The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
It's been years since I read the book. In fact, I had it read to me about 20 years ago, so very little of C.S. Lewis' classic was in my head as I walked into the theater. The trailers have looked magnificent since early summer, and I remember mumbling to my fellow movie goer at the time something to the effect of, "To hell with Harry Potter, that is going to be the fantasy kids film of the year." And to my great delight, I was right. I don't remember ever seeing anything looking this magnificent. Possibly "Lord of the Rings," but because this film had so many more "real" creatures, it made it all that more amazing to watch and get into.
The movie starts literally with a bang as nazi planes fire bomb a town in England. Four of the children who live there narrowly escape with their lives and are forced to evacuate and live with an eccentric old professor in a mansion in the country. Once there, they find a mystical world through a doorway in an old wardrobe (closet) while playing hide and seek. They are thrust into an adventure none of them ever expected or even dreamed possible.
The hundreds of creatures portrayed in this film are all drawn so magnificently, I don't believe for a second that they aren't real. Talking beavers, unicorns, minotaurs, and probably my favorite, the pack of menacing wolves. There might be a slight technical glitch in Aslan (the lion king) as at times he appears slightly animatronic, but for the most part everything looks great. Throw in the fact that they are all talking and are moving about as important pieces to the film and you have something visually interesting to look at with an emotional component.
The acting was as well done as it could be. It is difficult to find really great child stars, but these British children pull it off well; even (maybe especially) the youngest. The fact that they are basically unfamiliar to audiences helps in the believablity of the family. The brightest role in the film was that of the White Witch, played by Tilda Swinton. Her almost albino look but with piercing black eyes along with her deadly swift movements with her ice staff make her a sight to behold and someone to fear.
The story is simple and easy to follow: the children, with help from the aforementioned talking beavers, must venture across Narnia (a fantastic spectacle) to meet with Aslan and the great army that is to defeat the witch. All the while being pursued by the witch herself and her "police," a pack of mean, hungry wolves. Once this journey finally starts across the treacherous terrain, the film gives you very little time to catch your breath as there are many obstacles and dangers that lurk everywhere to hinder their progress.
At the finale is the climactic battle of good vs. evil. At this point in cinema history it has become slightly cliche to have the digitally created giant battle at the end of the movie. However, "Narnia" manages to overshadow this cliche but adding in so many different creatures and elements to the fight. Many are mythical, but many are well known earth creatures like gorillas and cheetahs. Plus, the film is built up so well emotionally, that you really will be rooting for one side to defeat the other and for some reason people are more inclined to get worked up when they see a unicorn or a polar bear die over a person.
At the heart of the story are the children. All children want to grow up faster than they do, so when these children are given great responsibility and the power to fight, they make the most of it. This is the component child movie patrons will really embrace. It is the same feeling I had as a child watching "The Neverending Story." Kids doing battle against evil with a sword and mystical creatures at their side. I sort of got that same feeling again and I bet kids are going to love this one. Characters will die and heart-strings will be tugged at, so don't be surprised to hear a few sniffles around you at the theater.
Knowing C.S. Lewis, it is obviously an allegory on Christianic beliefs, but it bears no consequence unless you're really looking for it. It is simply a great children's fable in a fantastic world with great effect. I highly recommend seeing this ASAP while it's still in the theaters. See it on the biggest screen you can to truly appreciate the grandiosity and scope this film has to offer. Most of all, just have a good time, I did.