First things first. I went into this movie really wanting it to be good, so I was willing to suspend as much of my disbelief as possible in hopes that it would be good. To that effect, I tried very very hard to like the movie. I did a good job.
I was taken by the movie, but I'll be the first to admit that it is far from perfect. I did like it, but it's obviously Disney. There were a few parts which I know they did a little...fixing. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start with a nice and simple analysis.
I was actually fairly amazed with the storyline integrity. They followed it pretty well. All in all they were a bit fast in the pacing, and I don't think they hit home some of the same things, but if you have read the books first, this is a pretty good visualization, and the number of things missing is not completely destructive.
This is where I think the production team, and indeed, the actors and actresses deserve a great deal of credit. I think it would have been pretty hard to portray some of these characters in something of a faithful manner. Despite my initial misgivings about how the characters would turn out, I believe the really came as close to the mark as one could be expected to come.
Let's start with one of the characters I thought they missed, the white witch. I think they managed to capture a dreadful kind of beauty, which was excellent, but I think the persona was off the mark. See, I do not know that the voice acting was quite right. She just did not have that believability there. She did a good job on the whole, though. The particular scene I do not like is right after Aslan and the White Witch have made their pact. As the White Witch leaves the area, she calls out to him, questioning whether she can trust he will keep his promise. In response, Aslan roars. Now, in the book there is a really strong dynamic throughout this whole thing, or at least, it was strong to me. However, I do not really feel the power struggle and the ups and down of the Witch in the movie. This was rather disappointing.
I am mostly apathetic about the way they handled Aslan. I do not think the completely butchered any particular part of him, but I do think they some of the magic is missing. In their defense, it must be extremely difficult to portray that kind of power, finesse and overall spiritual muscle and wisdom on the screen.
Something they did do right, in my opinion, was the supporting cast. I thought the other creatures of Narnia, the ones that had a smaller part in the book, were done exceptionally well. Mr. Tumulus, the Beavers, and the Wolf were all great. The beavers especially had a great banter that went between them, and their performance was quite entertaining.
Another someone that I felt was done almost perfectly was the professor. I really did imagine him almost exactly like that in my mind, and the manner with which he dealt with the two eldest children (Peter and Susan) when they were discussing their concern for Lucy was great. It did lack the length, detail, and richness of the book, but the main idea, methinks came across very well. I think they almost perfectly visualized the timing and pattern of, "What do they teach in schools these days?"
The Housekeeper was indeed portrayed just a little too harshly, though I think it looks worse in the Previews than it does on the actual screen. You can see just a hint of humanity in her on the screen, whereas in the Previews they made her out to be the nastiest little meany upon whom you ever had laid eyes.
Of course, I know that you are not interested in hearing about all the other characters. I know you want to hear about the four main characters. The verdict? Excellent and remarkably well done. Not perfect, mind you, not perfect at all, but pretty good. Peter I think was fairly close to what I would have thought him to be. He was nicely done. I think perhaps there was a little something off with him. I can not tell what, for sure, but there was just something that prevents me from giving him the highest of high marks. He's a good shot though, and it is somewhat relieving to find such characters here.
I don't know that they came as close with Edmund, but while he did not fit what I had in mind, he did manage to catch my liking. He really felt something like a different character altogether, so there was nothing of my imagination to conflict with what they had put together. This means, of course, that I was able to take him as another Edmund completely. Overall, I think the range of emotions and character change that was presented in the book concerning Edmund came through in the movie, so that was good.
Lucy was the real surprise of the bunch. I really think they did a great job with her. She came across with exactly that kind of childlike faith and loveability that the book did so great a job of portraying. I do not think she quite fit my image of the physical Lucy though. For one thing, I would have almost sworn that there was a blonde in the four children, and that it was not Susan. I could be wrong.
Now I know you all know what I think about Susan in the book, and how she was my favorite character. Unfortunately, I think that, while they did a good job with Susan, they could have done much better. The things they did well, I think, was manage to portray that kind of adult rationality that sometimes hinders us when we encounter things about which we are unfamiliar. They also managed to give just the right touch of personal emotion to Susan to prevent her from becoming too stereotypical. Unfortunately, while they did make a good "textbook" Susan, I don't think it is the same Susan that is in the books. They missed something. It could be her physical appearence, which, while close to what I would have imagined, did not quite fit the face I would have used. It goes deeper than that, however. There is an all encompassing sort of kick that Peter had which made him come through as genuine in this movie. Susan, unfortunately, is missing that. It is hard to place tangible evidence on this one. Perhaps it is the closeness with which I watched Susan in the book that makes this movie Susan less authentic, but I still can not help my conclusions here.
Overall, I was amazingly surprised at how well they did. They are far from perfect, and could have done a better job with some of them, but given the type of productions they usually make, and temptations that must have presented themselves to change the characters around to fit some other taste that they had desired, I think remarkable restraint and faithfulness is showed in this version to the Book's Character descriptions.
On a final note here, I should state how well I thought they did the Adult Lucy. Peter was okay, Edmumd was borderline, and I just couldn't quite get the Susan; Lucy, on the other hand, was really quite believable and grand. It really made my day to see one of the adult children come out well.
I can recall quite a few moments where the music absolutely took me, and I had to restrain myself in my seat from appearing too elated. It really struck a wonderful chord with me. Some of the opening scenery, combined with the music, made for a spectacular show.
Scenery, Setting, Photography
In a word, some of the scenery was amazing. Downright perfect I would say. Parts of it really did take my breath away. New Zealand really is an amaazing place.
In a word, Disney. I have seen some other films like this, and this has to be one of the most disappointing facets of the movie. This is where I really did end up being unable to suspend my disbelief. Specifically, there were parts of the movie that were just so obviously Green Screened that it was hard to focus on what was happening in the scene. Also, the whole movie really felt too clean. That is, some of it just seemed sooo picture perfect, sort of like when you can tell someone has been airbrushed to remove pimples or had their teeth whitened digitally. It just didn't make it. For example, things such as the ice, or take the tents at the battle preparation scenes, or the velvet type cushions on the train. All of it was too clean, and too sharp. It did not have that type of reality to it.
It is unfortunate that this movie had to have that little defect in it, as I really was able to suspend disbelief in a whole host of ways that I did not expect , and having the effects throw the whole thing off really was a downer.
This movie was better in a lot more ways than I expected. It really is a decent output of the book. But the biggest thing I got out of this movie was another outlook on how the books affected me.
Given just the movie, I do not think I would have been nearly as touched or moved by everything that was in the movie. Due to having read the books first, I was able to read in a great deal more to the movie than what I imagine someone who has not read the book would be able to do. In fact, some parts of the movie were just that right extra of visual realization and musical talent that they combined with the book to actually bring tears to my eyes. Yes, that's right, you read that correctly. I cried (if only barely) in this movie. A tear or two actually made its way off and out of my eye.
In all honesty, I cannot credit it only to the movie. But it was as though I was reading through the book again, but this time with all the right extras, and it just proved to me how great those books really are.
Another part of the movie scores major marks for me. While they decided that it would be too long (I speculate) to put in all that narrative and story at the end, instead, they put a crowning ceremony in there, where Aslan states they titles of each of the new rulers of Narnia, and Tumulus crowns them each. I literally almost fell apart with goose bumps on this scene. There is something about the reciting of the "legendary" names of these four children that just absolutely gets me. What I am meaning by this is that Aslan goes down the line and names each of the children with the name that, in the book, they would instead earn. So, Peter is Peter the Magnificent, and Lucy, the valiant, and so on. Somehow, the whole way they did that was just perfect.
So the movie really did move me, but for those who are expecting a completely faithful interpretation, while they will find it very close, the movie is not without its deviations and modernizations. They are, however, small and forgivable offenses. The most valid complaint against this movie is its length and lack of detail. For the sake of time and flow, the movie really does not go into as much detail on each scene as some of the more diehard fans are going to want. This means that you have to read that all in. There is a good deal of dialogue and explanation that is left out, missing in parts where I would have found it more enjoyable had it been in there. This is the way of today's media though, where most people would not have the attention span for a 4 hour movie.
As the final word, I have to give my overall delight at the faithfulness of the movie makers, and the accuracy of their character make-ups. They did a wonderful job. I still don't think it reaches my wish of one day having a movie that really is equal in stature to the good book, but we are making something of progress.