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Narnia Fails To Uphold Responsibility To Book Fans
Adapting a book that so many audience members have read and cherish is surely a daunting task, but I believe it is also a great responsibility. Recently, Peter Jackson set the bar pretty high in this regard with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Unfortunately, Adamson's "Narnia" wasn't quite up to snuff.
I count myself among those who cherish "The Chronicles of Narnia," having read them as a child and having re-read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" in eager anticipation of the film. In my opinion, this film adaptation not only falls short, but does a disservice to the audience by cheating us of much of the impact and wonder of the original books.
Here are the general categories (including some specific examples) where I felt the film didn't deliver:
Screen Adaptation - Some important scenes that illustrated character dynamic were cut short making later behavior and motivation seem exaggerated or cliché. Example: The scene where Edmund meets Jadis was rushed and awkward. (It wasn't even demonstrated that the Turkish Delight was enchanted in order to manipulate Edmund - we were left to assume that his allegiance to Jadis was due solely to avarice!) Also, in the book, the mere mention of the name "Aslan" for the first time was an event that had an important impact on the children. In the movie this impact was all but lost, as these subtler points were sacrificed to save screen time for the type of gruesome battle scenes that you would expect from a "fantasy" movie but in this case didn't serve to advance the story. Another pulled punch: in the book, the scene with Father Christmas was a brilliant omen of the turning of the tides but here the scene seemed out of place and just downright weird. (They might as well have run into the Easter Bunny.)
A couple of outright inventions served only to distract us from the magic and mystery of the real story: The waterfall scene - who came up with that idea? The cricket ball through the window - not as effective as the original story.
Casting - The elder siblings were mediocre, and I can't tell if Tilda Swinton was just awfully directed or totally miscast. (In the book Jadis was a noble and grand enchantress, albeit with dastardly aims; in the movie she was shallow, petty and despicable.) Oh, and Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan the Lion was not nearly powerful enough--this is one of the most important roles in the film. Was James Earl Jones not available?
Direction of Actors' Performances - This ties in with my comments about casting, above. Performances in individual scenes seemed disjointed from overall character motivations and some character interpretations (such as Jadis and Edmund) were shallow and unsympathetic. Where was the charisma that would have made Jadis's character believable, let alone have enabled her to amass an army of supporters?
Hair/Make-up - Jadis sports blonde distractingly annoying dreadlocks despite her otherwise un-Irie nature. The professor's hair and beard looked about as realistic as a department store Santa, and the main Centaur's make-up also stood out as distractingly awful.
Wardrobe - Jadis has one outfit in particular that looks like it came right off the runway of a bad 80's fashion show. Another includes an atrocious hat shaped like a giant icicle--Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin would have had hearts in his eyes.
Special Effects - Overall special effects were not nearly as cleanly integrated as WETA's work on LOTR, and cohesion was lacking. For example, the cuts between live action and CGI wolves were painful at best. Also, the teeming masses of bad-guys all looked as though they could have been extras in the Orc armies of LOTR. Mr. Tumnus was an example of the fact that Jadis's supporters were comprised of otherwise beneficent creatures that she'd charmed, threatened and bullied into joining her. Here they were unimaginatively portrayed as one-dimensional twisted, evil fiends.
Cinematography - Boring; All the visual texture and lighting of a made-for-TV movie.
Due to my disappointment in Adamson's interpretation of this work, and in the execution of the movie that resulted, I rate this film a 5 out of 10. It is not completely devoid of entertainment value but fails to uphold the responsibility that a filmmaker shoulders when adapting so well-known and well-loved a story.
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