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

Disney has finally done something right. I will admit that I’m not a fan of the former animation powerhouse. I used to be, as I’m sure many other people were , but since the middle 90’s Disney has often resorted to prostituting its screen classics in order to make a quick buck.

We can thank it for instantly forgettable sequels like The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea (2000) and, to be released in 2006, Bambi II. (Which, is apparently, a ‘midquel’, the story taking place in the middle of the first Bambi movie.” So technically its Bambi ½.) Disney hasn’t merely tarnished its reputation for quality products; it’s almost completely destroyed it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not an animated film but Disney has finally restored some of its former glory with this film and it’s in stark contrast to the rubbish they’re normally associated with.

Sure, another production company was attached to the project as well, Walden Media, and they may have been responsible for the success of this first Narnia outing more than Disney but… we won’t worry about technicalities. All you have to know is that The Chronicles of Narnia is a fantastic film that will be a hit with children and adults alike.

When Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan are sent to live in the English countryside during the Second World War they may not be as protected as their mother would like. Staying in a house belonging to an off-the-wall professor, they stumble upon a magic wardrobe while playing hide and seek. The wardrobe acts as a doorway from their world to the world of Narnia; a mystical land filled with magic and amazing creatures – but one that is also ruled by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton).

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not just a kid’s film. It may have themes and elements that form part of the children’s cinema market but at times it’s also an intense piece of filmmaking, and certainly geared towards a more mature market as well. Children’s book-to-movie adaptations often slip into the habit of softening certain elements in order to be child-friendly and safe. The result is that something gets lost in the adaptation and, while it may be enjoyable for the kids, adults struggle stay involved. Not so here.

This is a film concerned with the battle between good and evil, and the filmmakers are not afraid to show it. Huge Lord of the Rings style sequences, evil creatures – that look like they’ve been plucked from hell itself – and a masterfully done Aslan the lion (Liam Neeson) are just some of the things that highlight this tale. At times, I found myself quite shocked at how much was actually being shown and implied. It’s by no means a horror film, but it will upset certain younger children.

Tilda Swinton is stellar in her role as the evil witch. There’s a quality to her that I can’t quite place. She’s a fantastic performer, possible of attaining A-list status easily, but yet she remains quite obscure – in my eyes anyway – and surfaces in a film when you least expect her (Constantine being one example). This ‘remote’ quality heightened her role as the ice queen for me and, when put next to Aslan the Lion (with whom parallels to certain spiritual figures can be drawn), things just work wonderfully.

No doubt you will have heard about the Christian church and its association with this film. Yes, the film has many instances where parallels (as mentioned above) can be drawn with Christianity. If you’re familiar with the Gospel they will be extremely evident – I found myself more involved as a result – but this is by no means a religious film. It’s a case of who you are and what you believe that will influence what you see. Don’t let any connotations put you off.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the best holiday film of the year. It’s better than King Kong and Harry Potter put together. With another six books in the series Disney has a live-action franchise on their hands that will make a killing over the next six Christmas holidays to come. Here’s hoping they don’t muck it up like they’ve done with their animated features.

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