Sorry readers, but I just don’t see where the controversy
The story The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe has always
been close to my heart—it was the first of the C.S.
Lewis series, The Chronicles of Narnia, to be
published. My youth was spent reading classics like these, along
with stories by Roald Dahl, Bruce Coville,
and John R. Erikson. In junior high and high school,
I discovered Frank Herbert, Kevin Anderson,
Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card,
Jack McKinney, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Schenkkan
would say, “These were the stars of his firmament.”
The cinematic successes of other fantasy literature such as Tolkien’s
The Lord Of The Rings and J.K. Rowling’s
Harry Potter has opened the door to allow The Chronicles
Of Narnia to be adapted for the big time for the first time
ever—although Wardrobe has been previously adapted as an animated
feature and a BBC miniseries.
The Pevensie children—Lucy (Henley), Peter
(Moseley), Susan (Popplewell),
and Edmund (Keynes)—are ripped away from
their family after the start of WWII. Their father is away at war
and the children are separated from their mother. They are forced
to live in the English countryside with Professor Kirke (Broadbent)
and his uptight caretaker, Mrs. MacReady (Hawthorne).
It is there that Lucy discovers a mystical wardrobe that transports
her to the land of Narnia where she meets a fawn, Mr. Tumnus (McAvoy,
formerly Leto Atreides in “Children Of Dune”). She and
her siblings get caught up in a conflict in which they can finally
end the tyrannical oppression of the evil White Queen Jadis (Swinton)
over people like Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The children want to free
Narnia with the help of the mystical lion, Aslan (Neeson).
Good vs. evil, pretty black-and-white. It’s a fairy tale though,
so this is how it should be.
Wardrobe captured for me, more than anything else, those
feelings in the days of my wayward youth when I’d go to magical
lands, fight monsters, and be a hero… unless my fellow toddlers
at the Jewish Community Center pre-school coerced me into being
Cobra Commander. It’s truly wondrous in that sense.
Now I’m sure you can talk about the allegory of Narnia and
Christianity until you are blue in the face. But in the end, does
that really make the story any less compelling? Edmund has always
been a close character to me—a young boy who feels like a
shadow of his older brother and wants to be acknowledged. He easily
falls under the thrall of the White Queen, betraying his siblings
and the beings of Narnia.
The performances by the newcomers playing the Pevensie children
are all very solid—especially Henley’s innocent and
uncorrupted Lucy, not an easy role for any pre-teen to take on.
Keynes’ Edmund is exactly as he should be. Moseley’s
Peter and Popplewell’s Susan, as the older children, seem
to properly reflect the loss of innocence and faith that sometimes
comes about with age.
Swinton’s Queen Jadis is deliciously and evilly regal and
at times demonic. She looks like she could be an evil creature who
would turn people into stone and make Turkish delight out of snow.
And hey… she drives a chariot hauled by polar bears.
The physical production and props for the movie were handled by
New Zealand’s WETA Workshop. They more than prove why they
are the new measuring stick in the business. The other CG-based
characters handled by ILM, Sony Digital, and various other FX houses
(like the Beavers and Aslan) are all brilliantly done and work fine
without upstaging the human and live actors—unlike another
series of movies that just had a trilogy-ending sequel earlier this
Is this a faithful adaptation of the book and story? Yes. Is the
stone tablet scene intact? Indeed, and it’s just as dramatic,
tragic, and ultimately amazing as I always imagined it would be.
Is it appropriate for kids? It’s really at your discretion.
There are certainly some rather intense moments, but everything
else, including the battle scenes, is mostly on the tame side. This
really is a youth-oriented fable so it’s very innocent and
romantic rather than risqué, and less edgy than Lord
of the Rings. But remember—not being risqué and
edgy is not always a bad thing.
—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris