Disney // 2005 // 143 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 5th, 2008
Aslan is on the move.
The world of Narnia was made for high-definition, and its Blu debut delivers all the high-resolution Minotaur hair you could ever want.
For the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, their exile to an eccentric man's rural estate meant surefire boredom. And that's what they got at first. But then young Lucy discovers a giant wardrobe in one of the spare rooms and as you know, said wardrobe leads to the magical world of Narnia, a fantasy landscape currently snowed in and under the ruthless grip of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton).
But the Narnia residents have some hope. For the arrival of the Pevensie kids has been prophesied to bring about the downfall of the White Witch and the arrival of Aslan (Liam Neeson), the true King of Narnia.
So, it's on, with Aslan and his righteous Centaurs and cheetahs and beavers on one side and the Witch's horde of polar bears and Cyclopsies and other assorted evil zoo creatures on the other.
I tackled this film earlier when I reviewed the two-disc special edition. I'll hit the highlights of my reaction here, but if for some reason you want to get a more complete picture of what I did and did not dig about director Andrew Adamson's fantasy epic, go peruse that review. For you Blu-kids out there, I know what's most important is the technical presentation of the disc. I'll get to that, but in short, from top to bottom the upgraded sound and video is awesome.
Briefly, about the film itself. I liked it then and I still like it now. With the forthcoming sequel Prince Caspian just on the horizon I can honestly say I am anticipating another trip to Narnia. While a far cry from the more emotional and, let's be honest, spectacular Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe still proves to be a solid offering in the fantasy genre.
It is, also, a children's movie and that's one of its main differences from other, harder-edged fantasy films. For Pete's sake, Santa Claus makes an appearance. So LWW and -- I assume the sequels -- occupy a more family-friendly corner of the big-budget, magical-movie category.
Not that mofos don't die. Adamson stages some great action set-pieces, the highlight being the massive battle sequence at the end where all manner of Narnian clash and swing swords and take arrows in the face. That's good stuff right there, marvelously rendered with top-notch CGI and transpiring in the brilliant daylight, which, on Blu, is a stunner.
Still, as awesome as the effects and costuming are, there is something missing from Narnia. Adamson covers all the necessary story beats, but can't quite inject his creation with enough zip to elevate the film from good to great. The writing is workmanlike, with very little humor and the only memorable performance is Georgie Henley as Lucy, who has the uncanny ability to melt people's hearts with her eyes. And besides the Stone Table scene, which is quite effective, the emotional wallop overall is lacking.
Overall: good, but not great.
The Blu-ray treatment, however -- gr-r-r-r-r-reat. The 2.40:1 HD upgrade is terrific, as detailed and robust as any HD transfer I've seen. The world of Narnia is bright and colorful (after the snow melts, that is) and brilliantly displayed in 1080p. As the majority of the action happens in the daylight, that means even more detail to enjoy. No squinting here, just straight-up eyeball intercourse. Of the many stellar moments, the battle scene stands out as the most visceral. The massive armies are a sight to behold, and WETA's digital work looks amazing. The 5.1 uncompressed (48kHz/16-bit) sound is a perfect companion to the upgraded video, blasting out the sweeping -- if slightly generic score -- and the beaucoup war sounds with verve.
All the extras from the DVD special edition make the trip onto this two-disc set (two feature commentaries, a sprawling set of featurettes called "Creating Narnia," behind-the-scenes documentaries on the creatures of the film, a blooper reel, and trivia) with one added Blu-ray exclusive: "Battle for Narnia," an interactive strategy game.
The introduction to C.S. Lewis's fantasy masterwork is merely a worthy start to the franchise. In the HD world, there's not much better to rock your senses, though.
Not guilty. Another round of Turkish Delights for all my friends!
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Two Commentary Tracks
* Interactive Game
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* DVD Verdict Review - Four-Disc Extended Edition