I went to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe thinking it was going to be a workmanlike attempt to cash in on Lord of the Rings (but with less cash). So I’m pleased to say that it turned out to be a rather lovely film.
Some of the storytelling is a bit hurried – there’s scarcely any time to draw characters such as Mr and Mrs Beaver or even Aslan, and it’s only the quality of the acting that makes it possible (Ralph Feinnes’ voice is phenomenal). The kids aren’t bad either – Peter and Susan have a slightly odd relationship and appear to have been cast more for their fullsome lips than acting skills, but Edmund has a depth that makes his nastiness and eventual redemption completely believable, and Lucy is adorable.
The script is not inappropriately revisionist as it might have been, but subtley updates some of the clunkier aspects of C. S. Lewis’ dialogue with a gentle humour that is entirely in keeping with the style of the original book (there’s a lovely joke about the prophecy of the end of the White Witch’s Reign not rhyming properly).
But the aspect that most impressed me is the one that I was dreading – the big action sequences. These are never blown out of proportion at the expense of the story, and are directed with a skill that I unpopularly believe Peter Jackson lacks. The climactic final battle achieves an epic sense of scale but still keeps its attention on the characters and plot elements we’re interested in. There are no cheap comedy cutaway shots to lovable dwarves going “ooh my golly me” like we get in those interminable Tolkien films, or reliance on ridiculous spectacle to try and make it look horrific – instead the action has a brutal simplicity that makes it feel much more dangerous. When the two armies first clash it is done without any music – no Howard Shore school of subtlety here. And except for a silly shot of Peter with blurry characters running past him in fast motion, the direction is equally subtle; it’s consistently well-crafted, with some great cuts, but importantly never screams out for attention. For a family blockbuster it’s unusually unpretentious, the antithesis of Peter Jackson’s trilogy which is so far up its own preverbial arse that it doesn’t realise how boring it is.
Yes. It’s a better film than Lord of the Rings. I shall continue to declare this until the day I die, even though most people will disagree with me and call me a fool.
For people still uncertain of which Christmas film to go to, I should point out that it’s also better than Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for the simple reason that it is a much better story.
Oh, and bollocks to the people who say it’s all Christian propaganda. Most people don’t even notice the Christian parallels until they’re pointed out.