The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure  |   Release Date - Dec 9, 2005 (USA)  |   Run Time - 143 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Cammila Collar

This noble adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic novel is both graceful and fun, employing many of the epic themes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with a simpler, more child-friendly story. The studio may have shot itself in the foot when it went on a PR trip, extolling the Christian symbolism of the film's script in order to avoid a fundamentalist backlash against all subject matter dealing with magic. Without being forced to bear this apparent intention of the author in mind, the audience is in no way obligated to interpret the events of the film this directly. There is obvious spiritual and perhaps even moral subtext, but this is not a heavy-handed movie and the ultimate meaning is left up to the viewer. What is undeniable about the film is the fantastic depth of its young characters, sometimes surpassing Lord of the Rings in this regard, as Narnia doesn't require the intense mythological and historical backstory of Middle-earth, thus freeing up screen time for character development. Each of the film's young actors give performances that are real and organic, never relying on cuteness or sappiness for audience approval. This goes doubly for eight-year-old Georgie Henley, whose charm, talent, and ease could K.O. Dakota Fanning in a single round. Tilda Swinton surpasses already high expectations, playing the part of the evil White Witch with fascist sensibilities, narcissistic greed, and glam-rock style, so that both children and adults alike are likely to feel a combination of fear and hatred every time she enters a scene.

A film adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia seemed like a natural step after the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, since Hollywood loves to capitalize on a successful trend -- not to mention the fact that both works of literature were written around the same period of time, and that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were known to have been friends. The overall tone of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, however, is more suitable to younger viewers than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, containing far less violence and less generally dark material. The plot itself is also less complex, and the timeline is far simpler, but these changes do less to make the film unsuitable to adults and more to simply invite children to join its viewership.