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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.
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.
They are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, played by William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley, respectively.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
As he goes further into Narnia searching for Lucy, he comes across an ice queen on a sled being pulled by reindeer.
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?!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
So, the final score for this film is 26/35 = 74.29% (C) !
The next review will be posted on March 9th.