The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

****1/2

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is yet another of those energetic book-to-film adaptations worthy of the name. It is a red-blooded, beautiful and brilliant fantasy film, as quintessentially English as Wallace & Gromit.

World War II displaces the Pevensie family in the middle of summer; siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy evacuate to an old kindly professor's stately home, full of nooks and crannies, ideal for exploration and playing hide-and-seek. Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest of the quartet, hides in an old wardrobe which transports her to a forest in winter. There's something strangely magical about the way the scene is given its effect, beginning with the fur coats and panning further and further back into a prickly pine tree and on to a gas-powered lamp post! And then it hits, the revelation that we are in another world and anything is possible.

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Lucy meets the faun Mr Tumnus (James McEvoy), a man-goat creature, seemingly innocent. He invites her for tea, toast, cake and - more irresistible bait - sardines! As it turns out, humans are a rare sight, so much so that Mr Tumnus has a book in his shelves with the title Is Man A Myth? The Queen of Narnia, Jadis, is a powerful sorceress who has cast perpetual winter on the country, which she rules with an iron grip. But the true king, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is on the move, and peace will return only when the righteous human kings and queens defeat the witch.

The film boasts a wonderful cast of children, especially Henley, who evokes a startling sense of wonder - give this girl a Best Supporting Actress nod Now! Skandar Keynes is also impressive as the traitorous and bewitched Edmund. The way the film's events follow the personalities of the children and how they learn to become better people as a result is admirable.

Tilda Swinton gives a brilliant, charismatic performance as the terrifying White Witch - a great movie villain, as stone cold as her powers.

Structurally, the screenplay works wonders. Like Peter Jackson's terrific Lord Of The Rings, it compresses events and time, folding cinematic worth into a potentially dry adaptation. The moderate horror of the Witch's domain and persuasion, the joyous revelations as we journey deeper into Narnia, the sights and sounds dug out from inside a child's imagination.

The finale is a vivid PG-rated battle, with the forces of good and evil clashing in a storm of hooves, flame, steel and teeth - I muttered "Oh, Yes!" as a gigantic centaur brandished two swords in defiance. Strategy is evident and the turning of tides both inevitable and glorious.

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe will doubtless be overshadowed by Jackson's King Kong remake, but I won't be surprised if it has legs. It is a perfect film for the family, just scary and involving enough to be a thrill without endurance.

Reviewed on: 13 Dec 2005
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In a magic kingdom beyond the wardrobe four children, with a lion's army, do battle with a white witch.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2

Director: Andrew Adamson

Writer: Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, based on the novel by C S Lewis

Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Kiran Shah, James Cosmo, voices of Liam Neeson, Ray Winstone, Dawn French, Rupert Everett, Cameron Rhodes, Philip Steuer, Jim Ma

Year: 2005

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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EIFF 2009

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