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Chronicles of Narnia’ a faithful, charming adaptation

Observer Scene | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” has received a great deal of press, but most of it hasn’t actually dealt with the film itself.

Most press has focused on how the film compares to the massively popular “Harry Potter” franchise or analyzed how much of author C.S. Lewis’s Christian themes made it into the movie.

Fortunately for viewers, director Andrew Adamson’s adaptation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” surpasses these narrow categories and can be enjoyed by all audiences, including fans of the entire Narnia series.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” chronicles the adventures of the Pevensie children, who discover the magical realm of Narnia in the back of a wardrobe. The four children, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), soon find themselves embroiled in a battle between the forces of good and evil in a land they never knew existed.

Narnia has been in a state of perpetual winter under the rule of the tyrannical White Witch, Jadis (Tilda Swinton), who maintains her power through a mix of spies, treachery and evil magic. She fears the arrival of the children, because they are an integral part of the prophesy that foretells the return of Aslan the lion (Liam Neeson), who possesses the power to overthrow the witch. The children find themselves drawn into the battle for control over Narnia, and in the process, the four children learn a great deal about themselves and the relationship they have with each other.

The four actors who portray the Pevensie children do a decent job in the film, considering that they have to shoulder much of the acting burden in the movie. They aren’t quite as adept at acting as their peers in the “Harry Potter” films, but they still manage to hold their own in a multi-million dollar movie, especially considering how much green screen work was involved in the film’s production.

Tilda Swinton manages to steal the movie with her portrayal of the White Witch. Her distinctive appearance, coupled with a convincing portrayal of evil, makes her an extremely effective villain and allows her to steal every scene in which she appears. She manages to create a terrifying bad guy that still manages to be appropriate for a children’s film.

The film’s most impressive scenes between the forces of good and evil are entertaining, but they seem very reminiscent of similar scenes in the “Lord of the Rings” films. It is admirable, though, that the makers of the film managed to pull off a convincing battle sequence with no blood and very little on-screen violence, which keeps it acceptable for children.

All of the CGI in the movie, especially the digitally-created characters like Aslan, is very impressive. It is good enough to create the magical atmosphere necessary for the film to work, but it is real enough so that it doesn’t detract from the beautiful scenery in the movie.

Overall, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” manages to prove what critics expected wrong. It isn’t simply a “Harry Potter” rip-off, and it doesn’t push a Christian agenda, as many expected. It is an entertaining film that is appropriate for all viewers, and, as a bonus for the studios, will probably prove to be a very lucrative franchise in the future.