Movie Review: Narnia
Now, before I go further, I feel the obligation to mention that I do read for Walden Media, who produced this film. But I wouldn't let that cloud my comments. If I didn't like the film, I might have abstained from commenting at all rather than badmouthing it. But I wouldn't say it was good if I thought it wasn't. Thus, my positive comments here should be seen as just that: praise for a really beautiful, well-made film. That being said, on to some specific comments...
Let me start with pointing out that this is definitely a movie for kids. Sure, there will be a big draw in the adult sector, primarily among those who have beloved memories of reading the book as kids. But storywise, this is definitely a children's movie, and I suspect its crossover potential is somewhat less than that of, say, a Harry Potter movie (though I must admit I've never read any of the Potter books, nor seen any of the films).
That being the case, I was really curious about how the violence would play in a kids' movie. I must say I was very impressed with the way they really walked a very fine line, I believe successfully. There is no question that there are some violent parts to this film. After all, it is about a large scale war for the fate of the land of Narnia. Still, I thought the violence was handled rather delicately. We never see any blood throughout the film. Much of the more violent scenes are brief, and intercut with tamer scenes. I also noticed that during the battle sequences, some of the digital effects got slightly more cartoonish. I'm not sure whether this was be design or not, but I think it worked to help make some of those shots a bit more palatable for younger viewers. And finally, some of the more significant deathblows were dealt by creatures other than our central (child) characters. Though this may not be ideal from a story perspective, it works best from the perspective of having children involved in a war.
The effects themselves were excellent, overall. Though there may have been a few shots that looked a bit fake, the bulk were excellent, and I don't think any of the kids in the target market will spot the things my eye did.
There were a number of kids at the screening with me, and I was keeping an eye on them to see how they reacted. I was sitting right next to a girl of about 10, and there was a boy of 7 or 8 sitting right behind me, and I kept glancing at them. There were moments when the girl would pull her legs up, as if she were a bit nervous, and I also think I heard her cry a bit at one of the sadder scenes. But overall, neither she nor the boy seemed overly scared by any part, and seemed to enjoy the film overall. And I think the more magical aspects really pleased them. In particular, I remember glancing over at the boy during the first scene in which we meet the lion Aslan, and he begins speaking. The boy had this giant smile on his face, like it was the greatest thing he'd ever seen.
What else? I think a lot of people were curious about how the film would handle the Christian underpinnings Lewis clearly wrote into his tale. While that stuff is certainly there, it is not overt. I think there is no avoiding Aslan's Christ parable, in him dying to save Edmund, and being resurrected afterwards. But beyond that obvious aspect, the film doesn't hammer you over the head with it. (In fact, my roommate, who joined me at the screening, didn't notice that at all until I pointed it out to him. So unless you're aware and are looking for it, it is simply what it is, and nothing more.) That being said, there was one part that related to this that I felt was actually out of place in the context of the film. The characters repeat a few times that there hasn't been Christmas in Narnia for a hundred years. Finally, the kids come face to face with Father Christmas, who gives them presents, in the form of weapons and tools they will need. The way it was handled, I just felt it felt really out of place in the film, because nothing else really related to Christmas. I think it was just a bit too our-worldly to include in the fantasy of Narnia.
The film also takes a little bit long to get started, spending some time on set-up. But those set-ups were really necessary, especially in the context of an epic fantasy series, so I think it was acceptable, and done is as fine a fashion as possible. Furthermore, once the set-ups were out of the way, and we've gotten all four Pevensie children in to Narnia, the script wisely moved quickly into an action sequence to get everyone excited and involved in the film.
Lastly, Georgie Henley, who plays the young Lucy is absolutely adorable. I don't know how anyone will be able to resist smiling at her, and crying with her tears.
Tags: Chronicles+of+Narnia, C+S+Lewis