As Lucy discovers the Wardrobe for the first time, I am suddenly 8 again and my heart beats furiously with anticipation. Narnia is now for real.
Many book fans are unable to appreciate someone else’s adaptation of their favourite novels because they can’t get past their own visions for the work. However I have never approached film adaptations that way. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to share our experience of the story and to come together in a manner that reading alone can’t do. Cinema, at its best, is a communal experience and therefore I went into Narnia (through the Wardrobe I imagine) looking to share this joy with my fellows.
I have imagined this scenario a million times and each time it’s different. Now I can see the story wonderfully realised. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has met this fan’s expectations and delivered.
C. S. Lewis’ classic has been translated beautifully into a film that captures the spirit of his work. The film is religiously faithful to the novel, down to subtle little details like which of the children is foolish enough to close themselves into a wardrobe. It also manages to elaborate on the battles and adventures that are simply suggested in the novel.
My one critique is that the pacing of the film feels rushed as the filmmakers attempt to squeeze all Lewis’ story into one film. However, one could argue that this is faithful to the book as well since the novel is thin but strongly plot driven. So much happens in this story that to get it all in the film must jump from one plot point to the next. Still, they manage to do this better than most of the Harry Potter films have so far.
That is the one low point of the film. Otherwise this is an inspired and magical adaptation.
The casting makes the film and characters come alive. Lucy is wide eyed and mischievously precocious. Edmond is desperately bitter. Tilda Swinton proves that she is the White Witch. James McAvoy makes the most darling Tumnus.
There is a lot of love in this film. This is not a “children’s film” but a film for the child in us. I do think this film will be somewhat of a test. Those who can’t open their hearts to believe in Narnia have lost touch with the child they were. Those who do are opening themselves to an incredible experience.