The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
At last, the Pevensies have reached the silver screen. What a joy to see Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—the four siblings of C. S. Lewis's beloved The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe—brought to life so vividly. After all of the rumors, the fretting about literary fidelity, and the angst about religious agendas, we can praise director Andrew Adamson and his fine young actors for developing these "Sons of Adam" and "Daughters of Eve" into three-dimensional, engaging characters.
There they stand, at a train stop in the middle of nowhere, luggage in hand, fidgety and nervous. Their mother has sent them away from bomb-blasted London due to the Nazi threat, and they're on their way to a safer place in the country. Wasn't someone from the mansion of Professor Kirke supposed to meet them here and take them away to their new wartime refuge?
But they're no more nervous than Lewis's countless fans who worried about a faithful adaptation. Could Adamson pull it off? Would the film measure up to the hype and expectations? Are these Pevensies like the children of the book? And above all—did they get Aslan right?
Back at the train stop, watching the road for any sign of help, young Edmund frowns, checks his I.D. tag, and says, "Perhaps we've been incorrectly labeled."
Indeed. Many mainstream journalists have treated the movie as a sort of pending terrorist attack, but this movie cannot be dismissed, like so many preachy "Christian films," as religious propaganda. And the anxious faithful can relax, as Adamson has done no serious injury to the narrative's basic outline of sacrifice and redemption. "The lion's share" of Lewis's meaningful story remains intact.
Adamson, who also directed the Shrek films, was never much interested in the religious implications of Lewis's narrative. He, like Lewis, was caught up in the wild imagination of a timeless fairy tale, which happens to be full of references to the pagan mythology that Lewis found so rich with reflections of the truth. The film, which was made under the watchful eye of Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham, is best enjoyed as a symphonic and delightful fantasy. It's a kaleidoscopic vision of fanciful and colorful creatures, fantastic landscapes, and laugh-out-loud surprises.
Into the Wardrobe
The film literally opens with a bang, as Adamson smartly starts by depicting the German air raids on London. In that chaos, Adamson establishes the Pevensies' four distinct personalities and temperaments in quick, efficient strokes, even before the train carries them out of London.
Once inside the mansion of the mysterious Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent, perfectly cast), Adamson unfortunately skips their exhilarating exploration. He's too eager for the hide-and-seek game that sends Lucy burrowing into the coat-stuffed gateway to Narnia's wonders.
What happens next is one of the most enchanting sequences in the history of fantasy filmmaking. For a few minutes, everything is exactly as it should be. Mothballs. Fur coats. Snow crunching underfoot. Prickly needles of evergreen. This chapter is lifted beautifully from Lewis's description, ushering us into his wonderland with exquisite grace.