Mmmm... how do we start? Fantasy movies have this way of slipping away like a slimy eel in a closed fist, when you try to label them. If you say they are boring, you are missing the shrouded, symbolic meaning. More than simple entertainers, they are a fecund breeding ground for unintended (by the maker) metaphors, inspiration, and the resulting cults. So if you aren't a part of one of those cults, you have no business doing a review.
Well, anyway, Narnia isn't half as strong as cult-inspiring movies like Harry Potter, The Matrix or LOTR. For one thing, it is definitely a children's movie. Secondly, there is a certain somnolence, a tendency for long periods of conversation and inaction.
The Chronicles Of Narnia are related with a Victorian novel-like lingering and ponderance on intermediate scenes. Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) and they have a looong chat. Another good quarter hour of time goes by as the kids dawdle around before they finally get around to entering Narnia. Once the kids reach Aslan, there is still plenty of tete-a-tete before we cut to the chase.
The story, based on the series of seven books written by C S Lewis, is about the four Pevensie siblings: Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmond Skander Keynes), Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley). They are sent away by their parents from war-torn London, to stay in the country with an eccentric professor (Jim Broadbent).
Lucy accidentally stumbles into an old wardrobe, and gets transported into an alternate universe - Narnia. It is a land that has been in winter for 100 years, under the domination of a wicked white witch (Tilda Swinton).
The good side is led by Aslan (Liam Neeson), a magnificent lion who is uniting the denizens of Narnia in a war against the witch. It is prophesied that the four children (two sons of Adam, and two daughters of Eve in Narnia-speak) will enter the frozen land one day and lead it to the much awaited thawing.
With the ultimate war that occurs between the two sides, Narnia suddenly reveals all its secrets in a deluge. What was so far a faltering, self-conscious and almost prissy lead up of events, turns into a voluptuous, no-holds barred, full-bodied and epic unfolding of the fantasy. The movie suddenly bursts forth with a sensuality, almost like a stripper who has suddenly dropped off her full-length gown.
Leopards, white-tigers, phoenixes, fauns, gryphons, unicorns and centaurs lunge across a battle field to clash with ogres, wolves, goblins, rhinos and evil dwarves. The good side is led by Peter with his sword, helped out by Edmund, standing on the lookout above a cliff. The evil side has the magnificent white queen, always looking like a vision in swirling furs.
Like a cascading waterfall, the war only builds up, from one triumph to another, giving you goose-pimples that get progressively bigger. There are resurrections, miraculous healings, and shows of fabulous strength in lightning-charged clashes of swords.
The war is indeed the revelation of Narnia, the orgasm at the end of elongated foreplay. Perhaps it is just this sequence that with its own sheer brawn, carries Narnia to the plane of cult movies.
The four children, the future kings and queens of Narnia, are adorable, and do a great job of playing valiant. The youngest of the lot, Georgie Henley, obviously get the most pats on her back. She is sweet, and surprisingly sensitive in her portrayal of various emotions.
Along their way to the white witch, there are beavers, foxes and trees. All of them, when they do appear after long commas and breaks, are humorous at the best till the climax. Aslan the lion, as the head that wears the crown, displays a piquing combination of strength, righteousness and, therefore, self-imposed vulnerability. Liam Neeson's quietly echoing voice does a great job of evoking a feeling of inspiration.
Narnia on the whole seems like a diminutive version of an LOTR. Probably simply because it is a children's movie. It is short, at 2 hours, and has a straightforward story. The dark, the gross and the grody, stay strapped away by frequent little triumphs. A good, hearty, victory is never more than a few minutes away.
Send your kids to Narnia as surely as you would buy them a set of beyblades. Looks like this one is going to get at least half as much of a following as Potter, and so the peer pressure will be commensurate. As for yourself, well, if you are big on fantasy, this just might be fun. Maybe delayedly, but it does ultimately let you ride that mind-stirring wave of fantasy.