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London, World War II. The German Luftwaffe is bombarding London, and siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley) and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) are sent to the countryside on their own – their father is in the army and their mother stays in London.
While playing hide-and-seek, young Lucy discovers the magic world of Narnia in a wardrobe and meets the faun Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who is supposed to deliver her to the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) who has declared herself Queen of Narnia, and whose spell keeps the land in an already one-hundred-year-long winter. But Mr. Tumnus has a good heart and lets Lucy go back home through the wardrobe.
Amazingly, when she returns, no time has passed – and her siblings of course don’t believe she really went to Narnia through the wardrobe. At night, Lucy sneaks through the wardrobe again, and this time, mischievous brother Edmund follows her. Edmund meets the White Witch and she tricks him with sweets and the prospect of making him Prince Of Narnia to promise to bring his brother and sisters to her.
When all four of them go to Narnia, they find Mr. Tumnus’ home havocked and Mr. Tumnus himself arrested by the Queen’s secret police. They meet a talking beaver – Mr. Beaver – who tells them about the Witch, Narnia, the true king Aslan who has returned and the prophecy that says four humans would bring freedom to Narnia. While Lucy, Susan and Peter talk to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Edmund sneaks away and heads for the castle of the Queen to collect his rewards, but is thrown into an icy dungeon instead where he meets unfortunate Mr. Tumnus – and the Queen sends out her wolves to find and kill the kids.
With the help of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and a fox the siblings can escape. Peter, the oldest and most responsible of them, would rather see them go back home, but not without Edmund, so they go to meet king Aslan and join his army in the decisive battle against the forces of the White Witch.

narnia - tumnusThe film is based on the NARNIA-books of C.S. Lewis, who was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. And there are similarities between the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord Of The Rings. In both tales, a group of “little people” (hobbits / kids) who don’t consider themselves heroic are forced to get involved in a war between good and evil in a magical world, and much more is expected from them than they think they can handle.
The difference is that Lord Of The Rings is based in fictional and distant Middle-Earth, while Narnia is based more in reality – the kids are living in London during the Second World War, and Narnia may be real or just a fantasy of escape from the war. And while Tolkien’s achievement was to create a whole new world, C.S. Lewis’ work is about and for kids.
The movie is driven by the characters of the kids and their relationships: Lucy’s wide-eyed amazement in a magical world and her friendship to the friendly faun is stronger than all her fears and draws the kids into Narnia. Edmund rebels against everybody and especially against his older brother Peter (“you are not my father!”), brings them into trouble and gets incarcerated by the White Witch. Peter, the oldest, is struggling with his responsibility for his siblings and would rather bring them back home into safety – but he won’t leave without Edmund. And while Susan is still a kid herself, she feels responsible for her young sister Lucy.
The special effects and creatures take second place behind the characters, but there are plenty of creatures (Griffins, talking wolves, beavers, and foxes, fauns, minotaurs and centaurs – and of course, there is the lion Aslan) to admire.
There is some Christian symbolism in the film (Aslan sacrificing himself and getting resurrected being the most obvious), but it’s nothing to get worried about (there is a lot of discussion going on about that topic), the child actors are well chosen and Tilda Swinton and James McAvoy are great, the message doesn’t come with the hammer and the plot is well written and thought-out – no gaping plot holes to spoil the magic, it’s only that Peter should really really work on his swordmanship and learn a sword is not a hayfork!
All in all surely a magical experience for the kids, and more than acceptable for adults.
Lord Of The Rings “light”? Maybe, but in a good way!


  1. itsvery Movie Review Blog - Independent Film Reviews » THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Chris Weitz Says:

    […] After The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, here is the next Fantasy film based on a popular book series – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy. The Golden Compass suffers a bit from the Part-I-Syndrome – a whole new complex universe has to be established and half a dozen main characters must be introduced, and there is an extensive story to be told. Chris Weitz masters all of that and finds enough time for a couple of excellent fight and action sequences. The special effects are of mixed quality – The Golden Compass is basically one big special effect, and the daemons are not only the souls of the people in this universe, but also the soul of the movie, and they are adorable, and so is the Panserbjørn Iorek Byrnison – at least most of the time. But occasionally, the effects with Iorek are plainly embarassing (i cringed when Iorek carried Lyra through the icy northern landscapes). The Golden Compass is suitable for kids (Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence in the USA) but will also please adults – which is kind of the main problem of the film: it seems nobody ever decided if it should be for kids or for adults and so the movie meanders between kiddie-friendly and made for serious fantasy aficionados quite frequently and uncomfortably, failing to fully score in either genre. And the end comes rather abrupt, almost brutal – but then, the audience is spared a soppy-happy ending – definitly a good thing. Looking forward to Part II! […]

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