The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , a review

Title screen from Narnia

Straight up, I'll say that I was impressed with this film. And for many reasons. Firstly, it stuck to the book almost chapter for chapter and can be considered a very faithful adaptation. Secondly, it generated the requisite sense of wonder that the book did for me so many years ago.

For those that don't know, this is the film adaptation of C. S. Lewis' second Narnia book, or first if you go by writing order. Chronologically, it is the second book and that's how I treat it. If you follow that link back there, you can read my gushing write-up on the seven books.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are four English children who are sent from London during World War 2 by their mother, to escape the German bombing raids. They end up in the palatial house of Professor Kirke, a distant relation. Their father is described as being a soldier off at war somewhere, and he plays no part in the stories.

Susan Pevensie

The four children are quite naturally bored in this huge old house and they invent games and other pastimes to while away the time. The play hide-and-seek, and this is where Lucy finds the titular wardrobe.

She stumbles through the wardrobe and finds herself in Narnia, which is currently in the grip of an unceasing winter. Almost immediately she discovers Tumnus the Faun and they become friends. Soon after, Tumnus reveals that he has been recruited by the Jadis, the White Witch, as a spy, and that the Witch is on the lookout for four humans. These four humans, so prophecy foretells, will overthrow her and restore Narnia to true rule.

I won't give away the rest, like I've done with a few other of my reviews here. The story is very well-known and probably doesn't need to be given away.

Irks and Quirks

Like I mentioned, the film sticks pretty well to the events in the book, far better than most book adaptations I've seen. For those who have read the books (and adored them, like I have) the film will contain few surprises.

Jadis, who is played by actress Tilda Swinton, doesn't look quite how I pictured her. Lewis describes her as a beautiful frost-maiden and I'm fairly sure she has black hair. The 1988 BBC television movie showed Jadis as a raven-haired frost-maiden, played by Barbara Kellerman. Swinton is the better actress though and she's a lot more sinister.

Queen Jadis

There's a character added to the film that doesn't have a book counterpart, and that's the centaur Oreius. I'm not complaining, mind you as he was very good.

The end battle as Aslan's forces combat the evil army of Jadis was well done. One minor quirk was that, for a film aimed at children and young adults, the battle was quite full-on. I wondered if the makers of the film remembered who they were aiming it at when they did this. It isn't bloody or gory in any way, it's just...full-on.

There were some criticisms out there that this film resembled the Lord of the Rings too much and maybe it borrowed ideas and themes from it. I'm not sure if the critics in question knew of the friendship between Tolkien and Lewis, but the two were very good friends and often read each other's material during their meetings. So yes, both stories probably have mutual inspiration. It's no coincidence.

Other Screen Captures