Adrian's Review of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
[font=Verdana]Note: I saw all of these films upon their theatrical releases. I've just been too lazy to put down my thoughts until now.[/font]
[font=Verdana]I?d hate to sound like a broken record, since a review of this film will result in me typing the words ?great? into every single aspect of Pixar?s latest imagination-fueled animated film, so this is the most I?m going to type. I would also like to say that nobody else but Pixar can make a film where all the characters are cars and not only make it work, but bring everything to [i]life[/i]. [i]Cars[/i] is worthy of being mentioned with Pixar?s other instant classic works, although I?m sure not everyone will agree.[/font]
This Andrew ?Gattaca? Niccol film about an arms dealer effectively played by Nicolas Cage is filled with tragedy and dark humor. The two balance each other out, sometimes clashing in moments which contain both, making for quite an effective film. [i]Lord of War[/i] isn?t preachy about anything since it doesn?t take any ?sides? whatsoever about its subject matter, nor is it simple. It tells a story about a character whose unconventional job eventually affects his personal life and everyone around him. The events played in the film are both dramatic and uncomfortably humorous, striking deeper into its emotional roots which are further accomplished thanks to the talented cast. [/font]
[font=Verdana]While the flow of the story hits some bumps specifically in the second act, the overall atmosphere of the film is maintained all throughout (even though the filmmaking, while technically and visually good, doesn?t consistently match perfectly with the events shown in the film), and it helps that the lead character is fascinating not because of his job, but how completely apathetic he is to how it eventually affects a great number of people. Ethan Hawke plays a character who tries to bash ethics into his head, but Cage?s character is completely aware on all the consequences of his business (which makes sense since he?s in it) and he simply doesn?t care. He doesn?t turn a blind eye, he doesn?t ignore it, he just cares about making money. Both the story and Cage?s character are one in the same with the subject matter of the film at being completely apathetic with the bigger picture (with differences as to why, of course), and the audience ends up familiarizing with Ethan Hawke?s, even though the film does not focus on his character at all. [/font]
[/b][font=Verdana]Since I feel the exact same way that Aram Fingal does on this film, I'll just post his review:
[QUOTE][/font][font=Verdana][size=1](Note: I realize that Narnia is a children's film, made for kids too young to be discriminating about the kind of things I am about to nonetheless blast it for. If you have a feeling this might bother you, please stop reading now. Also, I will be posting spoilers.)
Narnia is a film so full of its own grandeur, so supremely self-important and in love with its own sense of grandeur, that it forgets at any point to try to create compelling characters or craft memorable moments. Taking many obvious nods from the movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings, Narnia cruises on the strength of its painfully obvious Christ allegory, while having neither the conviction or heart that helped make Rings such a success.
While I have only vague memories of reading the book as a child, the story is familiar enough. Four ugly British children (the adorable moppet, the fearless leader, the spoiled brat and the logical party-pooper), fleeing the Blitz during WWII, go to live with a lovably eccentric old professor who apparently keeps an interdimensional portal sitting around under a sheet in an unlocked upstairs bedroom. The children are drawn into a magical land of adventure and talking beavers, ruled by Jesus Christ the talking lion. But all is not well in fairyland. There is a Satan figure, in the form of the androgynous Tilda Swinton as the White Queen (holding up the Biblical tradition of making the females evil, I suppose), who gives an entertainingly two-faced performance for the first half of the movie, before being reduced to dramatic posing and Snidely Whiplash monologues by the second half. There's also a big battle between the pretty animals and the ugly animals. And all the kids become kings and queens, although how exactly a land ruled by four children of equal power is supposed to work out in a political sense isn't really touched on. But never mind.
Narnia has a few good points. The computer animation is great in places (subpar in others, but there's more good than bad). The art design is imaginative in places, though the things that are really interesting to look at are few and far between. One of Narnia's major problems is its raging narcisissm. The music swells to huge, grandiose proportions as a buck-toothed kid wanders aimlessly through a cheap-looking soundstage. The White Queen's foreboding castle turns out to be one dreary-looking throne room. Yet there is this feeling that we should be filled with breathless wonder, which is almost totally unjustified given the look of the film. The whole thing has a very low-budget feel, which is extremely curious for a film costing $180 million.
Worse is the story structure, which, granted, is limited by the C.S. Lewis book and the natural tropes of the fairy tale. Narnia really is a Christian allegory, and, like any good Christian story, removes any sporting interest from the conflict. The Satanic White Queen kills off cute forest animals left and right, but it doesn't matter, because Jesus the lion will breathe on everyone at the end and bring them back to life. The lion himself is killed, but the movie pauses only long enough to milk some little-children tears before -- ta da! He's resurrected and ready to undo all the evils of the world! At one point, Father Christmas himself even shows up and gives the kids a bottle of medicine which can heal any wound. There is no drama, because Evil is helpless and Good is omnipotent, and as the subplot of Edmund shows, no matter how treacherous and sniveling you are, no matter how many times you sell out your friends for a piece of candy, all is forgiven if you merely smile and shrug and promise to be good from now on. And, since no time has passed once the kids pop out of the wardrobe, the story itself is completely and utterly without consequence.
Narnia is not egregiously bad, and the kids will probably like it, but if I had kids, I'd pray they had better taste than this.
[font=Verdana] This film demands your attention right from the very first shot. Whether it gets your attention or not is up to you, but this isn't a shoot-em up actioner with brains (Which was how it was advertised), but more of a thinking film, period. It's almost all about the plot which was made interesting thanks to the script and direction. Denzel Washington and Clive Owen do what they have to do, but Jodie Foster steals every single scene she's in. You can clearly tell that Foster was having so much fun with the character that she ends up adding more than what one could expect. She's witty, smart, confident, and almost all the snappy dialogue was given to her, and Foster delivers them with so much ease that she plays her character to perfection. Even though the character's motivation was, at the very best, vague, her presence in the film was more than welcome.
Spike Lee manages to put some message in his film without it feeling out of place or unnecessary in spite of the story. If anything, it feels appropriate because of the location, and he doesn't bash our heads with it, but treat it so naturally that it comes out naturally (It helps that this isn't the first time he delivers a message in his film). Russel Gewirtz' script is ridiculously good, not only because of the dialogue, but because of how complex and smart this film really is. The story keeps on moving and moving, but not in a pace so fast that it will leave the audience confused, but not slow enough to create any sort of exposition. It demands the audience's attention, and both Gewirtz and Lee expect you to keep up and, more importantly, pay attention.
[font=Verdana] Horrendous character designs, unfunny characters with absolutely zero charm (This was quite an accomplishment, since the returning main characters were simply great in the first film), an emotional backstory to an annoying character that's terribly handled and terribly acted by Queen Latifah, non-sensical scenes that come out of nowhere, and all the sex and extinction jokes were not only painfully unfunny, but were made with such bad taste too. If only they made Diego and Scrat the main characters, it would've been decent enough.
What a piece of crap.