I so wanted to like this movie, because I loved the books as a kid. I re-read the books in 1997 and didn’t enjoy them as much as I had when I was young, but there still was a lot of the magic there, even though some of the story bothered me.
But this movie… I hated it. I didn’t empathize with any of the characters. The story itself didn’t make any sense (which, to be fair, is also the case with the books) and a couple of inserted scenes really struck the wrong note with me.
To start out with, they spent a huge amount of time at the beginning of the movie focusing on the children and their mother in London being bombed during WWII while their father fights in the war. All of this was completely invented and never appeared in the book, where the children’s arrival at their uncle’s house is all of two sentences, and their parents both stay in London. The heavy-handedness of this insertion throws the movie off-balance later, when the children don’t hurry back home. I wouldn’t lolly-gag around being royal if my mom was being bombed and my dad was in a war.
Some of the rest of the story line seemed absurd on screen. The children’s immediate and unquestioning loyalty towards Aslan seemed odd; it’s addressed in the book but that never makes it’s way to the screen. The Narnia folk keep calling the children the saviors of the world, but there’s no reason why anyone should think that, based on the children’s behavior. And the children never actually do anything other than traipse around through the countryside, and participate in a battle that all of the folk who live in Narnia also perform valiantly in. So why do the kids get crowned, and not the beavers?
The sequence at the frozen waterfall where Peter wusses out of killing the wolf was also an invention and not in the book. I HATED this scene, mainly because it was the first of many where Peter stands around awkwardly holding a sword out away from his body. Pull your elbow in kid, or they’ll just knock it out of your hand. And while you’re at it, wave it around a bit and at least try to look intimidating. The whole scene didn’t make any sense; why not walk across the frozen falls at the top, like the wolves did, rather than climbing down to cross over the melting ice?
During the battle, Peter turns to look at his centaur general and asks “Are you with me?” I should hope so, dork, he’s standing right there.
The one bone they threw me was at the very end, where Susan kills the dwarf before it can kill a wounded Edmund. That wasn’t in the book, and is probably intended to temper the wide-spread criticism from the book that the girls are not allowed to participate in the battle (why give her arrows at all?) while the boys are.
My expectations were probably way too high for this movie, given how much I loved the books as a kid. But still, they could have tried to rise to the occasion…