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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

“Some journeys take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny.”

As hinted by the tag line above, this movie makes a basic assumption that adventure lies very close, virtually around the corner, in all of our daily lives. It promotes the idea that one's life, like good literature and film, should excite rather than bore. This fantasy adventure contains an allegory of the Christian “passion play.” However, contrasting good with evil seems its main intent, even without the quasi-religious subtext.

The movie opens showing German airplanes on a bombing run against English cities during WWII. As the bombs fall the viewpoint shifts from that of German bombardiers to the Pevensie family: English civilians below in the path of the bombing. One of the children, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) watches out a windows as the planes fly over. His mother (Judy McIntosh) draws the curtains and calls another of her sons: Peter (William Moseley), telling him to get Edmund to the shelter. Susan (Anna Popplewell) discovers her younger sister Lucy (Georgie Henley) hiding in her bed. They also make their way to the shelter. Just before entering the underground shelter, Edmund runs back to the house. Peter pursues him. As a bomb goes off outside a window, glass rains in on them. Edmund grabs his father's picture, which shows a man in army uniform, and they run back to the shelter.

The next scene shows a large railroad depot. The children are leaving the metropolitan area by train heading for a safer place. After good byes from their mother they board the passenger train with Peter charged to watch out for the others. Many families, represented by mothers in the depot, have sent their children on the trains seeking safer housing till the war ends. As the credits roll the countryside passes outside the train windows. At early stops the Pevensies see other children taken by those who've been arranged to care for them. The green English countryside seems far more peaceful than the city. The children arrive at a simple stop labeled Coombe Halt. No one waits there for them. After a while a horse drawn cart with Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne) arrives to take them to their final destination: the home of Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). The Professor lives on a very large estate, alone with only his housekeeper: Mrs. MacReady.

After Mrs. MacReady lays down the rules and shows the children to their rooms, things become dull rather quickly as the rainy season seems to move in. The children decide to play a game of hide and seek in the large house. As Peter counts to one hundred the others hide. In looking for a hiding place, Lucy finds an almost empty room, which contains only one large piece of furniture covered with a sheet. Removing the sheet uncovers a large and intricately carved wooden wardrobe. Lucy opens the wardrobe door, revealing many coats on hangers. She climbs in as Peter counts ninety. Backing through the coats she touches what seems like snow on a pine tree. Turning around Lucy discovers that she has entered a woods, though she can still see the wardrobe door. Cautiously she moves into the trees, whose branches hold heavy burdens of snow.

In a clearing she comes to a post with a burning oil lantern atop. As she pauses, she notices other footsteps in the woods. Into the same clearing, appearing from the trees opposite, comes a faun carrying an opened umbrella. As they see each other both Lucy and the faun emit frightened noises. The faun dropped packages he was carrying as he hides in the trees. Lucy comes out from behind the lantern post and starts to retrieve the packages. She hands them to the faun who also comes out of the trees to get his belongings. The faun sports a fine set of goat legs and ears. He tells Lucy she has entered the land of Narnia. As they circle each other they exchange names. The faun says his name is Tumnus (James McAvoy) and invites her to tea.

That's enough to give a taste of the magic of the wardrobe named in the title, but what of the Lion and the Witch? I could spend pages describing more movie events before getting to them, but while watching the movie the time passed very quickly for me. Aslan the Lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) contends with Jadis, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), or as she would have it: the Queen of Narnia, for the freedom of the creatures of Narnia. Eventually all of the Pevensie children enter Narnia through the wardrobe and take part in the struggle.

In addition to magical creatures such as unicorns, fauns; centaurs; talking animals such as beavers, fox and horses; Narnia also has their opposites, such as hags, harpies, evil dwarves, minotaurs and more. As the Pevensies become drawn into the struggle for Narnian freedom, the movie reveals more of the nature of the strange land. In many respects Narnia seems like our world with secret police and tyrannical rulers, as well as those who oppose them striving for their liberty. Although children should find this film entertaining, adults will find much to like also. I have enjoyed C.S. Lewis' Narnia books for decades. I found this movie to be about as much as one could expect from a translation of the first book in that series to film. If you like fantasy adventure, but also would like relevance to today's world, then I highly recommend The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

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