Overlooked Film of the Week- #49 and #50
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe & Prince Caspian
Ever since 2001, we have had a big saturation of fantasy films based on teenage novels. I am not quite sure that its been an over-saturation yet, but a saturation nonetheless. (I think we have had an over-saturation of superhero movies, but I still love them!) We have had great examples of this rapidly multiplying sub-genre like "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games." We also had awful examples like "Twilight," "The Golden Compass," and "Eragon," and I don't think its going anywhere anytime soon. As long as authors are pumping out young adult fiction, somebody in Hollywood and greenlight a series.
One series that I feel has been brushed under the rug has been "The Chronicles of Narnia." I don't understand why they are not pumping out the movies as quickly as the other studios are with their respected franchises. I don't understand why its not getting the same traction as the other franchises are. "The Chronicles of Narnia" is a big deal to me. I find it to be something on par with the fantasy series'. I do like "Lord of the Rings" more, I do think the first two "Chronicles of Narnia" movies are better than the first 4 "Harry Potter" movies. These movies are full of magic, adventure, humor, great acting, great action and triumphant music. The special effects of the animals alone is worth buying and owning these movies, yes buying and owning these movies. Just like Warner Brothers found three wonderful, believable actors for Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermoine Granger, Disney found four great actors for the Pevensie family. Tilda Swinton was wickedly awesome as The White Witch, and Liam Neeson created an unforgettable character for never playing an actual person.
The first film in the series was "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." I wanted to see the movie immediately when I heard it was going to come out. My 6th grade Language Arts teacher introduced me to the world of C.S. Lewis, and the characters that were enthralled in it. My class read "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and I thought it was a pretty cool story, filled with metaphors that enriched the experience. I felt the first movie really represented the essence of that book. It was a movie full of adventure, intrigue and grandiose. There were also some dark spots that I found incredibly well-made and intense. As I stated above, the special effects work was phenomenal. Those looked like real lions and real rhinoceroses, as well as real wolves, minotaurs, centaurs and a huge host of other fanatical creatures that inhabited Narnia. Although, despite all the extra fluff, it can down to a committed cast and crew, who were determined to bring this thing to life. Congratulations.
In 2008, the sequel entitled "Prince Caspian" the series began to take a much darker turn in storyline, but the grand scale of the event was joyous to watch. The battle scenes in "Prince Caspian" are some of my favorite battle sequences in all of fantasy films. Yes, they rank that high. The new additions to the cast were perfect notes to bring this sequel to the next level. Plus, the story took us further into the mythology of Narnia which was pretty exciting. Not only that, but the Pevensie family grew as characters, and it was neat how the movie reflected their growth as characters. I never made it further in the book version of this story, and I never knew why. But I have to say, as far as the films went, "Prince Caspian" was a more than worthy addition to the series.
The casting in both films is magnificent across the board. Like I said above, we really believe in the four Pevensie children, we have to in order to believe in this franchise and they make us believe. They feel like a family. They feel like they have lived with each other. The work by William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley deserve every ounce of credit of doing this series right. They really become the characters and grow as the series does. Aside from Swinton and Neeson, the other supporting cast in each film is great. James McAvoy appears in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" as Mr. Tumnus, a fawn who was crucial to the Pevensie's success. McAvoy has always had some very serious range, and he proves it here. Jim Broadbent, who is always perfect, has a small but awesome role as a professor.
In "Prince Caspian" I was always blown away that Ben Barnes never became a star afterward. Ben Barnes plays Caspian, who is driven out of his home and ends up with the Narnians, whom he plans to help and to become their king. He needs help though, and he calls for the Pevensie's for help. Caspian is a true hero, but he's at times flawed, he is sometimes niave, he often in over his head. Barnes is able to capture all of these emotions and more with genuine ease. Barnes deserves to be bigger than he is and I hope he eventually gets there. Fans of "Game of Thrones" will be happy to see Peter Dinkage playing a dwarf and "Mystery Men" fans will love the voice work by Eddie Izzard. For the sequel, the casting was perfect.
If you haven't had the time to check into this series, do so as soon as possible. I hope this eventually materializes into the next great franchise.