Lion, Witch and Wardrobe Lack Self-Confidence.
If I learnt nothing else tonight, avoid the movie sessions that everyone else goes too. Yes, I really paid $15 to hear you give a running commentary on the film to your elderly mother.
Spoilers. Loads of Spoilers. Spoilerific. You have been Warned.
But I did manage to catch some of the onscreen action, and my conclusion is that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a self-esteem issue. Firstly the positives: on the whole it was well cast; the script was solid and where it strayed from Lewis' text it was only for the sake of the stupid people in the audience, I mean it was for the sake of the story; and the props were gorgeous thanks to the Weta Workshop.
Three of the child actors were exceptionally well cast. One was not. I won't say which, because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Keep an eye on, Skandar Keynes though. Edmund is a hard enough character to get your head around while reading the book, but he did an amazing job, turning on a dime as it were. For the first half of the film I had the strong impression that the casting director would really rather have had Cate Blanchett than Tilda Swinton, but once she started swinging swords around, I wanted Tilda in my army. Liam Neeson was not quite the right voice for Aslan - his voice is very distinctive and I found it distracting.
Setting the era up was pretty pointless. It could have been done in a few sentences as they boarded the train. This set up was also for the sake of Edmund's character, but even that didn't quite work. His first scene with the White Witch is too rushed as it's supposed to establish his motives for the next act. You're left with the opinion that he has a peculiar fascination with Turkish Delight, rather than the anticipation of taking Peter down a peg or two. A lot was cut from the Beavers' story, but not quite enough. Mrs Beaver had packed all that food, but they never ate it. I was left thinking they'd seriously missed out when she did not receive her sewing machine from Santa.
While the fine details were as good as anything in LOTR (except Tilda's dress. Who came up with that monster?) the large scale scenery and digital compositing did not cut it. The lighting seemed to be off in a number of shots which gave an air of early seventies bluescreening. The sets lacked weight. They looked like the painted plywood they probably were. I kept thinking Cair Paravel was going to wobble off the cliff. Was anyone else reminded of another throne room scene?
On the whole I think the film was rushed. The filmmakers knew they had to get it into cinemas quickly before audiences forgot how much they had enjoyed Lord of the Rings: Return of the Sith (or whatever it was called.) The direction was unimaginative and the score baffling. While it is so carefully set up as the 1940s, only once were the Andrews Sisters used. At other times the soundtrack is quite modern. Alanis Morrisette and Tim Finn (over the closing credits) do not sit well together.
If I had seen this film on TV I would have been impressed and perhaps regretted not seeing it at the cinema. As it is, I can only say, "Ummm, errr, almost..."
The Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia is more consistent. And funnier.