters of the Pevensie children give the film a greater element of realism- if such a thing can be said for a film with a talking lion as its centre point. Edmund’s (Skandar Keynes) character is given particular care, although all the children receive a little attention. Edmund is transformed from a child who simply seems to delight in doing wrong in a family of essentially well brought up children into a scared boy who misses his father, with any boy’s propensity and capacity for trouble, who greatly resents the new authority his elder brother seems to have acquired. Peter (William Moseley) is likewise given new depth as authority is thrust upon him along with responsibility no longer for just his family, but that encompasses an entirely new world. Lucy (Georgie Henley) is more or less the same character as in Lewis’ book, as she was always the most fleshed out of the four, but sadly Susan (Anna Popplewell) is left rather two-dimensional in the film, given the position of what can best be described as doubter.
It is also noticeable that the work gone in to the characters and the worlds of the movie come at a price- the film is a hefty two and a quarter hours long, which is possibly more time than it takes to read the book. The length helps contribute to a more epic feeling, which is worthwhile insofar as the Narnia franchise could well be made into more movies, but conflicts with the personal view of Narnia we are given. As we rarely leave the children for any length of time, there is little sympathy for the other inhabitants of Narnia- indeed, until the children come to camp and see their army, you could be forgiven for thinking there might only be a half dozen inhabitants of the country. This is perhaps the biggest flaw of the film- the disjointed feeling between a character study of children who have already had their characters fleshed out about as much as they can and the epic fight for freedom that the battle scenes represent.
The action scenes and special effects are, by and large, done well. The few noticeably poorly done special effects are jarring, but largely because of two reasons: The world of Narnia required an enormous investment in effects to create its unreal landscapes and inhabitants. Especially well done are the land effects such as the Stone Table set and the White Witch’s castle. Special mention too has to go to Tilda Swinton, who performs incredibly as Jadis, The White Witch. Her performance is extremely polished, with a delivery that absolutely cements the White Witch’s inhumanity, malice and lust for power. Her foil, the mighty lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is inspiring and realistic- in fact, one of the few well made CGI animals in the film. The supporting productions- set, costuming, characters etc. - are in fact generally of such a high standard that they dwarf the somewhat patchy story and characterisation.
The film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was an ambitious project which unfortunately did not quite meet standards in some areas, acting perhaps somewhat as a test project for upcoming movies in the franchise. This said, it is still deeply enjoyable and certainly an adequate adaptation of its source material, which was fairly sparse as far as detail was concerned anyway. Patchy acting and special effects do not undermine what is still an excellent movie for children or adults who grew up reading the books.

Video

Presented in the film’s original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and this anamorphic widescreen image is just splendid. The transfer truly does justice to this epic film, the detail is generally sharp in wide shots however close shots appear a little soft at times. Colors are well balanced and lush, especially the vistas and broad backgrounds, skin tones are spot on and there was no evidence of color bleed. Blacks are deep and bold, shadows show ample detail and this is consistent throughout the film. I could not spot any flaws with this print, bravo Buena Vista for a spotless not entirely reference quality but very close indeed.

Audio

There are four audio tracks on this DVD, an English DTS 5.1 surround, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well as a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. I chose to view the film with its DTS for the purposes of this review and I was quite literally blown away by this magnificent track. The world of Narnia is so entirely fantastical and made of up many creatures and landscapes and this track captures it all perfectly, the depth is incredible. You are fully immersed in this film to the point that it becomes an experience. The surrounds are used to full effect especially in the grand battle scene, the dialogue is as expected clear and distortion free and the music is loud and clear and is excellently separated throughout the 5.1 sound space. The bass channel also gets a decent workout here and makes enough noise to shake surrounding objects. This is one of the finest soundtracks I’ve heard thus far this year, bravo Buena Vista for a splendid effort.

Extras

DISC ONE:
First up there are two feature-length audio commentary tracks for the film, which are always welcome additions. Both feature director Andrew Adamson, firstly accompanied by the child actors William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley who oscillate frequently between amusing and irritating as they discuss their experiences on the set. It’s hard not to enjoy how much they enjoyed themselves and the company of each other- but if your fondness is not for children, the kids will likely annoy.

The second audio commentary involves director Andrew Adamson along with the production designer Roger Ford and producer Mark Johnson, and consequently is of much greater interest to fans of the film or of film making in general. Given how much enjoyment there is to be had from the design of the film, the commentary is a pleasure to listen to.

"The Bloopers of Narnia" featurette runs for 4 minutes 36 seconds and is a reel much like blooper reels we’ve seen elsewhere- possibly good for one watch, but really only if you enjoy endless smiles at the camera and dropped lines.

Also on the disc is a "Discover Narnia" pop-up facts feature, which is fun in its way, popping up titbits of information as the film progresses. The facts range from details in filming to facts on the creatures from the movie, and are generally interesting, if a little sparse. Given that this is the sort of feature to activate for a re-watch, a constant assault of facts would probably have been appropriate. As it is, there are many stretches without any trivia.

Rounding out the extras on the first disc are a collection of bonus trailers that include:
- "The Little Mermaid" DVD promo
- "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest"
- "Glory Road"
- "Eight Below"
- "Cars"
- "Brother Bear 2"
- Airbuddies
- "Lost" promo spot
- "Expedition Everest"

The first four are start-up previews and play before the menu, however they can be skipped by pressing the Menu button on your remote.

DISC TWO:
The second disc is comprehensive, and divides neatly into two thematic halves that match our world and the Narnian world element of the film itself. The features on the real people involved in making the movie include an extended look at C.S. Lewis which is entitled From One Man's Mind thisfeaturette runs for 3 minutes 55 seconds and is very compelling, and yet misses some of the more interesting facets of his life and instead concentrates on those elements of his life that pertain to the movie, and the chronicles of Narnia in general.

There are also documentaries on the director and his lead actors, although the first entitled Chronicles of a Director and runs for 37 minutes 45 seconds is more a making-of than an exercise in auteur theory featuring Adamson.

The second documentary that focuses on the children is entitled The Children's Magical Journey and runs for 26 minutes 21 seconds. The time spent on the children is of limited interest, although it’s nice to see that they apparently get on well.

The features on the work that went in to creating the magic are more interesting, and emphasise the detail of the movie. Particularly interesting is Cinematic Storytellers with a total runtime of 55 minutes and is divided into 8 featurettes, which looks at the efforts of eight of the people that worked in jobs as diverse as costume design and editing. The length of this feature helps to understand the amount of work that needs to be put in to create works on this scale, and also the importance of each individual member of a team on a film like this. The 8 featurettes that make up this section include:
- "Richard Taylor, WETA Workshop" which runs for 6 minutes 34 seconds.
- "Howard Berger, KNB Creature Shop" which runs for 5 minutes 26 seconds.
- "Isis Mussenden, Costumes" which runs for 7 minutes 42 seconds.
- "Roger Ford, Production Designer" which runs for 8 minutes 8 seconds.
- "Don McAlpine, Director of Photography" which runs for 8 minutes 2 seconds.
- "Sim Evan-Jones, Editor" which runs for 6 minutes 46 seconds.
- "Harry Gregson-Williams, Music Composer" which runs for 6 minutes 23 seconds.
- "Mark Johnson, Producer" which runs for 5 minutes 50 seconds.

There are two sections of the disc focused on the creatures of Narnia, looking at either the inhabitants that Lewis thought up or the process of taking those beings from books and putting them into a movie. The feature on the character design shows a host of people and their input on important design elements such as the White Witch’s many looks and the possibilities of a figure like Aslan. The two sections include:

Creating Creatures comprises 11 featurettes that total 53 minutes 15 seconds and includes a Play All function. The individual featurettes are:
- White Witch" which runs for 7 minutes 20 seconds.
- "Aslan" which runs for 9 minutes 38 seconds.
- "Tumnus" which runs for 7 minutes 14 seconds.
- "Wolves" which runs for 3 minutes 53 seconds.
- "Centaurs" which runs for 5 minutes 55 seconds.
- "Minotaurs" which runs for 4 minutes 6 seconds.
- "Ankle Slicers" which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- "Ginarrbrik" which runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds.
- "Beavers" which runs for 5 minutes 49 seconds.
- "Satyrs" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- "Goblins" which runs for 3 minutes 5 seconds.

The second section as noted above focuses on the Creatures, Lands and Legends and includes the Creatures of the World that features 11 more featurettes that total 14 minutes 14 seconds. Although brief these clips included a fair amount of information that will likely please fans, especially if viewed as one whole rather than individually. Much like the previous section this also includes a Play All function and includes:
- "White Witch" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.
- "Aslan" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "Tumnus" which runs for 1 minute.
- "Wolves" which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.
- "Centaurs" which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds.
- "Minotaurs" which runs for 1 minute 22 seconds.
- "Ankle Slicers" which runs for 1 minute 8 seconds.
- "Ginarrbrik" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "Beavers" which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.
- "Satyrs" which runs for 1 minute.
- "Goblins" which runs for 1 minute 15 seconds.

Next up is the Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River which runs for 11 minutes 30 seconds. This feature focuses on one of the original creations for the film- a scene in which a frozen river begins melting. Very little is surprising, but the detail of the feature from concept to post-production makes it worthwhile, especially since the entire scene is essentially inspired by a single passage in the original text.

"Explore Narnia" an interactive map and "Legends in Time" timeline are two interactive features let you explore the space and time of Narnia, though they tend towards the pretty rather than the informative- with the exception of a coda to the final battle in the timeline feature.

The booklet included has 8-pages that map out all the extras and also includes a chapter listing. Also included in the set are 2 art cards that feature some concept art work.

The special features in the two-disc edition of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are extremely worthwhile, and make the special edition the set to buy if you’re considering getting the film to own.

Packaging

This Special Collector’s Edition DVD is packaged in a 2-disc keep case housed in a handsome slip-case with fold out cover which includes a booklet as well as 2 concept art cards.

Overall

The Film: B Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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