It is probably one of those stories you remember from your childhood. With wide-eyed innocence, you open your closet door and walk to the back hoping that you will enter the magical world of talking animals, governed by a noble lion, and a land where children can be heroes. I don't know about you, but I did it.
The classic novel series by British author C.S. Lewis has enchanted children around the world for decades and was one of the foundations for the emergence of fantasy.
The classic story tells the tale of four children who escape the bombardments of London during the Second World War and are sent to live with some relatives in the country.
During their visit, the children come across a giant wardrobe which magically is a portal to a hidden world known as Narnia. The children meet Aslan (Liam Neeson), the wise and mighty lion who was one of the first kings of Narnia. They must also tangle with the wicked White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who has thrown Narnia into a 100-year-long winter.
The children discover that a prophecy foretells that 2 sons of Adam and 2 daughters of Eve will arrive in Narnia to bring down the rule of the White Witch.
A lot of people probably remember the classic 1988 BBC presentation of this classic novel and the many sequels it spawned. I have to say that I was enchanted with that series and wondered what it would be like to see this film fully realized on the big screen.
Now in 2005, over 15 years after the BBC show, I get to see what that would be like.
I have to say, no matter how many times they tell this story, I always find that the magic is always there. This time, Narnia is brought to life so intricately and lush that you can't help but get caught up in the magic.
As I watched the amazing effects and how many different kinds of beings inhabited the world, I became utterly stunned at how brilliant Tilda Swinton was as the vicious White Witch. I loved every single scene she was in. She was unforgettable.
The thing that bugged me about this version of Narnia was that it seemed like it took forever for the children to get into the wardrobe.
Maybe I was just impatient or that I know the story backwards and forwards, but it felt like forever. Like a lot of other classic stories, the tales of Narnia aren't about the journey but about the land itself. I wish I could have seen this version without knowing so much about the subject matter.
There are some of the really zany children's aspects of this film that kind of reminded me why I liked the book as a child but have stepped away from it as an adult. One of those scenes is the arrival of "Father Christmas", who gives the children their weapons for their battle in Narnia. Even in the novel, I had a problem with that scene and now with how real Narnia feels in this film, the scene just feels extremely dull and inappropriate. I know it's a children's film, but still, I wish that scene could have been updated, even if it was part of C.S. Lewis's classic vision.
As a whole I think this is a delightful beginning to the Narnia film series and I am really looking forward to the sequels. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.