My first experiences in Narnia were a long time ago. I can't remember my exact age when I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but what I do remember was a wonderful story full of adventure and excitement. I don't know how many times I hid in my closet, closing the door, and wishing I really could travel to Narnia rather than just in my imagination. I also remember when Narnia was brought to life as an animated feature and shown on TV. Since then there have been many adaptations of the book, but when I heard that Disney was making their own version, I knew that this one would be the best… and I wasn't wrong. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, not only transforms the book into an exciting feature film, but expands on the details that C.S. Lewis had left to his readers imaginations.
Through the Wardrobe
The film opens with a WWII scene where England is being bombed by German airplanes. This is where we're first introduced to Lucy, Edmond, Susan and Peter and it also explains why they have to go away to live with the Professor (keeper of the Wardrobe). Since I'm sure Disney won't be making a movie out of the first book in the series (The Magician's Nephew), it would have been nice to see some backstory here as to how Narnia came to be in the first place. Of course, there are limitations to movie length, etc. so I understand why this wasn't done.
After the Pevensie children pass through the Wardrobe we're introduced to the world of Narnia. Although Narnia is supposed to make believe, it looks and feels as real as our own world. Director Andrew Adamson did a spectacular job of making the world of Narnia into something believable. Yes, there are talking animals and creators never seen in our own world, but throughout the movie these characters come to life in a way that makes you think that there really could be another world called Narnia somewhere out there.
Although I loved the entire film, my favorite parts were those that were only cursory moments in the book such as the air raid in the beginning or the brilliant battle scene near the end of the film. These moments were briefly mentioned in the book and pretty much left up to the reader's imagination. Of course, these additions are also the reason for the PG rating since the violence might be a little too much for small children, but without those scenes the film would have suffered.
The Narnia Blu-ray Experience
As with their other top titles (Pirates of the Caribbean comes to mind), Disney has made excellent use of Blu-ray technology. Not only do you get a breathtaking visual experience as well as up to 5.1 uncompressed surround sound, but the functionality of the title is also superb. The menu functions are clear and easy to navigate. When you make a selection, you get a description in the upper left section of the screen and a preview in the upper right section. Most importantly, you can access all the functions even while the movie is playing. Just press the menu button on your remote and you're instantly taken to the menu screen while the movie continues to play in the upper right section. This allows you, for example, to turn the audio commentary on/off at any time during playback. Very nice.
Battle for Narnia and Other Extras
In addition, this title is loaded with extras. Most of these are also part of the DVD package. The basics include The Bloopers of Narnia and audio commentary with the director and stars as well as with the filmmakers. Discover Narnia Fun Facts provides pop-up trivia notes from C.S. Lewis' stepson. Creating Narnia provides an extensive look at how the film was made behind-the-scenes. Creatures, Lands & Legends gives a storybook presentation of the many creatures found in Narnia as well as an exploration of a 3-D Map of the Narnia world.
Exclusively created for Blu-ray is a new Battle For Narnia game. Normally, I don't go for these types of additions because they are usually not very well done, but Battle For Narnia pleasantly surprised me. Like with most games of this type, you play by pressing buttons and making choices with your remote. In Battle For Narnia, you get to choose a character from the movie and fight it out with other characters. It's similar to an RPG game, where you choose your character, choose the type of move you want to make and then let the computer simulate a battle. At first, it's mainly a game of chance, but as you progress the game gets more difficult and you win or lose according to the choices you make. The game is fun and takes about an hour to play. Plus, it has replay value because of the different characters and choices available.
The Chronicles of Narnia Continues
As I finish this review, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is playing in theatres. I hear it's taking the box office by storm, but I'm going to wait for the Blu-ray version before I see the film. That way I can have a Narnia marathon by watching the films back-to-back in my home theatre. In the meantime, any true Narnia fan should not hesitate to add The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to their collection. The Blu-ray version is especially wonderful and even if you are not a Narnia fan, you will be after watching this title.
For more information:
* The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Blu-ray)
* The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (DVD)