So I watched Narnia yesterday with my lovely wife, my four kids, and my 9:15am popcorn. A lot of folks are blogging the heck out of this movie and I'm not going to try to do anything fancy or long. But I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts, both good and bad. If you are going to watch the movie, I encourage you NOT to read on. Experience it for yourself first.
Over the last three weeks I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the kids. We enjoyed it very much. And if you have never experienced a movie after reading the book, it's definitely a different experience. I think it makes enjoying the movie (for an adult) much more difficult. Plus, as we read I tried to imagine how the movie would handle certain things, and that led to some satisfying elements, but also some disappointments.
1. Characters: Both Lucy and Tumnus were played very well. Brilliant. Edmund was good, Susan was just okay, Peter was fine, the Beavers were fun, Father Christmas was better than I expected, Maugrim was pretty good, the White Witch was pretty good, and the professor was just right. Some of the characters were a bit overdone, I thought (Susan sticks out to me here), but generally speaking the characters were good.
2. Effects: The effects were fine. There were times when they looked a bit more fake than they needed to, but that isn't a big surprise. I expected that from the very first teaser I saw months ago.
3. A Few differences between book and movie: Rumblebuffin was missing, at least in character. There were a few random giants. When they fled the Beavers' house they left through a tunnel, which was a nice addition for a movie. There were plenty of other differences, but these stuck out to me.
4. What I didn't like: Edmund's insatiable desire for Turkish Delight (after the first bite) was missing. He wanted more, but he just looked selfish. The point was the White Witch's food could never satisfy.
The connection between the kids (or anyone else) and Aslan was poorly done. When Lucy and Susan are laying on his dead body and just distraught (which was good), it wasn't developed enough ahead of time. For example, in the book when Mr. Beaver said "Aslan is on the move" it's followed by some great description of what happens inside the kids as they hear this news. They "felt something jump" inside them, "Peter felt brave and adventurous," and so on. Someone needed to develop the heart-leaping aspect of hearing about and knowing Aslan, but it was missing. This was the biggest disappointment for me.
One thing that I was looking forward to most other than seeing the general plot unfold was the roar of Aslan after resurrection which bent the trees. Why was this not included? From the book...
"And Aslan stood up and when he opened his mouth to roar his face became so terrible that they did not dare to look at it. And they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.
I also thought they missed a great opportunity to show Aslan (Lucy and Susan aboard) running through the trees and such. They showed this, but it was stunted. From the book...
"That ride was perhaps the most wonderful thing that happened to them in Narnia."
One last thing, the narration quality of the book was missing. And so it became the adventure of four kids rather than the adventure any kid can have. I feel Lewis intends a more universal, YOU can find Narnia. You can be a king. You can have adventure and be brave and just, etc. I wanted the movie to make me go home and start looking for branches in the back of my closet, but it didn't so much. It could have been done better, I think.
5. What I liked: It was nice to see what Turkish Delight looks like, though I'm still not sure it looks all that delicious.
I liked how we saw a close up on the face of Aslan when he was executed. I didn't like the book at this point. He seemed to die too fast in the movie, but for a kid movie it needed to be fast I suppose.
For all the problems in developing the Aslan-children connection, I liked how Lucy and Susan were portrayed after the killing of Aslan, laying on him for some time. The broken stone table was well done also, shaking the earth.
For the absence of the battle in the book, the movie needed it. It was done pretty well, though Edmund looked pretty clueless the whole time.
Side note: Liam Neeson has become quite the redeemer. Oscar Schindler (purchases Jews), Qui-Gon Jinn (rescues Anakin), and now Aslan (saving Edmund and Narnia). Hmmm. I liked his voice with Aslan. If it would have been Matthew Broderick (The Lion King) I would have walked out. :)
My overall take is this: If the book didn't exist and the movie came out, I would be telling everyone of great, redemptive kids movie that everyone needs to see. And so I cannot help but to promote it and encourage everyone to go. It's good.
So to be clear, I did enjoy the movie very much. We will buy the DVD when it comes out. And the movie, for it's weaknesses, is completely worthwhile.