The screen adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ imaginary world in
Thursday, December 8, 2005
This is the one, after The Lord of the Rings,
that—if you’re any kind of proper geek at all—you’ve been
looking forward to with a mixture of glee and dread. So it is
such a relief and a joy to report that it’s hard to imagine
how much more right director Andrew Adamson, his four FX
houses and his perfect cast could have gotten The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE ( * * * * )Directed by Andrew Adamson.
Starring Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley and William Moseley.
(PG, 140 min.) At Century Cinemas Del Monte Center, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.
C.S. Lewis’ classic fantasy—beloved by children, fantasy nerds and Christians who misunderstand that the allegorical stuff of Lewis’ book far predates Christianity—is here warm, funny, scary, magnificent, gorgeous, expansive, intimate, but mostly completely and utterly charming.
It’s in all the tiny details, the rock-solid reality of even the most impossible things in this magical land of Narnia that make you not just believe but feel its solidity and substance. Adamson found a treasure in then 8-year-old Georgie Henley to play Lucy, youngest of the four Pevensie siblings. The authenticity of Narnia is established from the very first moment Lucy, hiding from her brother in a wardrobe, mysteriously stumbles out the back of the closet and into this fantasy realm. The look on her face as she suddenly finds herself in a snowy wood is all the proof we need that Narnia exists. There’s never a moment of disbelief that we, the audience, must overcome.
And she never stops believing, this bewitching kid—and so we never do, either. Not when she meets the faun Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), with his goat legs, big pointy ears and penchant for sardines and toast. Not when she meets friendly talking beavers or menacing talking wolves or messianic talking lions. And especially not when dealing with her older siblings: the four kids manifest an extraordinary relationship on screen, one so credibly familial that it’s hard to believe they’re not actually related.
Moreover, we never have any reason to doubt anything Lucy and the others see because with this film, it becomes clear that there’s nothing that CGI cannot convincingly re-create. In all the armies of creatures, you can’t tell which are real, which are guys in costumes and which are mere pixels. Inexpressibly graceful touches are woven into the CGI, too: Mr. Tumnus stamping snow off his hooves; even the tiny mice that nibble away at Aslan’s bonds after the ritual that…
Well. No point in spoiling the tale for those who haven’t read the book. Suffice to say that that ritual scene has its own charms, though they’re dark and ominous ones. Tilda Swinton as the White Witch—Aslan’s, and Narnia’s, nemesis—presides over a ceremony as grim and terrifying as anything The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter throw at their kiddie (and adult) audiences. It’s not just the fell critters, CGI or otherwise, who attend the rite: Swinton is horrifying, in a way the little kid in you wants to crawl under the blankets to get away from, and the sophisticated adult in you thrills to recognize such supreme talent.