Reviews

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

condvd

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Today’s film is a film that I think has become somewhat forgotten nowadays. I think mainly it has to do with the fact that we haven’t seen a movie based on this franchise in 5 years due to problematic rights issues.

But, when it came out, this movie was a pretty big deal. Everybody was excited about it and it was the 3rd highest-grossing film worldwide for 2005. But, is it any good? Well, let’s take a look at The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The movie opens up in the midst of WWII with German planes bombing the city of London.

Not what I'd expect to see first from a movie about a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe. Then again, I didn't expect this either in Return to Never Land.
Not what I’d expect to see first from a movie about a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe. Then again, I didn’t expect this either in Return to Never Land.

Many families head for safety in their bomb shelters including our family of focus, the Pevensies. After the bombing, Mrs. Pevensie sends her children by train to the countryside along with hundreds of other children who were evacuated by government orders.

The Pevensie children are comprised of 2 boys and 2 girls.

Uh...no.
Uh…no.

They are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, played by William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley, respectively.

Well, I guess they could have been the Boxcar Children.
Well, I guess they could have been the Boxcar Children.

They’re picked up in the countryside by a woman named Mrs. Macready, played by Elizabeth Hawthorne. She’s a somewhat strict housekeeper who works for a professor named Kirke. And they are to be the new caretakers of the Pevensie children until the war is over.

Mrs. Macready takes them to their new home: the Professor’s large manor house. They are not to touch any artifacts, not make noise, not cause mischief, and most importantly, not disturb the Professor.

The kids try their best to make themselves at home in the manor house, but boredom soon follows them along with impatience and general disdain, mostly from Edmund who’s bitter with all the changes in life and their dad fighting in the war.

One day, they all decide to play hide-and-seek to appease the young Lucy. As Peter counts and the others find hiding places, Lucy comes across a wardrobe in an unused room and hides in there. As she steps backwards into the wardrobe, she soon realizes that it’s larger than she thought and soon finds herself in a forested land filled with snow!

She's literally walking in a winter wonderland!
She’s literally walking in a winter wonderland!

Now, one of the semi-problems that I have with this film is the acting of the 4 kids. I mean, all of them aren’t really good, but they’re not really horrible. They’re tolerable, but only somewhat at best! What do I mean exactly? Well, Lucy finds this mystical land in the back of a wardrobe and gets merely excited about this rather than completely dumbfounded and shocked that there’s a whole other land in the back of a blasted wardrobe!

"A whole new world behind  a wardrobe? Cool!"
“A whole new world behind a wardrobe? Cool!”

Anyway, as she explores the place, she comes across a faun (a sort of half-human/half deer creature) named Mr. Tumnus, played by James McAvoy.

I think he got his poses mixed up...it looks like he's practicing for Wanted.
I think he got his poses mixed up…it looks like he’s practicing for Wanted.

At first, they’re both scared of each other, but soon grow to befriend one another. Mr. Tumnus is astonished to find a real “Daughter of Eve” up and about in this land called Narnia. He invites Lucy to his place for tea and basically tells the story of this land and how an evil witch deemed the White Witch has taken over and put the land under a perpetual winter for the last 100 years.

Uh...no.
Uh…no.

Things seem to take a turn for the worse when Mr. Tumnus quite regrettably informs Lucy that he has to kidnap her because the White Witch has decreed that all humans who are found in Narnia have to be turned in to her. Lucy tells him that she thought he was her friend…and Mr. Tumnus kinda forgets about the kidnapping plot and rushes Lucy to the back of the wardrobe so she can escape before the White Witch can discover her. Hmm…that battle of conscience didn’t really go anywhere.

"I don't have time for conscience battles. I have to practice for Wanted!"
“I don’t have time for conscience battles. I have to practice for Wanted!”

Lucy then rushes out of the wardrobe and back into the manor house exclaiming to her siblings that she’s returned! You see, she has spent hours in Narnia, but when she returned back to her realm, she returned at the exact moment when she left: during the hide-and-seek game! So, her siblings haven’t missed her and don’t believe her story about Narnia.

Later that night, Lucy is determined to return to Narnia and heads to the wardrobe. Unbeknownst to her, Edmund sees her and follows her. He gets as far as the wardrobe and notices that Lucy’s gone. He then heads into the wardrobe and soon finds himself in the land of Narnia that he had previously doubted. And just like Lucy, he doesn’t seem to show any shock…he just kinda goes with.

"I'm not really sure."
“I’m not really sure.”

As he goes further into Narnia searching for Lucy, he comes across an ice queen on a sled being pulled by reindeer.

Uh...no.
Uh…no.
That's more like it!
That’s more like it!

This is the White Witch that Mr. Tumnus spoke of, played by Tilda Swinton. When she sees that Edmund is a human, she plays it cool and asks who he is. He then tells her about him and Lucy and how she came here before and met Mr. Tumnus and how they have 2 more siblings.

The White Witch is interested in this information and manages to “seduce” Edmund, so to speak, by using her magic to create foods/sweets for him to eat. Why is she doing this? Well, she has no children of her own and wants Edmund to take over her realm as Narnia’s future ruler and wants him to bring the rest of his family to be his servants. Wow kid, a random lady offers you her kingdom in a mere 5 minutes of meeting you, and you’re automatically taken for a proverbial ride! Can’t you see what she’s doing to you?! Don’t you believe me?!

"I'm still not really sure."
“I’m still not really sure.”

We must remember that Edmund was always the one with disdain and didn’t get along well with his siblings, so he agrees to this plan and promises the White Witch that he’d get the rest of his siblings to this land. Why does the White Witch want this? Well, we can only assume it must be for a devious reason!

"I need you and your siblings as proof that I am the true Queen of Winter, not that musical Elsa!"
“I need you and your siblings as proof that I am the true Queen of Winter, not that musical Elsa!”

After the White Witch leaves him, he and Lucy find one another. Lucy’s happy to see Edmund and glad that she has somebody to back her up on the veracity of this place. She starts telling Edmund about how evil the White Witch is and it’s good that she never discovered that Lucy came here before and was with Mr. Tumnus. Edmund doesn’t reveal to her that he has already spilled the proverbial beans regarding this secret to the White Witch herself.

When they go back home, Lucy rushes to tell Peter and Susan that both she and Edmund went to visit Narnia. But, Edmund denies this and says that he just was playing along causing Lucy to leave the room crying and bumping into the elusive Professor Kirke.

Well, you can see why he's elusive.
Well, you can see why he’s elusive.

Professor Kirke, played by Jim Broadbent, sends Lucy with Mrs. Macready to be pacified and has a chat with Peter and Susan about what’s bothering Lucy. When they tell him, they’re a bit astonished that he thinks they should believe Lucy. The Professor says that if Lucy isn’t mad or isn’t lying, then logically she must be telling the truth.

"I've got a pipe. I must know what I'm talking about!"
“I’ve got a pipe. I must know what I’m talking about!”
"I've got a pipe, but nobody ever knows what I'm talking about!"
“I’ve got a pipe, but nobody ever knows what I’m talking about!”

The next day, the kids are all playing cricket when Edmund bats the ball right into one of the manor house’s windows. Afraid to be caught by Mrs. Macready, the kids all run as fast as they can..and quite fortunately, they run into the unused room and hide inside the wardrobe. As they move about in the wardrobe to make space for each other, they all soon find themselves in Narnia with Peter and Susan amazed lightly surprised that this place does indeed exist. They also get super mad at Edmund for lying about not coming here!

They then take some of the coats from the wardrobe and go about exploring Narnia with Lucy wanting the rest of the siblings to meet Mr. Tumnus. Sadly, when they arrive at Mr. Tumnus’ place, they find it ransacked and Mr. Tumnus nowhere to be found. They also find a written proclamation stating that Mr. Tumnus has been arrested by the White Witch for being in the company of a human, i.e. Lucy.

Not sure what to do next, the kids then bump into a CGI beaver named….umm….Mr. Beaver, voiced by Ray Winstone. He knows of Mr. Tumnus’ arrest and invites the kids to his home to discuss the matter further.

One just doesn't do certain things with a beaver in public...that sounded wrong.
One just doesn’t do certain things with a beaver in public…that came out wrong.

At the beaver’s dam, Mr. Beaver and his wife, voiced by Dawn French, explain to the kids that there is a prophecy that 2 Sons of Adam and 2 Daughters of Eve will defeat the White Witch and bring peace back to Narnia. Also, the true king of Narnia, a creature named Aslan, is said to have returned after a long period of absence and is said to be waiting for the Pevensies with an army near an area deemed the Stone Tablet. All this seems to imply that the Pevensies are the prophesied people.

The kids, of course don’t believe that they’re the chosen ones and don’t want to get caught up in a war since their mother sent them away NOT to be caught up in a war. Peter gets ready to take his siblings home when they notice Edmund is missing. They then, along with Mr. Beaver, go out to search for him and see that while they were talking, Edmund has gotten away and is headed to the Castle of the White Witch. They realize that Edmund has made a deal with the White Witch the first time he came here and that they all have to run as far away as they can before the White Witch finds them. They decide to head to the Stone Tablet and find Aslan.

Meanwhile, Edmund meets the White Witch, but she gets infuriated with him for not bringing his siblings along to the castle. He tells her though that he left them at the dam belonging to the beavers. She takes this information and sends a team of wolves to raid the dam. She then throws Edmund into a cell which happens to be the same cell in which Mr. Tumnus is jailed.

"So since i'm a human and we're technically meeting in this cell, do you get an extra punishment since that was the crime you committed to get in here anyway?"
“So since i’m a human and we’re technically meeting in this cell, do you get an extra punishment since that was the crime you committed to get in here anyway?”

Fortunately, the Pevensies and the Beavers manage to flee the dam before the wolves can get to them. When the White Witch discovers this, she sets off after the runaways herself with Edmund by her side and later sets up camp to rally her own army against Aslan’s.

During their fleeing, The Pevensies and the Beavers  bump into Father Christmas, played by James Cosmo, who gives them all magical weapons as gifts.

Uh...no.
Uh…no.
That's more like it.
That’s more like it.

He even lets them know that the winter is wearing off since they’ve arrived. And we can see that the land is becoming greener and greener.

They soon arrive at Aslan’s camp which is filled with soldiers of all kinds, animals of all kinds, and even Aslan himself is an animal: a lion, to be precise, voiced by Liam Neeson.  

"Don't let me get my Bad Cop side out!"
“Don’t let me get my Bad Cop side out!”

He welcomes them and asks where Edmund is. When he hears the story, he later sends some troops to storm the White Witch’s camp and rescue Edmund. They manage to successfully save Edmund and bring him to Aslan’s camp.

Once back at the camp, Aslan has a long talk with Edmund and all is forgiven. Edmund is reunited with his siblings and regrets the mistakes that he has made. They all forgive him and apologize for being hard on him in the first place.

Peter has thoughts of sending the rest of the siblings back home, while he stays behind and fights with Aslan, but the other siblings won’t have that. They start practicing using their weapons that Father Christmas gave them developing their fighting skills. Not long after, an unexpected guest visits Aslan’s camp: the White Witch herself.

"Go ahead, pull my finger. I dare you!"
“Go ahead, pull my finger. I dare you!”

Yep, she just heads right into it and nobody attacks her. She demands to speak with Aslan and reminds him that since Edmund is a traitor, the ancient laws say that Edmund belongs to her…his blood is her property. Aslan then takes the White Witch into his tent for a private conversation…where he devours her putting an end to the suffering that Narnia has been facing these past 100 years.

"Thanks for watching! Please pick up any and all trash from the floor before you exit the cinema! Have a wonderful day!"
“Thanks for watching! Please pick up any and all trash from the floor before you exit the cinema! Have a wonderful day!”

Ok, no that doesn’t happen. They actually just go into the tent and make a private deal between themselves which results in the White Witch renouncing her claim on Edmund’s life and heading back to her camp. Why Aslan just doesn’t kill her when he has the chance, I don’t know!

"My Bad Cop side is still hidden."
“My Bad Cop side is still hidden.”

Later that night, Aslan heads out into the forest alone. Susan and Lucy notice and follow him. They see he’s headed for the Stone Tablet, a tablet located on an old ruin of sorts. The place is also surrounded by the White Witch and many of her soldiers. What is Aslan doing here? Well, apparently, the deal he made with the White Witch was that he would give his life instead of Edmund’s and that the White Witch not harm anyone else. And that’s just what happens, the White Witch, in front of everyone there, kills Aslan on the Stone Tablet.

Eh...it's no Mufasa's death.
Eh…it’s no Mufasa’s death.

As sad as this is, even more tragic (but not surprising) is that the White Witch goes back on her word and intends to attack Aslan’s army the next day. Susan and Lucy are heart-broken at this, but manage to get the news to Peter. He then hesitantly takes control over the army and the next day, they meet the White Witch’s army on a great plain for a fantastical battle.

I'll be honest, this looks epic!
I’ll be honest, this looks epic!

The White Witch’s army is far greater in numbers and even appears to be winning until Aslan joins Peter’s army with an army of his own. Yep, Aslan has “risen from the dead”, a sort of representation of some Christians’ view on Jesus. This whole series is apparently supposed to be in essence a Christian allegory.

Long live the lion king!
Long live the lion king!

In the end, Aslan and Peter’s armies win, Aslan devours the White Witch (FINALLY), Mr. Tumnus and all the other prisoners of the White Witch are freed, peace is restored to Narnia, the Pevensie children become the new rulers of Narnia, and Aslan goes away for a while.

Years pass and the Pevensie children are now Pevensie adults and still in Narnia. During a horseback riding excursion one day, they come across a familiar place that they can’t quite place. It’s in fact the back of the wardrobe that they used to get into this land in the first place, but over the years they forgot about it. As they explore this wardrobe and head further into it, they all plummet out of the wardrobe back into the Professor’s manor house. And like before, they all return to the real world as the same ages they were when they left.

The Professor enters the room with the cricket ball in hand (the one that caused the whole trouble in the beginning) and asks the children what were they doing in the wardrobe. The children reply that he won’t believe them if they told him and he tells them to try him.

"Thanks for watching! Please pick up any and all trash from the floor before you exit the cinema! Have a wonderful day!"
“Thanks for watching! Please pick up any and all trash from the floor before you exit the cinema! Have a wonderful day!”

And that’s the movie. What to say about this film? Basically, it’s the junior version of the The Lord of the Rings movies. If the The Lord of the Rings franchise was too dark/violent/inappropriate for younger kids, then this film provides the proper alternative for younger viewers who still want to enjoy a fantasy world.

The story isn’t all that great, the acting isn’t all that great, nothing is all that great, but nothing’s terrible either. A lot of the CG effects look fake compared to nowadays’ standards, but for the time, they were pretty decent. And that’s pretty much how I’d describe this film: pretty decent (not morality-wise, but worth-wise). It’s not a great film, it’s not a bad film, it’s in the middle.

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)

conrating

So, the final score for this film is 26/35 = 74.29% (C) !

The next review will be posted on March 9th.

13 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

  1. I never read the Narnia books because, well, they are simply not standard reading material over here in Germany. So I watched the movie and then I thought “That’s it? Did Disney tone everything down?” So I grabbed the book, read it and realized: No, the book really is as flat as it seemed to be. I get why it was a success when it was released, but we have developed so much further in terms of storytelling in fantasy settings and for children.

    In the end, it is a “can watch” movie, but I don’t see how you can do much more with the books.

  2. So much for my earlier eager anticipation; but to be completely honest, I did sort-of anticipate a C grade as the worst case scenario, best case was going to be a B +. I remember really loving the book as a child, so the film was something of a wish-fulfilment for me in how much it stuck to the source material. But as you highlighted, there are a lot of questionable plot elements, many of them were translated directly from the book. Years later, it really does look as though interest in it as a film has been lost. Which for me, leaves me at a loss, and now I’m left wondering what could have been different to give it that vital staying power older fantasy films had. 😦

    Though, I will also say, I really thought Swinton, McAvoy and the girl who played Lucy elevated the material and were more than just passable. I especially loved the interactions between Lucy and Tumnus. Also, little bit of trivia for you; when the scene of Lucy entering Narnia was first filmed, young Georgie Henley was taken onto the set blindfold, and her delighted reactions to seeing the snow and forest for the first time was all genuine.

    1. Yeah, I had read that afterwards that this was her first time seeing the set. I dunno, I guess it just didn’t please me, but who am I to tell someone their reactions are wrong, lol?

      I never read any of these books, so I can’t comment on them.

  3. I wish you had been a bit more positive about this film. I’ve never actually read or seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but a large reason for the similarities might be that the author of The Chronicles of Narnia books (C.S. Lewis) was a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings.

    As a fan of the Narnia books (I grew up reading them all with my aunt) I think this is one of the best literary adaptations I’ve seen. I have also seen all the other adaptations that are available, and I think this is the most cinematic, interesting version of the first book. The 1988 miniseries and the 1979 animated film were primarily dry retellings, though it’s hard to fault them just for that, and they had their positives.

    You may be right about the children’s acting, but personally I loved all of them and thought they were perfect for the parts. I have to admit that I personally can relate to them because I have 2 sisters and 1 brother, so it’s easy for me to identify with them. Lucy reminds me of my younger sister, while Peter I can see as my older brother and Susan my second younger sister, and I can see myself as Edmund. They were mostly flat in the books but here I think they really come together. But there are moments that remind me so much of growing up with my siblings. The scene in the hallway where Lucy tries to hide in the closet, Edmund says “I was here first” and Lucy says “Pfffft” and that look in her eyes just sums up me and my little sister to a T. XD

    The reason Aslan didn’t kill the White Witch when they were in private was because it would violate his code of honor. He knew the White Witch would refuse to uphold her part of the bargain, and once she had done that and he was resurrected her life would be forfeit.

    Mr. Tumnus had not been instructed to kidnap Lucy on that day. The White Witch didn’t know that Lucy was there. Bringing any humans to her was just something people were supposed to do I think and Tumnus had been trying to enforce that policy before his change of heart. A bigger point would be Lucy endangering Tumnus by repeatedly coming back. This is a big problem in all versions but it was really only blatantly obvious in the BBC miniseries.

    All the same there was a time when this was one of my favorite movies.

    1. Glad you like the film so much! I don’t dislike this film and would watch it a few times more. I just didn’t consider it a masterpiece.

      And I don’t think I made any comments about the similarities between this and The Lord of the Rings in a bad way. That didn’t bother me at all.

  4. I was a huge fan of the BBC mini-series they made of this when I was a young kid, but I had never read the books until after this movie came out. I definitely agree that the plot is a bit flat and the same thing can honestly be said about (most of) the books. The kid actors are also nothing to write home about (at least in this movie)

    At the same time, these really are books for KIDS, and I think it’s important to remember that. You’re right, it really is like a toned down LOTR. But the point is that kids don’t find this stuff as boring and flat as we older people do. This stuff was so magical for me as a kid, and sitting in the theater I still remember it was much more about the experience than the plot of this movie. It’s such a well known story that unless you really screw it up, people are going to love.

    I’m extremely sad they never continued. I liked Prince Caspian (despite it being NOTHING like the book) and Dawn Treader was awesome. Are you going to review those as well?

    Also, fact you might find interesting: I enjoyed all your pictures comparing this to Frozen, but did you know that C.S. Lewis actually based the White Witch on “The Snow Queen” in the story by Hans Christian Anderson? It makes sense…

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I mean, I really wasn’t bored with anything in the movie; I just was pointing out as a fact that this is a toned down version of LOTR.

      Well, I definitely plan to review Prince Caspian, but after that film didn’t perform so well, Disney stopped making the Narnia movies. Hence, Dawn Treader isn’t a Disney movie and since this blog is just about the Disney movies, I won’t be doing Dawn Treader.

      But, hopefully we’ll see more Narnia films once they get their film rights issues solved.

      And no, I actually didn’t know that the White Witch was based on The Snow Queen. What a coincidence!

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