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A Selection from My Collection: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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By Chris Kavan - 06/11/11 at 09:08 AM CT

I donít have it on any kind of authority, but Iím guessing following the success of the Harry Potter series and the LOTR trilogy, studios were looking for the next big fantasy novel series they could bring to the big screen Ė most likely with dollar signs replacing their eyes. Yet so many failed to live up to expectations: Eragon, The Golden Compass, Lemony Snicket, - this fims, while it couldn't be considered a failure, can't be considered a classic either.

Disney settled on the C. S. Lewis classic Chronicles of Narnia series of stories. Heavy on Christian allegory, the books focus on the Pevensie children and their adventures in the world of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most recognizable book in the series, so naturally Disney went with that story first.

Now, while I thought the film worked fairly well when I originally saw it, I can see why this series saw diminishing returns where Potter and LOTR continued to thrive. Here are the inherent problems with the film: First and foremost is that the young cast in this case just canít carry the film. The adult actors, especially Tilda Swinton as the icy White Witch, Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan and James McAvoy as the timid faun Tumnus are all wonderful. But, unfortunately, their screen time is quite limited. The film is supported on the shoulders of Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell.

While Henley does display a sense of child-like wonder as the youngest sibling and Keynes does OK as the trouble-making brat of the bunch Ė itís Moseley and Popplewell as the two oldest who come across as rather dishwater dull. For a film thatís supposed to filled with fantasy and wonder, it kind of puts a damper on the whole thing.

Second problem is that special effects just donít come across as that special. Maybe the reason performances are hindered is that the couldnít work up much excitement in front of green screens. Iím not saying theyíre terrible, but compared to other films in the genre, it falls short of wondrous.

Third, is that while I understand the Christian themes, thatís no reason to overtly present it. I mean the book was more like a light tap Ė the movie is more like a sledgehammer. I get it, Aslan is Jesus Ė he dies (after being tortured), he rises again Ė he saves the world and then disappears. Itís a bit much even for Disney.

Speaking of Disney, despite featuring a bunch of kids leading an army and a big battle between some rather gnarly monsters Ė centaurs, fauns, minotaurs, giants Ė there is surprisingly little blood to be seen. Then I see the rating: PG Ė So kids leading an army is fine, but you canít have any bloodÖ but, hey, Santa Claus shows up with weapons, so everythingís good.

In the end, even Disney realized it was a losing proposition, as they dropped filming Narnia after the second film Prince Caspian failed to live up to expectations. Fox took over, but Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my personal favorite of the stories in the series) fared even worse and, like Golden Compass, this is one series that will see no further sequels barring some miraculous turnaround.

Iím glad I re-watched this Ė I realize it didnít age nearly as well as I hoped and I watched the original through some kind of rose-colored glasses. I knocked my rating down half-a-star, and even though itís still above average, the film presents some serious flaws I canít overlook. While I wonít term this a failure Ė itís appeal just doesnít hold up as well as similar franchises, at least not for me.

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