The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
When going to see this movie there were two things that were with me as baggage walking through that darkened doorway, thankfully I managed to leave both right there allowing me to enjoy the movie. One was the animated film I saw when I was a child, and the other was the hype and associated comparisons to Lord of the Rings both by Author association and Hollywoods new found love of the trilogy.
Neither affected the viewing of the movie and I was drawn into the film from the opening scenes. I can quite honestly say that even if I had been affected by those pieces of baggage, or indeed carried some of the religious argument into the cinema, I would still have been pulled into the movie just the same.
The story grabs you from the opening scenes of the Blitz and the performances of the children pull you right in. Immediately you understand the group dynamics and personalities of the children. That's one of the amazing strengths of this movie that carries from beginning to end, the storytelling.
Despite the huge effects and locations the real power is the story itself, pulling the classic book down into a manageable movie and yet keeping the moralistic tale filled with believable and identifiable characters. The movie does this amazingly well.
The acting is superb too, which helps the audience succumb to the tale. In particular the children are the shining stars of the film, with Georgie Henley as Lucy shining the brightest. There's a fine line between a young child star overacting and pulling off a strong performance of a childs' naivety, and she walks that fine line perfectly.
Skandar Keynes as Edmund is another character who is very ably acted, he portrays the petulant child well. Through this performance you can actually understand how he comes to his betrayal and you empathise with the range of emotions as he realises what he has done and how his young family have been affected.
Liam Neeson as Aslan was an interesting choice. Originally I had heard that this was to be voiced by Brian Blessed and that due to, allegedly, changes in his voice from dieting he was swapped for Neesom. Now this choice seemed poor for me, the voice of Blessed is strong and commanding and I didn't feel that Neesom carried the gravitas that could carry the role. How wrong I was. Neesoms voice was perfect for the part of Aslan, projecting warmth and strength wonderfully well.
The acting across the board is really good with Tilda Swinton proving to be a very strong and foreboding White Witch. Other roles, such as James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus and voices like that of Ray Winstone as Mr Beaver, are very well acted and totally immersive.
The effects are stunning in this movie, although there are a few moments where the green screen effect is apparent. What makes the larger creature effects so good is that they are combining CGI with costume and make up, combining reality with make believe. The only slight stumbling block of these effects is during the full scale battle scenes when CGI takes over totally and some of the more natural textures and movements are lost. However its not a huge setback and your eye is only distracted by it if you are watching very carefully, while you're absorbed by the movie you're likely not to notice.
The battle scenes are choreographed very well be they live action or CGI. Flowing and fantastically detailed, the larger battle scenes do not end up as a mess of creatures and body parts. I was reminded of the battle scenes from The Last Samurai which were almost graceful in the way they played out.
There are obvious comparisons with Lord of the Rings during the battle scenes, the sheer scale and epic feel of them as well as the multitude of mythical creatures, but that's where it ends. Sure there are many connections and similarities, but these are two altogether different tales and hugely different movies.
Something else I noticed on this movie - and usually when this aspect of a film is so noticeable it's a bad thing - was the music. Music should compliment the story, said the composer of The Crimson Rivers soundtrack, it should not try to overtake and retell the story. Likewise it should not disappear into the audio track and not have some form of impact.
The music for this movie hits these statements firmly on the head. It matches the movie perfectly and every scene it touches, it helps to build emotions and heighten tension, and bring the audience back down when the pace slows.
I have to say I was surprised at the ending. The temptation to create it in an overly romanticised manner or dwell upon the successions to the throne is avoided and instead we are treated as adults and the conclusion moves on more to setup the second movie. Oh, and a spot of advice, stay to watch the credits.
This movie belongs alongside The Lord of the Rings and holds great hope for the remainder of the trilogy.