I have had some good reactions to last week’s Were-Rabbit review, and it was suggested that I make a kids flick a once-a-week thing, so here is episode two of Kids Film Friday.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
I fancy Tilda Swinton now.
Ahh, good old BBC. When I was a lad, the Beeb did a six-part adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on Sunday evenings. Everybody watched it. In fairness, there were only four channels back then so nobody really had much of a choice, but it was still the highlight of the week when it was on, and the main topic of conversation in the playground the next day. This was the Harry Potter of the time (except it was good*), and it sent me straight to the library to get the books. Unfortunately I haven’t read those books again in about 20 years so I can’t really tell you how this film compares as a direct adaptation, but as a movie in and of itself it is good, but not without flaws.
One advantage the TV adaptation has over this version is time. Time to tell the story fully. This film devotes so much time to the set-up – the kids in London, getting to the Professor’s house, all the exploring – that we’re twenty minutes in before Lucy wanders through the wardrobe. Then we get another hour of Tumnus and the Beavers (does that sound like a sixties prog rock band to anyone else?) before the kids meet up with the army Aslan has managed to put together in a day and a half. The writers have drawn out the first half of the run time and it’s unbalanced the whole movie. Because of this, key moments like the rescue of Edmund end up happening off screen. When Peter, about to lead the charge, asks the centaur general “Will you follow me” and gets “To the death” in reply, it feels unearned. This kid just showed up yesterday, killed one wolf (and let’s face it, the wolf did most of the work on that front) and suddenly he’s in command? Yes, I know Lord of the Rings had untrained Hobbits going in to battle but they also had experienced soldiers calling the shots, and they had a six hour build up before shit really kicked off.
Enough griping. The cast are mostly excellent, particularly Skandar Keynes as Edmund (the only one of the four with any semblance of an arc), although elder brother William Moseley only seems to have two expressions – scared and scared shitless – but the standout is of course Tilda Swinton. She gives the White Witch an almost seductive sensuality instead of the typical ranting and raving that you might expect for the character; when she’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off her. She is also a total badass with the twin swords. James MacAvoy is a good Tumnus but surely they could have given the dude a jumper. It is a bit unfortunate that, except for Liam Neeson as Aslan, none of the voice cast are credited. Poor Mr and Mrs Beaver.
If I had seen this at age 9 instead of the BBC version, I would probably really enjoy it. It is a solidly made flick and it looks incredible; New Zealand is just showing off now. And yes, I am interested enough to see how Prince Caspian turned out. It might even make it to a future Kids Film Friday…
*I have an irrational aversion to all things Potter. Mock me if you want to, but I’m right.