The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – 2005
Starring William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Liam Neeson (v), Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Ray Winstone (v), Dawn French (v)
Written by Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Review: Much pressure was applied upon the makers of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but then, it also had much going for it. The success of The Lord of the Rings, along with the unexpected success of The Passion of The Christ allowed a built in audience ready for family, fantasy and religious viewers. Still, to make a franchise, they had to succeed with their first shot. Succeed, they did. The 10th Highest grosser in all of Disney history to that point was among the highlights. As a movie, it comes across as a fairly accurate translation, for better or worse. The good aspects are the kids, who handle the unfamiliar fantasy territory with all the wonder required to make the movie believable to adults. The battle sequences are good, if not the miracle of LOTR, and give a sense of time and place. Aslan, however, is much like he was in the book. Everyone talks of His Majesty, and shows Him reverence when He is on-screen. He comes across as a “you had to be there,” experience, though, just like He had in the book. Overall, though, Swinton provides a menace to the Evil Queen that exceeds the written form, thereby elevating the material.
Best Sequence – The eagles soaring overhead providing a clearing for the Narnians to begin their resistance to the oncoming attackers. Great visuals and a wonderful maneuver.
Worst Sequence – It goes over so well in subsequent plays, that it’s harder to be critical. I will go with the frozen caricatures. Could have looked a lot more like the real thing, and there was really no reason, at this point, they would not.
Rating – **** out of *****
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Liam Neeson (v), Tilda Swinton, Eddie Izzard, Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage
Written by Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Review: The second film in the Chronicles of Narnia series begins in Shakespearian fashion: a castle, a prince in peril, a Queen bearing the child of the Prince’s Uncle…and this is all before the Kings and Queens are summoned to return. The shock we discover after Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy arrive, is that it’s been 1300 years in Narnian time since they had lived nearly half of a lifetime as rulers of the enchanted land. In that time, Narnia has been taken over by a race of humans, called Telmarines. The mystical connection between humans, animals, fauns and dwarves has long since been broken. The Prince, named Caspian (Barnes) escapes the castle with his fellow countrymen in pursuit. The message behind the tale is somewhat muddled in the fighting and intrigue, but the four have grown quite comfortably in their roles. They show development equal to the adventures that they have experienced. The effects are quite subtle and the overall experience subdued for an action film. It fits well within the context of a family adventure, making it somewhat thrilling for children and adults. There is no foolishness for the sake of plot, other than the awkwardness between Caspian and Peter. Other additions to the cast, in the form of new characters Reepichip and Trumpkin, are incredibly well portrayed by Eddie Izzard and Peter Dinklage. Dinklage, in particular, has become one of my favorite actors in the few short years when I first saw him in The Station Agent. His Trumpkin is a grouchy, honest and proud dwarf. One can see what brought them to be agents of the White Witch at a time, but can also believe that they became devout believers in Aslan. Dinklage accomplishes all of this with very few words. As Reepichip, Eddie Izzard provides the attitude to match the incredibly portrayed moves of a master swordsman. Unlike the whirling dervish that is Yoda in the 2nd and 3rd Star Wars prequels, the little mouse is made into do absolutely incredible and believable maneuvers. The story is really quite silly, but it takes itself seriously. This helps one get to the willing suspension of disbelief required to take in the tale.
Best Sequence – The surprise attack from underground on the open plain shows ingenuity in what is normally a typical scene. This, as well as the evolution of the eagles in all of the sequences (attacks and counter attacks). Some of the best vantage points in the entire series have come from their perspective.
Worst Sequence – The clunky, awful sword fight between Peter and the King Miraz is so bad as to be out-of-place. It is obvious neither of the actors did much dueling off camera.
Rating – **** out of *****
Directed by Michael Apted
Starring William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Liam Neeson (v), Tilda Swinton, Simon Pegg (v), Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni
Review: The third film in the series feels a bit like a departure, given that only Lucy and Edmund remain to take the journey from the last film. Meeting up with King Caspian and Reepichip on a voyage to rescue seven of his father’s contemporaries, long since banished by his Uncle Miraz. The journey takes them one a quest to rescue civilization from The Lost Islands. More silliness, this time augmented by the testing, in particular, of Lucy’s confidence in herself and the evolution of bravery in her annoying cousin, Eustace (Poulter).
The destinations this time are interesting, if lacking in any amount of sustained suspense. There is never really any amount of doubt that our heroes will survive their trials. That said, Lucy (Henley) has grown into a beautiful screen presence and Edmund (Keynes) has the potential for considerable action performances in the future. Pegg, as Reepichip, is just as electric, if not as biting wit as Izzard provided. His scenes are still a highlight, as is his sense of logic in grooming Eustace into a useful companion, instead of just a complainer. Thank goodness, because by the end of the film, it is clear that the others aren’t coming back. Aslan (Neeson) is even more relegated to cheerleader this time, even if his scenes do not have the burden of being repetitive. Overall, the film is not necessarily a step forward, but in no way a step back.
Best Sequence – The revelation of the identity of the dragon was a special moment, and the actions of the dragon throughout the rest of the film are inspired character development, impressively done.
Worst Sequence – The overthrow of the slave traders was not so inspired. It just kind of happened. Also, the monster at the end of the film is truly horrifying for younger viewers. I would wait until kids are around 10 before presenting it to them. It’s not poorly done, just not for kids, so much.
Rating – **** out of *****