Making a live action film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe is a risky venture. Sure, there are legions of fans of the Narnia series but there are mythical creatures and talking animals and children who are heroes. This is such an easy novel to mess up and make a really cheesy movie with bad special effects. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, if Aslan did not succeed the film itself would have failed utterly.
Fortunately, Aslan does work on screen and the cheese factor is quite low. The children do a fine job and the CG effects are excellent. The world is brighter than Middle Earth, but Narnia looks fully realized on screen.
The story is a fairly simple one, four children in war torn England are sent to a relative’s home to stay so they are not at risk from bombings. While playing in the house they discover a wardrobe which harbors a secret: out of the back of the wardrobe is some sort of a portal to a different wintery world: Narnia. Narnia is ruled by the White Witch and is permanent winter until the return of Aslan. These children are foretold in prophecy and will have a major role to play in the future of Narnia.
The story is simple. It could be viewed as a typical fantasy stet up. But because C.S. Lewis was also a Christian writer there is a very strong Christian overtone (or underpinning) if you know what you are looking for. It is there, but it is not overwhelming.
Rated PG, this film is toned down for children. The battles are nothing like that of Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and yet this does not feel as if it were a children’s movie. Well made. Well acted, even by the children. Well done.
There are a slew of bonus features on the two disc DVD: Bloopers, multiple commentary tracks, documentaries and features on the making of Narnia (including a focus on Lewis himself), and the creatures and legends of Narnia. This is a very complete DVD for the fan of the film and the novels.