Below are my thoughts on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
There are a lot of things to like about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The children are all very good, the casting overall was spot-on, visually it looked like Narnia should. I had wondered about Liam Neeson as Aslan, but I really liked him. They did a good job with expanding some scenes, such as letting us see Peter and Edmund while the girls were at the Stone Table. Speaking of Peter and Edmund, both of their journeys were well done – there were times where I thought I could see Peter growing up as everything was happening all around him. With Susan, I felt like we could see a little more of why things turn out for her the way they do in The Last Battle. Father Christmas was wonderful (even if he didn’t give them tea like he should have). The Professor was not how I pictured him, but I loved him just the same. There were lots of little moments and lines that were included that were great. I didn’t care for the added bits where the wolves were chasing them down the tunnel and on the frozen waterfall, but I guess that’s because I didn’t feel like we needed any extra tension. The witch was very good, and I didn’t think the CGI was perfect, but CGI is mostly not on my radar and I was only paying attention to it because I’d heard that it was questionable in some places. If I had a slightly better memory and was a little less tired, I could list page after page of things I thought were done well, from small details to big ones, because, as I said, there was a lot to like.
Overall, though, I have to admit (and I hate to say this) that I was disappointed. I know that my expectations were very high, but I tried to go in and give it a fair shot, and I think I did appreciate the movie on its own terms. Somehow, though, as good as many of the parts were, it missed the magic for me. There was a spark that the books had that the movie didn’t manage. I read the book and I think of wide-eyed wonder, and I can’t tell you how exactly the movie missed that, but I can tell you that, for me, it did. The beginning and the end were close to how what I was hoping for, but they lost me in the middle (which I can blame only somewhat on the wolves). Someone at work asked me how one would convey magic or wonder in a movie, and I can’t explain it, exactly. I know that when I left the LotR movies, I felt a sense of wonder, like I had entered another world for a few hours. Mike said that perhaps it’s just a Disney problem – that their live-action movies are often missing a spark that they need. He enjoyed it more than I did, probably because he read the book as an adult and not as a child, so he brought a completely different sensibility to the story. I just know that, for me, as much as it pains me to say this, many of the parts were good, but the sum of those parts was lacking something.
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, though, or deter anyone from seeing it. I just wish it had had a little more magic.