Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 150 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: French & Spanish
Sound: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Home Theater Mix, DTS 5.1, English, French and Spanish 2.0
Release Date: December 12, 2006
C.S. Lewis was a definite part of my childhood. I fondly remember watching the old cartoon version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe around the Christmas season every year and I also made a habit of periodically reading and re-reading the books. But, somewhere around my almost-teen years, I lost interest in this magical world that had, at one time, captivated me. So, I didn't quite know what to think a few years ago when I read that Disney was in the process of making a live-action feature version of this popular series. Would the magical stories I remembered from childhood still hold up for me as a somewhat cynical adult?
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the first in a long series of adventures that follow the four Pevensie children as they discover the magical world of Narnia. When these four children are sent to live in an English country manor during the height of the London blitz of World War II, Lucy Pevensie discovers an old wardrobe that acts as a portal to the land of Narnia. Narnia is an enchanted world of talking animals, constant winter and lots of shady, evil characters. Will the children learn how to get along with each other long enough to save Narnia from the clutches of evil?
Fortunately, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a very nostalgic trip for me. I had forgotten huge amounts of the story and really enjoyed re-discovering the characters and their early adventures in Narnia. Liam Neeson makes for an excellent Aslan the Lion and all of the four Pevensie kids are well portrayed by a group of relative newcomers. Set design is great and the special effects are also quite nice. This particular version of the film contains about 8 minutes of new material re-edited into the movie. These new additions constitute longer takes as well as more footage of Narnia scenery as the kids find their way into this new world. More importantly, however, are the additions to the epic battle near the end of the film. There is quite a bit added here with new creatures and confrontations that really do add to the overall scope of this battle. All in all, these were excellent additions that bring a nice level of additional detail to the film. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is definitely made for children, but there is enough substance here to entertain adults as well. Much has been made of the religious symbols and overtones. If you look for them, you will definitely see them, but they don't leap out and smash you over the head with a particular brand of ideology. All in all, this is a very sweet-hearted movie that is extremely entertaining. Recommended!
Disney has obviously paid a lot of attention to the way the special edition 4 disc sets of the Lord of the Rings movies were packaged. The packaging here is nearly identical. The one major difference, is that the main theatrical material is only presented on a single disc as opposed to being spread out amongst several. While the picture quality could have undoubtedly been improved by using several discs insted of one, this is still an excellent transfer. Black levels and shadow delineation are excellent. There is quite a bit of white scenery in the film and it is also nicely presented without any signs of edge enhancement or ringing. I never detected any serious macroblocking or compression artifacts. Color saturation is also excellent with tons of bright colors and exceptionally rendered flesh-tones. The one area in which this transfer could have been improved is in the area of detail. The picture can come across as ever so slightly soft. This may just be the result of my eyes becoming a bit too used to HD material, so I would appreciate any feedback from readers who have had a chance to view this title. Either way, this is a great presentation that admirably showcases this well-shot film.
Disney has gone to the trouble of presenting a total of 5 audio tracks for this special edition. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Home Theater Mix is very lively and well suited for this kind of release, but the DTS track is still the clearly superior format. With the DTS track, bass and mid-range seemed a lot tighter with less audible background noise and a much more engrossing soundstage. Surround channels are often extremely active and dialogue is expertly presented. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is another example of a DVD track that will make you forget about all this hoopla over next generation optical disc sound formats and remember why you were so engrossed with DVD in the first place. This is outstanding audio and is worthy of the highest recommendation I can give!
Now, here's where things get interesting. The remaining three discs of this set are filled to the brim with extras. Here's what's included:
-Director Andrew Adamson's Extended Motion Picture With Additional Scenes.
-Narnia Fun Facts
-Kids & Director Commentary.
-An In-Depth Look At The Two Worlds Of Narnia
-Reflections And Stories From The Cast And Crew
-An Extensive Review Of Narnia’s Creatures, Lands & Legends.
-C.S. Lewis - Dreamer Of Narnia
-Visualizing The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience
-Anatomy Of A Scene: Behind The Battle
-Art Of Narnia Gallery
While this set will treat you to just about any tidbit of info that you might ever want to discover regarding the production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the real gem of the package is disc three's feature-length documentary on the life and work of C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia is a fascinating look into the mind of this brilliant man and his writing. This one feature could warrant a DVD release all to itself, so its inclusion here is pretty fantastic. As far as production material is concerned, I was very impressed with the animal characters in the movie, so I really enjoyed the various behind the scenes effects documentaries. There is a huge amount of detail regarding the design and creation of the animal characters with a special emphasis on Aslan the Lion. The various commentary tracks are also fun to listen to. Director Adamson is pretty technical in his, but does convery a sense of the importance of getting this film right. These extras are so overwhelming, that about the only thing I didn't find was any kind of documentary on the folks who provided the catering for the film. Of course, I might have missed it, so I'll keep looking. This is a very comprehensive grouping of extras, so if you enjoy diving into behind the scenes material, you'll just love this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Final Analysis:
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is an outstanding family film that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. Video and Audio are first rate and the three discs worth of supplements could potentially occupy half a day of viewing. A lot of care has gone into the making of this four disc special edition. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-Ray Player
Mitsubishi HD1000U Front Projector
Carada 93” diagonal 16x9 Criterion Series/Brilliant White Screen – www.carada.com
Rotel RSX-1056 Surround Receiver
Rotel RB-1080 Amplifier
M&K MX-125 Subwoofer