The First Narnia Reviews

The first screening of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was held last night in Southern California. While many of the special effects were not completed and only 30 minutes of the film has been scored, the reviews are very in depth. This first review has also been posted at AICN but the reviewer also posted it here for us and gave us an extra-geeky footnote.

Review By Bellweather

My wife and I were just getting back from attending North by Northwest in Bakersfield, when we heard about a “test screening of an upcoming Disney holiday film.” Hedging our bets that it wasn’t Casanova or Chicken Little, we grabbed passes and showed up several hours early to the Edwards theatre in La Verne, California. Our guess was correct, and we were part of the first audience in the world to see “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

As big C.S. Lewis fans, we were amazed and completely thrilled by the movie. I’ll avoid plot spoilers for those few who haven’t read the books, but suffice it to say, the movie kept quite close to the plot of the book. There were a few places where the story was streamlined to make it more amenable to the format, but overall there was little that I missed!

The movie opens in 40s London during the Blitz–the introduction beautifully illustrates the terrible atmosphere of the time. The CG here was fantastic–I was on the edge of my seat from the first minute of the movie. The detailing of the opening setting, from the wartime posters to the period costuming was wonderful. It really seemed like we were looking in a window to the 1940s.

There were two real standout performances–Tilda Swinton as Jadis, and Georgie Henley as Lucy. Tilda brought immense talent and presence to her role. In comparision, Aslan (Liam Neeson) seemed unfortunately tame. Jadis was powerful and scary when she needed to be, and always commanded the screen when she was present.

Lucy was wonderfully portrayed by Georgie Henley who conveyed the sense of wonder and magic that Narnia was all about. In her eyes, I saw myself reading the books for the first time and dreaming of a land of fauns and centaurs, and ancient magic.

The other children were capably portrayed–I was bit disappointed with Susan, who was a bit whinier than I would have expected.

Special Effects:
The special effects were very raw and incomplete–many scenes involved actors wearing green pants where SFX would be later added, or backdrops that were incomplete or non-existent. That said, the SFX that were complete were wonderful. The fantastic characters of Lewis’ world were very capably brought to life–my favorite has to be the faun’s legs, and the distinct goat-like walk.

Only thirty minutes of the film had been scored. The classical score that we heard was quite good. The soundtrack however, was bizarre. Electronica pieces filled in several major scenes, and it seemed out of place and wrong. As my wife said, “Bjork does not belong in Narnia.” If these pieces are not temporary, I fear that CoN:tLtWatW (whew!) may be prematurely dated (anyone watched Ladyhawk recently?)

Results of the Test panel:
My wife and I and a friend were picked to take part in the panel after the film. The major feedback from the panel was that the film was excellent (21/26 rated Excellent, 4 rated Very Good, 1 Good rating). Everyone felt that the movie captured the spirit of the book. Some of the panel were more than a little harsh of Disney’s past efforts–which was amusing to me, given that the rows behind us were filled with film studio people who did not look particularly pleased with these comments.

This movie more than captures the magic of Lewis’ Narnia, and is destined to be a classic film. I will be first in line to see it again when it opens, and it will be a permanent addition to my movie collection. That said, I urge you all to see it on the big screen. Anything less will not do justice to the epic scale of the film. It is certainly one large wardrobe.

I’ll add here for the Narnia-geeks. The major complaint of the Narnia-experts in the panel was that during the coronation scene, the children are not crowned in the name of the Emperor beyond the Sea, but rather in the name of the four winds and their powers. [It has been since announced that the “four winds” line has been removed from the film. Never fear…]

My personal irk was that the narcotic and addictive power of Jadis’ turkish delights is not adequately conveyed. Edmund wants sweets–but does not appear to be supernaturally affected by them. However, it doesn’t really detract substantially from the film!

One more review posted at Ain’t It Cool News.

Review at the Box Office Mojo Forum