Cover Art and Menu: 8/10
For the special 2 disc set you get a cool cover sleeve that protects the box. I am not that into fancy packaging to be honest, but it looks nice. It has that look of an old book, not surprising. My husband the DVDofile hopes they do the same packaging for each movie so they match when we put them on the shelf…not a requirement for me, but something to consider I suppose if you are very particular about those kinds of things.
The menus look nice, not fancy or full of moving parts, but classy enough not to be boring.
Extras & Features: 9/10
I won’t detail each and every extra. If you are a fan of the stories and then of the movies you will take the time to watch them all and find what I did. They took a lot of time and effort to tell us as much about making the film as we could hope for. From how creatures were made to how they built the whole forest inside a building never used for a sound stage before, the second disc is packed with movie making goodies. You can see the full list above, here are descriptions of just a few.
- Bloopers – Most of the time the blooper reel is just a few mistakes by the performers tossed on the disc, but this is a classy DVD, so they actually made the effort to produce a little collection of mess-ups and giggles that happened during the filming.
- Creatures Of The World Featurette -How do they make all those monsters and mythical characters come to life? Check out the process from conception to costumes in this extra.
- Explore Narnia – Check out the map and click in different areas to learn about the places and land marks that make up the lush world where lions are kings and beavers chit chat over a hot cup of tea.
- Discover Narnia Facts – Watch the movie again with pop up facts about the fantastic world from C. S. Lewis.
- Chronicles Of A Director – This is the man who brought us the Shrek movies, so how can he survive the awesome task of making a huge real life action movie that is an adaptation of some of the most beloved books in modern history? From watching this documentary featurette you follow him from costume design, to set design, to casting, to post production and special effects. He’s a new age director who seems to have a good grasp of what it takes to make a film as part of a collective, not as some elite director who barks orders and takes all the credit at the end of the day.
- The Children’s Magical Journey – Follow the kids who star in the movie from their auditions through to the end of the production.
The Movie: 9/10
From scene to scene, shot to shot, line to line, I was entranced by Narnia. That sounds kind of like a brainwash victim comment, but it’s the truth. At nearly forty years old, I had never read, nor had I even heard of the Narnia books in my life. I know, it’s hard to believe, but hey, I was a movie/TV kid, not a reader. My husband, however, is from England and thus these stories are a big part of his childhood. I was worried that the movie version wouldn’t hold up to his fond memories, but in the end he robustly proclaimed that the movie was “fantastic!”. I was certainly happy for him, and for anyone else who has always wanted to see the Ice Queen, the faun Mr. Tumnus, giants, Cyclopes, unicorns, centaurs, minotaurs, and other mythical creatures woven by C. S. Lewis into his stories jump off the page and come to life.
Some people might be in love with the original books and they might not ever come around to a movie version simply because they have their own images in their minds of what the world and it’s inhabitants look like. That’s fair enough. Stories like the Chronicles of Narnia are meant to be a place of refuse, a place to get away from our daily existence and live a fantasy rich with all the elements that “real life” can’t offer. If you are a loyalist of the books, detail by detail, well, you might have to either separate the experience of reading from watching on the big screen, or simply skip the movie version. I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing the movie, because I truly loved it, but some things we construct in our minds around art, literature, music, and other creative escapes are sacred to us and should be treated that way. To watch the movie and have it change your perception of your favorite character, the way you imagine them to look from reading the book, that seems kind of sad. If you can watch the movie and hold on to your memories of the books as a separate telling of the same story, well, then watch with wide open eyes and an open mind, you will enjoy it.
The story is epic, of course. The journey of a family of children separated from their parents during WWII, sent to the countryside to escape the London bomb raids. They end up in a far away place, the country mansion of a mysterious professor and his very acute house keeper. The children are each symbolic of aspects of childhood. The older brother is on the verge of manhood, but still struggling as a teenager as to how he can handle more responsibilities. The oldest sister is intelligent, almost too controled by her circumstance of being in an almost motherly position, but still innocent and hopeful. The youngest brother is ornery, rambunctious, mischeivious and looking for ways to get himself more attention, more authority in such a maudlin time in history and in his life. The youngest sister is the one who steals the show. Her wide eyed curiosity and endless hopefulness is charming but not sappy. She enters Narnia by pure accident and when she starts to see the amazing things that live there, she is not afraid, but intrigued.
Once they enter Narnia the troubles unfold. An evil ice queen has taken reign over the land in the absence of the true King, Aslan. Aslan is a lion who has the respect and devotion of almost everyone in the land. That is everyone except for the horrible creatures who want to take over under the control of the ice queen.
Legend has it that four children of Adam and Eve, humans, will enter the land and help restore order. As with any story of war, good, evil, and rebellion, there are people, or at least creatures along the way who are there to help the heroes bring back the balance. In Narnia these helpful creature range from beavers to foxes, fauns (half goat/half humanlike), and they all look amazing. I have to say that I wondered before we watched the movie if what I had heard about the characters could really be done properly on the screen…and I was very happily suprised.
The creatures all look wonderful. Aslan, the lion king looks so real you would swear they pulled the old Babe trick of making real live animals simply speak by making their mouths move with CGI. But that’s not the case. All the talking animals are computer generated, with a few exceptions of when they used animatronics to give some real weight and form to them in certain scenes.
There are very few times, negligible really, of when I felt the movement of an animal looked a bit off. 99.9% of the time it was so amazing I let myself get lost in the world completely. That is very rare. Most of the time these days, even with new flicks like King Kong and Spiderman, I get pulled out of their world because of messy CGI, bad body physics, or just plain or bad special effects. Narnia is a step above in my opinion, and I hope every other movie maker takes notice.
The performances of every person are spot on for me. I love that the kids are not long time professional actors, but they are surrounded by long time veterans of the business and they all work well together. There are moments of emotional blackmail, but that’s the nature of a story about honor, valiance, bravery, and family. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not gooey or tear jerking, it’s great story telling with a hint of what you might remember of looking at the world with a child’s idyllic take on things. There’s nothing wrong with that.
For around 30 bucks I guess this is a good DVD package overall. I still think movies that speak more to the family side of the market should be no more than twenty dollars. You can get the cut down version without all the extras for that price, but then that version should be around twelve..hahaha. I will never give them a break in the pricing department. Considering that when you open the DVD you get a flyer with ads all over it for pizza and other consumables, how boring and annoying. If I paid $3 for the DVD I wouldn’t mind them trying to suck a few more pennies out of me with cross promotions, but after paying the full price for the discs and then getting slammed with horrid commercials inside the box…blah blah blah.
Overall Score 9/10