The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I had a very cinematic day yesterday. I had been stuck at home for a few days due to, at first, illness and then the fact that everything shut down for a few days at the beginning of the new year. So yesterday i decided to go shopping just to get some air, scenery and human contact. I ended up falling victim to a DVD sale. I guess it’s a good thing I decided against that ‘no more buying DVDs I won’t watch’ new year’s resolution.

I was looking for Mallrats in HMV to finish my Kevin Smith’s Jersey Trilogy collection (I had the other four already; it’s a long trilogy). Strangley they didn’t have it in HMV. But when I walked past the tiny Golden Discs on Grafton Street I happened to spot Mallrats sitting in the middle of their 2 for €20 display. I spent a few minutes failing to find another movie in that promotion that would be worth buying. I didn’t find one, but i did find Taxi Driver, which I had failed to see on TV several times last year, and Evil Dead, which was the best-selling video in the UK the year I was born.

Wlaking around Dublin with a bag of DVDs and a copy of the new Empire I figured the only reasonable thing to do was to go to the cinema and start my Top 5 Movies of 2006 list. Match Point isn’t out until Friday so The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe got my €6.

It’s good, but it’s not great. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that it was longer than it needed to be. There were four separate scenes of discovering Narnia in the wardrobe. It felt like an age before the children were actually all in Narnia and the plot got going. Even after that it got slow at points. For example–andI know this is a flaw in the source material rather than the movie–what the hell was Santa doing there? They could have got their special gear from Aslan and saved a few minutes, as well as avoiding a completely out-of-place character.

From my perspective there was just about nothing emotionally compelling about the movie, save the opening scene of German bombers attacking London, which motivates the children’s move to the country. After that scene the children, particularly the younger two, become annoying very quickly. It’s difficult to see how they could be considered heroes in even the most lax sense. They’re a huge liability to their side in the war, but they’re treated as heroes as soon as they arrive. What gives? Two of them sleep out the major battle instead of helping; one of them continuously commits treason. I have a major gripe with Aslan too, but it’s a spoiler so I won’t post it here.

So none of the main characters are likeable, and the movie is at least half an hour too long. Those are pretty large obstacles to overcome to make a good movie. But it does work. The film is beautiful, the locations fantastic, the effects just plain awe-inspiring. The battle is great. While I watched it I kept thinking "this means fantasy movies are here to stay." It holds up despite itself. I’m not queueing up to see it again, and it won’t get into my DVD collection, but it was worth the price of admission, it was worth the three hours it took to watch, and I’ll probably see the inevitable sequels.