As the director of Shrek and Shrek 2, Andrew Adamson knows a little about CGI, needless to say. But with Chronicles he marks his live-action directorial debut, and ironically it's the people parts of the film that work the best. He beautifully reflects Lewis' compassionate touches by focusing on the children that form the heart of the story. Adamson's CGI-work only acts as an enhancement to the experience and is never overtly obtrusive or brash. It's a perfect melding of modern-day technology and old-fashioned storytelling.
To escape the incessant bombing raids on their London neighborhood during WWII, Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmond (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) take refuge in the country home of a kindly professor (Jim Broadbent). The young siblings eventually discover the magical land of Narnia via a portal in the back of an antique wardrobe. The children venture into the snow-covered land of Narnia, where a curious host of fauns, unicorns, centaurs, giants and elves live in fear of the icy rule of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). As their curiosity gets the better of them, the children soon find themselves the unwitting leaders of a fight to free the Narnians and return them to the rightful rule of their deposed leader, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) the titular Lion. The fantasy culminates in a spectacular battle scene, the likes of which we've rarely seen on screen. Think Braveheart or The Return of the King. It's that big.
The weight of the story is toted by the four young actors who portray the displaced Pevensie children. They are relatively new on the acting scene, but we never get a sense of greenness even though their roles are quite meaty and call for a wide range of emotions to be displayed in the most distracting of environments including elaborately staged sets, exotic on-location shoots, and even green screens. Georgie Henley will steal your heart as the wide-eyed and loveable Lucy. Keep an eye on this kid, as this role will most assuredly be a springboard to a huge acting career. But the most memorable performance of the film goes to Tilda Swinton as the evil White Witch. She was good as the androgynous archangel Gabriel in 2004's Constantine, but she knocks it out of the park with her performance here. Jim Carrey's antagonist in Lemony Snicket was more funny than menacing, but Swinton's Witch is downright mean and evil from the icicle spikes atop her head to the polar bear-driven chariot beneath her feet. She provides a genuine sense of danger to offset the story's playful whimsicality.
Many will mistakenly write off Chronicles as a money-grubbing, big-budgeted kids adventure film made solely for the purpose of hauling in its share of the holiday box office. But while all of the above are true, writing it off would be a big mistake. The Chronicles of Narnia is wide-ranging and emotional. It's beautiful, and scary. It's thought provoking and educational with wholesome themes of good vs. evil and power of family that run throughout. The film follows Lewis' story almost as gospel, but as an added bonus, Adamson and screenwriter Ann Peacock build slightly bigger prominence into the personalities of the children, giving us an oft-needed retreat from the grand and unfamiliar setting.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1
Subtitles: French; Spanish
Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround; French: DTS 5.1 Surround
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.
* Audio Commentary
o With director Andrew Adamson and the four main child actors
o Director Andrew Adamson accompanied by production designer Roger Ford and producer Mark Johnson
* Trivia - Pop-up trivia track
o Chronicles of a Director
o Children of Narnia
o Evolution of an Epic
+ From One Man's Mind
+ Cinematic Storytellers
+ Creating Creatures
+ Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River
o Creatures of the World
o Explore Narnia
o Legends in Time
* Sneak Peaks - of other studio titles.
Number of discs: - 2 - Slipcase resembling a wardrobe.
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