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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (2005): *½

Directed by Andrew Adamson

This film doesn't start out too badly. No, scratch that; the opening scene of London being bombed durning the war is terrible. Having your hometown bombed would be a horrifying experience. You don't need people running around and putting themselves in jeapordy to make it tense, scary, or exciting.

Anyway, the film actually settles down for a while after that. The scenes at the mansion are handled well, as are the kids' first entries into Narnia. Those scenes have a certain delicacy to them, and even though I thought it strange that Narnians would have sliced bread street lamps and know about Christmas, I was willing to overlook it because the interactions were interesting enough.

But at about the halfway point of the film when the plot finally starts the whole thing just falls all to pieces. It becomes a victim of arbitrariness.

Almost everything in the film from that point on seems completely arbitrary, without a reasonable thought behind it. Why would a faun have sliced taost and a modern umbrella and know about Christmas? Where was the umbrella made? How did he toast the bread? This is supposed to be a medieval fantasy world, isn't it? Speaking of which, the world of Narnia seems to be about the least creative world around. It was like it was thought up by an proffessorial Englishman with no imagination. Wait a minute...

Aslan's abilities seem to be whatever is most convenient at the time. After he's killed he comes back to life by citing an obscure rule of magic that we the audience had no way of knowing about. He might have well have just said, "I have the ability come back from the dead." It would have had the same effect. He can revive frozen people by breathing on them. How convenient.

The convincing characters of the first half of the movie just evaporate by the 2nd half. Peter's transformation into the leader of an army is entirely unbelievable. When the girls witness Aslan's death they cry over his corpse for what seems to be hours. Why? They just met the guy. Sure, he seemed like a nice guy and all, but when did they develop such an emotional attachment to him? It is never shown on-screen, that's for sure. And Edmund, the bad seed, turns his life around when he gets scolded by Aslan off-screen.

And the story itself is just inherently unsatisfying. When an 11-year-old boy tells you after the movie that it would have been better if Peter had killed the Witch Queen himself instead of Aslan doing it, I can't help but agree. Peter worked so hard for that victory. And he would have won by himself, too! But then Aslan shows up at the last second and snatches up the victory for himself.

The movie reminded me of being a kid and playing a game with an adult who knows all the rules but only tells them to you when they came up. And then at the end of the game he steps in and declares himself the winner even though you worked really hard trying to win. It was very, very frustrating to watch.

I gave this film one-and-a-half stars instead of just one star because of the opening half and the fact that the special effects are generally pretty good (especially the beavers). Although the filmmakers did manage to completely botch a very simple green-screen shot of the kids superimposed in front of some mountains. They have what seems like a four-inch wide outline around them. Even my wife, who doesn't look for such things or watch movies with such things in mind, whispered to me, "Oh my God, that looks terrible!"

And plus, the incredible sexual tension between Mr. Tumnus (the Faun) and a nine-year-old girl is really, really disturbing.

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