Monday, June 02, 2008

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

We also watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe again last night (on TV). I’m afraid it’s even more disappointing on a second viewing. It’s too long, for one thing, and what was more noticeable this second time around was that the green screen work isn’t very good. This is surprising. I didn’t notice it particularly on the big screen, but on television it shows up a good deal: pasty-faced children in front of woods, forests and all that unnecessary ice. Worse, when Adamson had all of NZ’s wonderful scenery to choose from for his backdrops, we’re often given strangely unrealistic scenery: the river waterfall, for example, is one of the worst, and there’s another snow-capped mountains scene that doesn’t work.
The battle scenes seem to be all done at a cartoonish speed, as though slowing it down to a normal speed would make the fighting less effective.
Of the four young Penvensies, only Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) make decent fists of the roles. Willliam Moseley as Peter is wimpish, and weak for too long. By the time he becomes Sir Peter, we feel he isn’t likely to make a very good King. And Anna Popplewell is so sulky so much of the time that she just becomes irritating; when she does have a scene that calls for charm, there isn’t much there.
But the four kids are far better than Tilda Swinton. We know Swinton can act because she’s excellent in a number of other movies. For some reason in this one she’s chosen, or been required, to be so cold that there’s no emotion. Her eyes are dead, her speech has almost no volume about soft, and even in her battle scenes she seems to have her mind on something else. She was disappointing on the first viewing; now she’s just plain annoying.
And Aslan never ever impresses. Perhaps a real lion just isn’t going to work after we’ve read in the books about a lion who is magnificent and royal and charismatic. Aslan’s first entrance in the movie is a damp squid. The lion wanders out of the tent and you think – this is Aslan? Certainly the animatronics are good in relation to a consistency between the real lion and the pretend one, but neither one thrills.
Knowing, the second time around, that the story’s been mucked about with a bit, you’re not quite so annoyed about that, so what’s left to praise? The beavers are fun and well done, James McEvoy’s Mr Tumnus is probably the best Narnian character, and that’s about it.
I can understand now why I haven’t bothered to get my copy of the DVD out of its case before now.

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