Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1988, 2005)

1988
2005
We recently watched two versions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I know, I know, gluttons for punishment.

One was the movie from 2005, one was a BBC version from 1988. I freely admit that I am partial to the BBC version as it is the one that I grew up with and the music just makes me happy. The BBC version is also slightly longer and uses its extra time for character and world development and not just for people throwing things at each other.

The main problem with adopting The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that you are bound by the source material. Things that kinda work in the book if you don't think too hard about them are brought into stark relief on film. Things like that the kids spend all of 48 hours there before the climactic battle. Logic flaws and poetic license are less forgivable once you make a half hearted attempt to make the story feel realistic. This source material does however include some Christmas which is why we're here today.

Let's take a quick look at the differences between the versions.

First up, obviously, are the kids.
1988

2005
Peter, Edmund and Susan are all better served by the BBC, in my opinion. The miniseries has more time than the movie, so it's not surprising that they all have more character. Peter is more than just a prick, Edmund more than just a whiny brat, and Susan actually has some motivation and character to speak of. None of that is true in the 2005 movie, which probably suffered more than a bit from the fact that most talented young British actors were already very busy that decade.

Lucy’s situation is more complicated. The actress in the BBC is clearly trying to play much younger than she actually is. This means while she is a more accomplished actress, it's obvious that her motivation and reactions would make much more sense with a younger girl, so her performance is awkward overall. The actress in the 2005 movie looks the part more, but is less consistent.

Overall, I'd give this round to the BBC.

Next let's talk about villains.

1988
2005

Both versions of the White Witch are over the top, make extremely odd costume choices and chew plenty of scenery. Her army in the movie has more extras which makes for a more credible threat, although I still don't find her convincing.

Tie.

The Faun.
1988
2005

In 2005, Mr. Tumnus is played by James McAvoy, and I kept being distracted by that. The actor in the BBC has what I consider to be a superior costume, despite lacking CG legs.

The other animals.
1988
2005

Okay, yeah, CG is better at this part, and the movie wins this round.


The Lion.

1988
2005
The BBC clearly put their entire budget into this big animatronic puppet. The movie version has better lip sync, however I do not think that the interactions with the other actors are as clean. Practical effects are great, especially when working with child actors.

However, enough about small, meaningless matters, we're here today to talk about Christmas!

The spell of the White Witch, as I'm sure you recall, makes it always winter and never Christmas.

Putting aside for the moment that this reflects Lewis's particular worldview and immunity to anachronism - the idea the citizens of a non-Earth place would give a shit about Christmas when not all the citizens of Earth do - let's assume that this is shorthand for eternal winter. If you never reach the solstice, you'll never reach the spring.

However, remember what I said about being hampered by the source material. Fools adapting this book can't just cut Christmas, even if they wanted to. After all, the kids have to get their magic weapons from someplace.

If Narnia deserves nothing else, here at Mainlining Christmas we believe that it deserves credit for being a story in which Santa gives deadly weapons to young children and sends them to war.

Sure, there's some piffle about the girls only getting weapons for self defense, but the fact remains. Weapons. Children. War.

1988

2005
The dialogue in the BBC is closer to the book which unfortunately means that the whole girls aren't allowed to fight thing is still kind of there. However, Santa in the movie looks like he ran away from a Ren Faire which is kind of odd.

Also the BBC gets extra points for including the scene in which a bunch of animals are turned to stone by the White Witch because they were having a Christmas party. I do love that scene.

I don’t feel like I can give a recommendation overall. You already know if you want to see a Narnia movie. But if you don’t mind cheesiness in the effects, I recommend you check out the BBC version.

If you want to know whether you watched it as a child, go ahead and listen to the beginning, see if you get chills.

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