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Story: The four siblings Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are sent to the country to see the eccentric Professor Digory Kirke (Jim Broadbent) to avoid the German bombing raids . While playing hide and seek, they discover that an old closet is in fact the gateway to a magical land called Narnia. Eternal winter reigns in this land and the mythical creatures are oppressed by the White Witch Jadis (Tilda Swinton). There is hope, however, because the mighty lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) prepared to fight the witch. Furthermore, the arrival of the children was prophesied long ago and destined to become the new kings and queens of Narnia. However, the White Witch must be defeated first, which could prove difficult as one of the four children becomes a traitor and puts everything in danger ...
Criticism: What do you do as a large studio when fantasy is becoming hugely popular with the success of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films? You're trying to get a piece of the cake. Many studios had such considerations, hoping to be able to repeat the success of Warner, which is why many similar novel adaptations, which were to be worked out into successful series, came to the cinema in the wake of the two aforementioned film series. While most of them, such as "The Golden Compass" or "Eragon", were shipwrecked, the attempts at Disney Studios were most likely to have been crowned with success.
In order to be able to address every shift as possible, Disney selected a seven-part British children's book series (like Harry Potter), which, to make matters worse, was also written by Clive Staples Lewis, a friend of Tolkien, around the same time as the " Lord of the rings".
The Narnia novels are enormously well-known and popular classics of children's literature in Great Britain, while in Germany they were relatively unknown before the appearance of the films and only through these were they able to gain a larger audience. For me, however, it was the other way around, since I had already read the entire series of novels as a child and therefore, despite the striking religious allegory, had and still have a certain weakness for the series.
In the run-up to the filming, you were faced with a now all too well-known problem: the Narnia novels are fantasy, but they are not epic high fantasy, but rather fairytale-like fantasy suitable for children. Director Andrew Adamson had a similar tightrope act as Peter Jackson in the Hobbit films: You have a template that is clearly a children's book, and now you have to puff it up epically to meet the audience's taste. In addition, the Narnia novels are all very thin and not particularly productive. Thus, the film version is ultimately very much expanded in terms of content, even if by and large it sticks to the template pretty closely. The four protagonists, for example, are older than Lewis' and their characters are also better developed. The film doesn't start with their arrival at the professor's house, the viewer already sees them fleeing London, which is indeed helpful. The four actors are quite acceptable, not exceptional, but not bad either, although they will prove in the upcoming Narnia films that their performance can still be improved.
The first half of the film sticks pretty closely to Lewis' original, including the faun Mister Tumnus (James McAvoy) and the talking beavers (Ray Winstone and Dawn French). Most of the expansions can be found in the second half, which tries to make everything a lot bigger and more epic than it is with Lewis. It starts with the children's escape to Aslan, which is pretty unspectacular in the novel, while the White Witch's wolves and a frozen river are added in the film. And it goes on like this. In the novel, the conflict with the White Witch is relatively small. Lewis never gives numbers, but if you go from his description, the final fight will be a minor skirmish. In any case, the reader hardly notices anything of the said fight in the novel, since the story only follows Susan and Lucy at this point. In the film, on the other hand, the final confrontation, which is given a lot of time, is a full-blown battle, which is mainly there to attract the audience spoiled by Lord of the Rings - although the battle is probably too clean for them should.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The King of Narnia" can't keep up with Jackson's Tolkien slogan, but ultimately I feel the same way with the film adaptations as with the novels: I have a certain weakness for them. This is not least due to Liam Neeson and Tilda Swinton as Aslan and Jadis, who are the real stars anyway. The mallet allegory (Aslan is Jesus) is also present in the film and is similarly unsubtle, and unfortunately Lewis ‘still resonates with very conservative views, even if one has tried to defuse it. In some places it might have been better to shorten it a bit, especially with regard to the episode with Santa Claus, which seems rather out of place in the film and is actually unnecessary as the children could have got their weapons from Aslan just as easily can.
If you can overlook it, however, the first Narnia film is an entertaining fantasy adventure that knows how to please if you don't expect too much from it.
Conclusion: Andrew Adamson is trying to modernize C. S. Lewis ‘religious children's stories and to make them attractive to a Lord of the Rings audience. That doesn't work out completely, but “The Chronicles of Narnia: The King of Narnia” is definitely a nice guilty pleasure for fantasy fans.
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