At the end of the day, it is easy to see why C.S. Lewis's tale of young kids fighting for good ultimately swept up people at the box office.
Something about these fantasy movies always confuses me a little bit.
I had heard about the C.S. Lewis book upon which The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is based, and I had toyed with the idea of reading it before I saw the movie, but I decided not to because I didn't want to know what was going to happen. I know that things change when books are translated to the big screen, but I just hate that feeling of anticipation. As it turns out, while I did like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe very much, I still was lost in parts and I found myself wondering if I shouldn't have read the book in the first place?
On top of that, I am thinking The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe would have played a lot better for me if I had indeed watched it first on the big screen. This tale of kids entering the magical world of Narnia through an old "wardrobe," and then getting swept up in a war with Aslan, a lion god, against the White Witch so that the perpetual winter will end was told with much of the sweeping grace of many of our greatest epics. While I am not saying that I think this movie dusts off a film like Ben-Hur, it certainly does stand alone in it's own epic way.
I didn't expect there to be a blooper reel on this disc simply because Narnia is such a big, serious movie. However, it was fun seeing the characters (especially the kids) blow a line or mess up a scene in some unexpected way.
Discover Narnia Fun Facts
This provides an even fuller experience of the movie. As it is being watched, facts about the film, the book and everything else come up on the screen in a text form for us to read. While I don't recommend watching this the first time you watch the movie, it is certainly something that is worth perusing. I am willing to bet it contains facts that even the most seasoned Narnia fans are unfamiliar with.
This disc also contains two commentary tracks. In the first one, director Andrew Adamson sits down with the main kids in the film (who are screening the movie for the first time) and what ensues is a lively and fun filled discussion about working on this film. In the second track, Adamson sits with the films production designer Roger Ford and the film's producer, Mark Johnson. This is a more serious and obviously technical commentary but both of them are worth checking out for their different merits.
What could be seen as a pretty standard making of piece is helped by the fact that it is so in-depth. I felt as a viewer we got to see the world of Narnia from the ground up. From the costumes, to the the make-up to, of course, the special effects. This is something that is very well made and also has an aspect for everyone.
Chronicles of a Director
A featurette that brings us into the mindset of director Andrew Adamson. While I didn't find this too much different than the Creating Narnia featurette, it was enlightening to get to see what a director goes through on a project of this scope. I found it interesting but at the same time, I was pretty satisfied with the other "Making Of" featurette on this disc.
The Children's Magical Journey
I have to admit I went into this piece with a little bit of skepticism only because these two discs are packed with supplemental features. Giving us yet another look at this film from a child's vantage point, we get to see many interesting moments including the kid's seeing the sets for the very first time.
Evolution of an Epic
C.S. Lewis: From One Man's Mind
Having seen Shadowlands, I was very excited to see this only because I was hoping to parse through what was fact and what was fiction. While I wasn't disappointed, I should have known that this featurette was going to look more at Lewis's work (as it related to his life) as opposed to his personal life (which is what is depicted in Shadowlands).
This is eight film diaries from Producer Mark Johnson, Production Designer Roger Ford, Costume Designer Isis Mussenden, Editor Sim Evan-Jones, Composer Harry Gregson-Williams, KNB Effects Group cofounder and Makeup Effects person Howard Berger, Weta Workshop and Creative Supervisor Richard Taylor and Director of Photography Donald M. McAlpine. Each of these people brings their own unique insights into the production and I have to give the creators of this DVD credit, I don't think I have ever seen a two disc set that offered so much from so many people.
Showing us makeup effects for such characters as Aslan, the White Witch, Mr. Tumnus, the Minotaurs and a host of others, as I have said before, would be effects people could do themselves a real service by watching this featurette. We are treated to how these effects are created from the ground up, where they start off as concepts to eventually being living breathing entities on the big screen.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River
Talk about creating something from nothing. They built an indoor river for this movie in order to bring off the "Waterfall" scene. We are shown how everything is composited in post production to make this scene one seamless piece in the final movie. An enlightening featurette but I wonder if it doesn't give too much away about the filmmaking process?
Creatures, Lands & Legends
Creatures of the World
This section provides us with more biographies of characters like Beavers, Aslan, Mr. Tumnus and others. Why they didn't just cut this piece together with the Creating Creatures featurette is beyond me, but they easily could have as these two pieces truly compliment one another.
If I was younger and reading the books, I think I would have really enjoyed this. This is an interactive 3D map that takes people into the Narnia world. While I don't know if it tells fans things they don't already know, it does offer them a different look at some aspects of the story it seems.
Legends in Time
This is a timeline that brings viewers through the story of Narnia. While at this point in my DVD viewing I thought this was kind of redundant, I am sure that inquisitive kids will really enjoy moving through this.
Widescreen - 2.35:1 - Enhanced for 16x9 TVs. I couldn't screen this movie on my 9" TV set, so I used a much larger one and I am thankful for it. This movie looks awesome. The effects are so seamless, I had to remind myself as I was watching it that these were in fact effects. The transfer of this DVD is so rich and solid that it seems almost like it's lost nothing as it went from it's master print to it's final DVD compression. I didn't notice any hits or any points in my viewing of the DVD where this movie didn't look magical in some way.
5.1 DTS Digital Surround Sound - English, French and Spanish audio - French and Spanish subtitles - 5.1 Home Theater Mix. The sound on this film is what gives it it's epic feel. This is so well done and well put together that I am sort of glad I didn't see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on the big screen. The audio here is very big and I think in a theater this might have been too much for me. However, at home, on a better system than I am used to using, I found the audio didn't just enhance this film, it was this film.
The front cover of this DVD is very simple as it utilizes red and gold to put across some of the "wardrobe feel" from the film. The back contains a description of what this movie is about, a "Special Features" listing of all the supplemental features these discs contain and some technical specs. Both discs are housed inside some pull out packaging, laid out with various pictures from the movie itself. There are even collectible art pieces to top off an already packed box set.
I have to admit that I was a bit turned off at first by the religious aspects of this film. As someone who saw The Passion of The Christ in the theater (and loved it), I certainly don't have a problem with faith based films. I have a problem when that faith is brought out covertly in a movie. When it's put across in a way that seems not genuine. While I didn't find that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe beat me over the head with theology, there is enough in there to let you know where this film is coming from.
Still, it is very much worth owning and viewing and I think that this covert, religious symbolism works both ways. After all, if you are going to shun this film because of it's Christ-like imagery, how in the world can you get passed a movie like Donnie Darko?
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was released December 7, 2005.