(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

The Chronicles of Narnia: Lucy's Story

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Unlike The Lord of the Rings, I have much fonder memories of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicle's of Narnia from my childhood, so I couldn't help but be very curious as to how my imagined Narnia would compare with director Andrew Adamson's adaptation The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For the most part, I have to admit, I enjoyed my cinematic visit to a land of witches, warriors and a rather large helping of Englishness. Visually, Narnia is the same combination of amazing landscapes drawn from New Zealand, via the wizardry of digital effects, and is definitely worthy of the landscape of the imagination. The citizens of Narnia are similarly imagined in all their splendor, with Weta Workshop and Weta Digital doing an amazing job bringing everyone from Mr Tumnus and Aslan to the Minotaurs and Centaurs to believable life. (Graeme adds: Most of the effects for this film were not created at WETA, the work was outsourced to a large number of smaller effects studios around the world including Rhythm and Hues who work on Aslan and Sony Imageworks who created Mr Tumnus, The Beavers, The Wolves and The Fox.) The Centaurs, who I was most worried would look like CGI, were among the most convincing characters of all and Mr Tumnus is a wonderful synergy of acting and digital effects, bring a convincing personality to those fawn legs of his!

The strength of Narnia, however, like Lord of the Rings, is in the casting. Everyone is well chosen and Tilda Swinton definitely deserves an Oscar nomination for her take on the White Witch. Swinton is chilling, graceful and captures the anger and envy of her character exactly as I would have imagined in my younger days. While the first words from Aslan--voiced by Liam Neeson--did sound a little like the wisdom of one Qui-Gon Jinn, he quickly owned the voice and gave a regal vocal performance. Also inspired was the double act of Ray Winstone and Dawn French as Mr and Mrs Beaver, who brought both comic timing and heart to their roles. The real stars, though, are definitely Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell as Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan respectively. These young actors all give exemplary performances, especially young Georgie Henley whose take on Lucy brings so much heart to her role, while not falling into the too-wise-for-their-age syndrome that so many young actors give in to. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is, after all, Lucy's story and Henley's performance never lets you forget the context of World War Two that surrounds the magical escape Narnia provides.

Narnia, however, is a little hampered simply by being released after The Lord of the Rings (LotR). A couple of shots of Narnia were too much like LotR; one sweeping god's-eye (or helicopter's-eye) shot of the children crossing the snowy hills looked exactly like a shot from LotR, while the Minotaur's rallying call to war looked exactly like a Uruk-hai. Similarly, while the score is impressive, while Howard Shore's work on LotR meshed perfectly with the story, the Narnia score by Harry Gregson-Williams and a number of collaborators lacks subtlety and tries to amplify emotional scenes which would do better with less overt music since the actors have already created a scene which pulls at your heartstrings without the aid of an orchestra.

There has been a lot written about the Christian symbolism of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it's definitely there, but not to the extent that it dominates the story. While Aslan's resurrection is clearly the story of Jesus Christ, the film is perfectly enjoyable without engaging with the symbolism. Perhaps more dominating is the Englishness of the story, with Peter's Richard-the-Lionheart standard everywhere in the last third of the film. Actually, one of the more clever parts of the adaptation is the increase in the initial scenes of images of World War Two, which lead to Peter's dilemmas in protecting the family but trying, simultaneously, to embrace a heroic masculinity preempted by tales of his father away fighting the for Britain.

Overall, the first Narnia film doesn't quite match Fellowship of the Ring, but is nevertheless an extremely well-acted and engaging experience, with amazing visuals and definitely worthy of a sequel or two.

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At 12/30/2005 01:03:00 pm, Blogger Graeme Watson said...

Most of the effects for this film were not created at WETA, the work was outsourced to a large number of smaller effects studios around the world including Rhythm and Hues who work on Aslan and Sony Imageworks who created Mr Tumnus, The Beavers, The Wolves and The Fox.

The effects works was completed in a really short period of time, only 8 months, so that the film could meet it's deadline, given that the effects look really great.

At 1/03/2006 09:49:00 am, Blogger sussy said...

I enjoyed the film though, as I've said before, the PG rating for it killed me. The film was a very competant retelling of a much-loved story but lacked the oomph that I remember the story had.

I really hope that this genre takes off. I would really love fantasy based flicks (as opposed to scifi which I am SO over). Now that we've got technology to bring dragons and the like to life, I want more!!! I could through several books at my favourite directors and say "DO THESE ONES!"

I definitely agree that Tilda Swinton was simply magnificent in the role. She was everything the white witch should have been and naturally, the swordplay was beautifully done. She was perfect.

At 1/03/2006 09:50:00 am, Blogger sussy said...

And having a brain that keeps up with the fingers would be an ideal new years resolution for me. *wince* Talk about typos!

At 1/15/2006 11:32:00 pm, Anonymous tmz_99 said...

I'm really looking forward to watching this movie, hopefully it'll be waiting for me by the time I get home.
The chronicles of narnia were a brilliant series and I hope they do the other books in the series as well, probably doing "The Magician's Nephew" would be ideal next but as we know movies take time, time makes actors age and so I think we will be robbed of this episode, and the one (stupid memory) where the majority of the action takes place in a land of middle-east like origin (if it at all surfaces due to current political climate - movie producers are a wary bunch).


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