AKA: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Written by: C.S. Lewis (Novel)
Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Screenplay)
Produced by: Andrew Adamson
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, and Liam Neeson

So you liked The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, did you? Well, don’t think the other studios haven’t noticed. Now the hunt is on for other literary Fantasy franchises that can be spun into box office gold. And Disney has found a real Gem in The Chronicles of Narnia. The story is not only a good Fantasy about children on an adventure, but—because of its barely veiled Christian themes—it appeals to the same audience that made The Passion of the Christ a world-wide bonanza. While the chronology of the books has always been the subject of debate, the first one to be filmed is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The movie begins with a vivid depiction of the bombing of London, something the book mentions in passing on the first page and does not really spend any time on. We see the planes flying over the city, dropping their payloads as families scramble for shelter. One of those families is the Pevensie family. Afraid for the lives of her two girls and two boys, Mother Pevensie sends the children off to the countryside to live with the mysterious Professor Kirke.

While trying to be good, and stay out of the professor’s way, the children play a game of hide and seek. The youngest girl, Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), discovers a large wooden wardrobe in the attic and climbs inside. Soon, she discovers that it is more than a mere wardrobe—this is the gateway to another world. Narnia. There she meets a half man/half goat creature named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who tells her that she is a daughter of Eve. There is a prophecy you see (isn’t there always!): When two sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve appear, the lion Aslan (the voice of Liam Neeson) will return to end reign of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Needless to say, the witch will do anything in her considerably evil power to stop this from happening.

The screenplay is faithful to its source material and, despite the fact that I had not read the book in over twenty years, I found passages coming back to me as I watched the action unfold. Advances in digital effects have now made it possible to realize all the fantastic elements of C.S. Lewis’ tale: talking animals, centaurs, fauns, and griffins. The griffins are a very nice touch, in fact. During the climactic battle between good and evil, they fly overhead and drop boulders—reminding us of the German bombers from the beginning of the film.

This is a well-made motion picture on every level—from its rich and sweeping score to the amazingly rich performances by its child actors and actresses. Too many of the Fantasy films of old were done on grainy film stock with washed out colors or earth tones. This is a bright and beautiful canvas, and it is thrilling to watch the director use all aspects of filmmaking to paint it just right.

When the studio gave this project the green light, it hoped Narnia would be a world you would be happy to visit, and one to which you would long to return. It is, and you will.

4 out of 5 stars