Tuesday, January 10, 2006


By Reymundo Salao

When four kids, the Pevensie siblings (the eldest) Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy (the youngest), were playing hide and seek, one of them hides in a wardrobe and has discovered that inside is a magical portal through the mysterious land of Narnia. As all four kids wander far into the land of Narnia, they are introduced to many characters and got entangled and involved with the war that can determine the fate of Narnia. They are introduced to the evil White Witch Jadis that has frosted Narnia into perpetual winter, and they also met the rebellious creatures that seek to restore the freedom and peace in Narnia; led by their enigmatic leader; Aslan. Soon the kids find themselves taking on the great responsibility in playing a huge part in the salvation of Narnia and its creatures. They have become destined to become heroes in a magnificent battle of good versus evil.

Tilda Swinton, who made quite an impression in last year’s “Constantine” plays the White Witch Jadis, a role very much fit for her. The main characters played by Skandar Keynes as Edmond, Anna Popplewell as Susan, and William Moseley as Peter deliver powerful performances, but it was Georgie Henley as Lucy that stood out as the sparkling star of the film. As adorable as the talking beavers, one would think she is a CGI. Her cute charm and convincing performance makes one forget about Dakota Fanning. Its director Andrew Adamson, who directed the successful Shrek movies, takes on a most challenging first live-action feature film with satisfactory magnificence.

Actually very much compared to the work of his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), C.S. Lewis’ classic fantasy epic “The Chronicles of Narnia” (which is actually composed of seven volumes/books) has been one of the most influential classical books of the 20th Century. But while Tolkien’s tale has a more mature and serious approach to fantasy and the dealings of war, life and death, Narnia is more bent on morality, values, and even hints of theology (which the film seems to have minimized in contrast to the books). The point in a nutshell, “Chronicles of Narnia” is more kid-friendly. It is quite clear that despite the action and the battles this movies has, it still abides by certain Disney limitations. One such example is that you would never see a bloodstained sword (although the presence of blood is mentioned). It is quite an ignorable little imperfection really; you will never notice it until you see the close up scenes with one of the main characters Peter. And indeed it works like a Disney movie. The radiantly colored costumes; the red and yellow color pattern for the heroes and the blue, black, and brown for the villains. When you see them in the battlefield, it gives a clear definition of what an eye-candy war looks like. The special focus on the kid characters was also a mark of a distinctive Disney movie. I'm just glad that it is a bit more progressive than the older Disney movies and never quite puts itself on dumb pre-school logic situations (except for the Santa scene though).

Aside from the blood-stain error, the thing that I was not much happy about Narnia is that at least it should have had scene where battle tactics were laid out. Even one that is less than a minute would do. I mean, come on, we know it should be kid-friendly; but we know that it shouldn’t be childish either.

There were also too many unanswered questions that popped in my head. Simple questions that the audience should’ve been given, at least, an idea of. Where did the White Witch come from? If the entire Narnia is cursed into perpetual winter, why is the land where the rebel encampment situated under the radiance of spring? Were humans ever been to Narnia before the Pevensie kids did? What happened to the minions of the Witch? And why the heck was Santa Claus there? (But it was rather cool though; the idea of Santa giving out swords and arrows) One would notice that the storyline rushes a bit too fast for its pace, as if it is in a hurry to meet up with a 3-hour long limit. The cut and the editing may have been clean, but it fails to answer questions. I'm sure a lot of the aspects of the story had been intentionally cut-out just for the movie to not drag on any longer. And indeed Narnia was never dragging. But sure I was viscerally satisfied by the movie, but the question marks remain.

Awesome as it may be, even the battle scenes failed to focus on the fight scenes of many characters. We see giants join the battle, but we barely see them fighting. We see many many characters and creatures that needed to be focused for a second glimpse. But regardless, the battle scenes were still both exhilarating and colorful. What it lacks in gore compensates in eyebrow-raising magical scenes and eye-catching characters. It is without question that the special effects of Narnia are the finest there has ever been so far, even exceeding the flawlessness of the Star Wars films. They pulled off a photo-realistic Aslan; each and every scene of the heroic lion is pure CGI, there is not a single shot of a real lion is seen in the film. But it looks so “National Geographic”- real. The gryphons, the phoenix, and the minotaurs; all visually-stunning. This is because of Narnia’s colossal combination of teams from the world’s best visual effects artists; Rhythm & Hues, Sony Imageworks and ILM. The film's creative team further includes four-time Academy Award-winning visualist Richard Taylor and the wizards from his WETA Workshop. What’s great is it does not even resort to needless SFX (Special Effects) exhibitions. Up to a point that it sometimes feels that the SFX scenes are too inadequate and that you feel the desire to see more.

Without a doubt, “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe” is a stunning and majestic adventure for the whole family. A light-hearted adventure with the simple premise of good versus evil. It may not be recommended for critical geeks who want real depth in their fantasy-adventure movies, but it surely is recommended for kids of all ages.

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