The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, James McAvoy
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is the first cinematic installment in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, adapted from C.S. Lewis’ novels for the big screen. While it may not strike one as a Christmas film, you need look no further than the themes, tones and messages to be taken from this epic fantasy adventure to realise that this is every bit as festive as pigs in blankets, egg nog and Father Christmas, who himself makes an appearance – solidifying its classification as a Christmas film in my eyes! Quite frankly, the Andrew Adamson-directed piece is one of the most joyous, festive bundles of joy seen in cinema.
Disney’s 2005 blockbuster, which remains one of their biggest to date outside the realms of superheroes and animation, tells the story of the Pevensie children – Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – and their discovery of the land beyond the wardrobe; Narnia, a world of magic, mythical beasts and talking animals. A fantasy world opens before them, in which they inherently become a part of, with an ancient prophecy stating that the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) will fall when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve take the throne, they must help free Narnia from one hundred years of winter she has cursed them with. With the help of the benevolent lion Aslan (Liam Neeson), the four siblings lead the rebellion to free the world from her evil, with potentially disastrous consequences in Narnia and in the world they have left behind. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is the first of three novel in the series to be translated into film, with rumours of a fourth instalment in the works.
A lot of the film’s magic rests with the cast and their responsibility of portraying these characters realistically, with a strong need for the verisimilitude to kick in and help absorb us into this world. They achieve this marvellously, no one more so than the casts’ youngest member; Georgie Henley’s first steps into Narnia as Lucy may just be one of the most iconic moments in recent cinema history, with the pure amazement of this new world captured terrifically by the young actress and she sells every inch of the excitement with a true authenticity and skill – she IS the audience as this whole new adventure opens up for them at the same time. That’s not to say the other actors and actresses playing the Pevensie aren’t terrific – in fact, they do a stellar job of ensuring the effects-heavy showcase doesn’t overtake the emotion and importance of the messages. Moseley’s Peter becomes the leader with as much apprehension as determination, while Popplewell demonstrates Susan’s surliness well, while ensuring she is a still a wholly likeable character and Keynes’ depicts Edmund’s conflicting with great skill in balancing his loyalty to his siblings with the temptation of inevitably empty promises. Neeson’s voice talent comes into brilliant effect as Aslan and his gravely yet warm tone perfectly suits the character. And while Narnia’s Queen is the White Witch, the film’s Queen is Tilda Swinton, whose icy and venomous leader is every bit as loathsome as you hope and expect of a baddie. Her forbidding performance is sensational and conjures a worthy villain to actively root against, becoming the perfect manifestation of evil. Her malevolence, quite honestly, steals the entire show and demonstrates why she is one of Britain’s finest exports.
Oozing with handsome production values and exquisitely well-realised special effects, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is an absolute feast for the eyes and the beauty still holds up eleven years after its first release. From the breathtaking snow-laden landscapes of Narnia and the White Witches’ chilling Ice Palace to the first blooming of spring and the trolls and creatures that seamlessly come to life, there exists a wonder to behold in each and every minute of the film’s run-time. With grand and captivating visual splendour spoiling audiences and evoking a sense of awe, it really is something magical. It helps that these huge scenes never feel like set pieces for the sake of having set pieces in your film, superficially designed to impress and encourage us to splash out on a 3D ticket, but it happens rather naturally. The beauty of the entire spectacle – while richly detailed and expansive – is second to the story’s progression, the tones in play and themes in discussion. For a big-budget bonanza, the film is filled with so much charm, heart and care for the story at the centre.
Speaking of the story, it has made a beautiful translation from the page to screen, evidently crafted with a love, care and deep respect for the source material. C.S. Lewis’ story explores the importance of family and love in your life, as well as good ultimately conquering evil – these are all perfunctory themes typically found in the fantasy sub-genre, but it does not make them any less effecting and inspiring here. While occasionally a little heavy-handed regarding the portrayal of its religious undertones, it still feels like a pure and charming tale that every single person – no matter age, gender or background – will be able relate to and enjoy. It does this by carefully combining a multitude of genres and tones – at times it’s inspiring and uplifting, at others it’s heartbreaking, while it can be both scary and humorous in the space of a scene. By juggling these themes and tones so efficiently, it creates a marvel that can be appreciated by all the family – again reaffirming its position as a Christmas classic. Allegorical and vividly capturing and inspiring imaginations, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is an enchanting and wondrous tale that everyone should experience.
By bringing these effective elements together, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is the perfect harmony of a classic coming together; the ensemble performances are superb, the special effects are stunning and timeless, the story is inspiring and the production values are rich and exciting. But what works the most is the sheer amount of heart and charm that exists within it, created by people with a deep admiration and respect for what they do, and the original source material. This heart-warming story does more than enough to melt away the winter blues – and the White Witches’ ice cold heart. I will certainly be continuing the holiday tradition of watching this film on Christmas Eve – you’ll be as amazed with this film as Lucy is with Narnia itself!
Summary: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a magical, charming and epic fantasy adventure film perfect to melt away the Winter blues – with superb cast performances, superior and timeless special effects and stunning production values, all telling a beautiful story.