SpeculativeFiction


The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe


So I went to see the first movie in the Narnia sequence last week. I was hopeful; the trailers presented an image of a movie in the tradition of Jackson's Middle Earth, based around a classic fantasy series from the same period and sticking faithfully to the work of the original author. It should have worked out well, with the ground already broken, assuming the people involved were competent; instead, the result was disappointing.

Don't get me wrong -- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was not by any means a bad movie. In fact, if you put aside Jackson's trilogy, it's the best adaptation of a fantasy novel in a long time, and probably the best fantasy movie for the same period. (At any rate, nothing aside from Jackson is coming to mind that could compete -- I should note here that I am not a Potter fan and have not seen those movies). It's definitely a well done movie, and if it doesn't quite reach epic quality, they still have quite a few books to go.

However.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tried very hard to match Jackson's feat with The Lord of the Rings, and unfortunately failed.  The movie was ambitious, reaching higher than they could manage to support.  The basics were done right, and done well; but they put in a lot of effort to reach higher than just a basic fantasy adaptation, and when they failed to reach the heights, the failure
brings down the rest of the work.

So what exactly was wrong with it?  Emphatically NOT the source material.  The adaptation was relatively faithful to the source, as adaptations go.  Most of the scenes were taken directly from the book.  Unfortunately, simply taking scenes directly doesn't work well; to fit into a visual medium the scenes need to have connecting material, so that they avoid becoming a visual storyboard.  The written language provides for transitions, and those transitions were notably lacking, giving the latter half of the movie a very incoherent and disconnected feeling.

The special effects were ambitious, as well, and unfortunately failed to convince.  The characters of Mr. Tummnus and the badgers were done very, very well, but once the scale opened up a bit the quality of the effects suffered. 

The one character who didn't need any special effects for her person, the Witch, was also subtly wrong; partially her costume, which was intended to evoke frozen material and was thus overly stiff and almost cardboardish, but also her acting.  Perhaps best described as "almost, but not quite".  The actress picked up very well on many of the subtle cues that the Witch should present, allowing the audience to realize her true nature while concealing it from Edmund, but then emphasized those cues to the point of no longer being subtle at all.

Finally, the movie demonstrated what appears to be near-complete ignorance of the movie's allegorical nature.  It's a Christian tale at heart, Lewis's retelling of Eden, and while it is supposed to be subtle, it's almost not there at all in the movie.  I don't consider this necessarily to be a flaw, since there's no reason to think that they would have gotten it right had they tried to include it, but remaking the whole Chronicles of Narnia without that as a foundation is likely to fail.

On the whole, it's not worth raving about, but it is worth seeing if you were a fan of Narnia.  It won't do any major damage to the books.  But it doesn't meet the standard set by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, so don't go in hoping for that.

This entry was published Sat Dec 17 13:43:07 CST 2005 by Matthew and last updated 2013-08-14 09:19:05.0.

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