I finally got around to seeing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yesterday (in my defence, it opened on 26 December here), and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was absolutely lovely. As someone who loves C.S. Lewis’ seven novels about Narnia wholeheartedly and unconditionally, I have obviously been a bit worried.
First I worried about the children. Will they manage to cast someone who is young enough to be a believable Lucy and also good enough to play the difficult parts? And Peter? It’s a bit of a tall order, really. And Susan? How do you pull off that mixture of maturity and of childish and historical innocence (it was a less cynical age, after all, and Susan, though sometimes irritating, really shouldn’t be sassy)? And Edmund? Poor Edmund. Not a fun part to play, is it?
Then I saw the trailer and thought: Wow. They found them!
Then I saw the trailer again and thought: Huh? What do they think they’re making? Lord of the Rings?
So I started worrying about the soundtrack and the battle scenes, which, from the trailer, seemed to have run amock a bit. The soundtrack seemed somewhat majestic and, well, pompous. And the battle scenes seemed to be on a far grander scale than I had imagined, and involving a lot of unexpected creatures. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of Orcs. Not that there’s anything wrong with Orcs… Uhm, well, you know, obviously there is something fundamentally wrong with Orcs, but not in the sense that they shouldn’t be in movies, but they don’t belong in THIS movie. From that brief glimpse of trailer it looked a lot like the producers had been at Peter Jackson’s jumble sale to find the costumes.
However, neither the soundtrack or the battlescenes seemed out of place in the movie, and there weren’t really any Orcs. There were a lot of unusual (and butt-ugly) creatures, but none that couldn’t have been in Lewis’ mind when he wrote:
Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures whom I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read the book — Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets. Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins.
There were echoes of LotR, but what can one expect? There are echoes of LotR in the Narina books. Or, if you like, there are echoes of the Narnia books in LotR. Lewis and Tolkien were pals, you know, and they’ve been looting (please don’t take the choice of the word “looting” to mean that I disapprove) the same mythologies for inspiration. So that was all good.
I’ve noticed some critics have talked about how the battles have been “sanitised”, presumably because of this being a Disney production, meaning that you see very little blood and that it’s therefore a more child-friendly movie than it would otherwise have been. Well, perhaps. I don’t think there was much blood. There was possibly even a little less than you might have expected to see in a real battle. But let me tell you that when two warriors in full battle dress charge each other and Warrior A drives his sword into Warrior B’s stomach, I don’t need to see blood. I know it’s not going to be Warrior B’s happiest day. If you really need to see blood, go see a splatter movie, I thought this was horrific enough. Besides, the white which is terrifying. Just as she ought to be.
So. All Good. Except the people some rows behind who were giggling (possibly at something other than the movie, but still) when Lucy and Susan are sneaking up to see what Aslan wants to go to the Stone Table for in the middle of the night. It’s not, to put it that way, the funniest movie scene I know.