Directed by Andrew Adamson
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 143 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, others
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Review Date: April 26, 2008
C. S. Lewis’ tale of a magical land inhabited by all manner of mythological creatures, an evil witch, and an imposing lion comes to enchanting life in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A spectacular production with a smooth blending of live action and computer generated special effects, Narnia impresses with its grandeur but also with its heart.
Sent to the British countryside during the London blitz of World War II, the four Pevensie siblings stumble into a mystical land after hiding from a rather stern housekeeper in an old wardrobe in an unused upstairs bedroom. For Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest, she’s making a third voyage to Narnia. On her first trip, she met the seemingly sweet faun Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who in a way was almost expecting her. When Lucy later drags her petulant brother Edmund (Skandar Keynes) through the wardrobe and into the land white with snow, he meets the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). She has dreaded the arrival of humans for a long time since the coming of four children of Adam and Eve had been prophesied to end her power in Narnia, but Edmund, eager to assert his own mastery over his choices, reveals far too much to one so evil. When the other two older children (William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) arrive, they find themselves on the defensive as the Witch sends her minions to destroy them before they can connect with the lord of the region, the regal lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) and wage a war to establish the reigning power in Narnia.
It’s a huge physical production in every way from imposing sets to a cast of thousands (both real and computerized) made up of creatures of every type. Director Andrew Adamson has directed this children’s epic with great flair eliciting delightful and effective performances from the four young leads, a performance of startling originality and control by Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, of delicacy and ingratiation by James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, and supervising voice actors for the computer generated characters featuring such great talents as Liam Neeson, Rupert Everett, and Ray Winstone. Often in epic films, characterizations get short shrift as the director focuses on massive scenes and the mind-boggling array of special effects necessary to make the magic appear believable. To his credit, Adamson has given careful attention to the actors’ work which gives this large film quite a few scenes of surprisingly effective intimacy.
And yet, the large scaled moments don’t get ignored either. There’s a wonderfully staged chase of three of the siblings and a beaver couple by wolves that is superbly sustained and quite thrilling. Aslan’s sacrifice to save one of the children is one of the film’s most touching moments and one that has one of the film’s most poignant payoffs (though there are certainly other moments that match it in pathos: Lucy’s love and concern for Mr. Tumnus’ safety throughout is always heart wrenching, the rival brothers united by a common goal is very emotional, a coda with the four children as grown-ups truly choked me up). And, of course, the climactic battle scene between the forces of good and evil is monumentally staged and shot (though it perhaps goes on a bit too long).
The world of Narnia is a singularly fascinating one, and it’s been captured by a group of artists working at the top of their field.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented here in a marvelous 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from one or two shots where CGI creations sharing the frame with live actors appear a bit soft, the sharpness and dimensionality of this transfer are startling. The early London scenes are purposely desaturated somewhat, but as the children move to the countryside, color becomes more vibrant. Narnia at first is a sea of white, but after the thaw occurs, the color is rich and beautifully saturated with very accurate flesh tones and fine black levels. The film is divided into 24 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) track is alive with a wide front soundstage (Harry Gregson-Williams’ wonderful score resides across the front channels and only later on spreads to the rears) and intelligent use of the rear channels for a dazzling array of discreet ambient sounds. There is some use of directionialzed dialog, but most of the speaking is rooted to the center channel. LFE can be surprisingly deep not only during the blitz scenes that open the picture but throughout the action-filled sequences that are present.
This two disc Blu-ray release contains bonus features on both discs in the set.
Disc one offers two audio commentaries. The first has director Andrew Adamson, producer Mark Johnson, and (by phone) production designer Roger Ford. The second features Adamson with the four young leading actors. Both tracks feature good information with Adamson taking the lead in both discussions. I preferred the all adult commentary with more information offered about production problems and solutions.
Discover Narnia Fun Facts are pop up facts which can be switched on to play during the movie. The facts, however, are about author C.E. Lewis’ life and career and information contained in the Narnia series of seven books.
An edited series of bloopers is also included though they’re in 480i and run 4 ½ minutes.
The disc offers previews for Sleeping Beauty, Wall-E, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Nightmare Before Christmas, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Tinker Bell. All are presented in 1080p.
The majority of special features are contained on the second disc.
“Creating Narnia” is the broad chapter heading for six different documentary segments:
“Chronicles of a Director” is a 37 ¾-minute featurette in which director Andrew Adamson discusses his original 20-page treatment for the movie, the casting process for the major actors, the production design for the movie, the various make-ups used for the assorted creatures, and the special effects work needed to bring this world to life. It’s in 480i.
“The Children’s Magical Journey” spends 26 ½ minutes with the four young actors describing their audition process, and the grueling filming on location in New Zealand and elsewhere. It’s also presented in 480i.
“Cinematic Storytellers” is a 54 ¾ minute 480i combination of interviews with the men and women responsible for the look and feel of the movie. The viewer can watch individual segments or watch them in one bunch as these departments are discussed: weaponry and armor, creature design, costumes, production design, cinematography, film editing, music, and the producer Mark Johnson ties it all together with some final words about what he brought to the production.
“Anatomy of a Scene” focuses on two major action sequences in the movie: the melting river crossing and the final battle. Together the segments in this section run 19 ¼ minutes in 480i.
“From One Man’s Mind” is a surprisingly brief 3 ½ minute overview of the life and career of author C.E. Lewis. This is presented in 1080p.
“Creating Creatures” is a 54-minute documentary featuring the actors, costumers, make-up men, and special effects experts that combined forces to creature the following creatures for the film: White Witch, Aslan, Tumnus, wolves, centaurs, minotaurs, ankle slicers, genarrbriks, beavers, satyrs, and goblins. It’s in 480i.
“Creatures, Lands, and Legends” contains two topics, some of which repeat information contained in other featurettes on this disc.
“Creatures of the World” rehashes the information from “Creating Creatures” above but in 1080p and uses illustrations from the original book as well as descriptions from the text and clips from the film. It runs 13 ½ minutes.
“Explore Narnia” offers a 3-D map detailing five sections of Narnia with a narration and illustrated examples (drawings and film clips) of the terrain.
“Battle for Narnia” is a BD-Java interactive role playing game where the player tries to pick forces for good and battle the minions of the White Witch in four different battle locations. As one wins simpler confrontations, more residents of Narnia join you to help defeat the enemy which also grows more powerful the deeper you go into the game.
The Blu-ray edition of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is just about as complete a package for the film as one could wish. Sterling picture quality is combined with an amazing uncompressed audio track to produce the best representation of this film yet seen on home video.