The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (PG)

Written by C.S. Lewis (novel), Directed by Andrew Adamson
On general release from 9th December 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

When committed Christian C.S. Lewis published the first book in his Narnia series in 1950, he claimed to be “aiming at a sort of pre-baptism of the child's imagination”. Fast-forward to 2005, and Florida governor Jeb Bush seems to be hoping the film of the book will achieve something similar. The president’s brother has set-up a scheme for every child in his state to read the book. Walden Media – co-producer of the movie alongside Disney – is offering a seventeen week Narnia bible study for children. Co-incidentally, the oil man who owns Walden Media donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. I wonder if the course will have the bit about the love of money being the root of all evil. Probably not.

In this more secular tragic kingdom, the religious subtext will go undetected by many. So politics aside, there is much to admire in the first of what will surely be a new fantasy franchise. Tilda Swinton is jaw-droppingly icy and imperious as the witch – a character she describes as “the ultimate white supremacist” - while Georgie Henley as Lucy glows with youthful exuberance and budding talent. However, the other three children look quite underwhelmed by the whole experience, and the visual effects often look quite flat - paling into mediocrity compared to fantasy landscapes created by the likes of Peter Jackson.

In the Gospel according to Clive, the land of Narnia can be reached through the back of a wardrobe in a musty World War Two era house. Evacuee Lucy Pevensie stumbles upon the fairytale world when playing hide-and-seek. There she meets a faun called Mr Tumnus (James McAvoy) who tells her about a world where “it is always winter and never Christmas”, and the evil white queen who keeps it that way.

Back in England, Lucy’s sisters and brother refuse to believe her account, but they are gradually drawn into the closet, where they meet the witch/Satan, Aslan the lion/Jesus, and two quarrelsome beavers (Ray Winstone and Dawn French). Adventures and escapades follow by the bucketful, and millions of people around the age of ten will be delighted.

But is that enough? What kind of messages does this film send out? Well, eating Turkish Delight is punishable by death, climate change is caused by evil witches, and if a dictator takes charge of your country then you just have to wait until you are saved by a talking lion and four schoolkids from Finchley.

Take your young innocents along if you must, but you will be making the Bush family’s winter.

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