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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe [Blu-ray]


(Andrew Adamson, 2005)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Walt Disney & Walden Media

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 143

Chapters: 24

Size: 50/50

Case: Standard Blu-ray case : 2 discs

Release date: May 13, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



Feature: English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 kHz/16-bit), English, French, Spanish DD 5.1 Surround. Bonus: English 5.1 or 2.0 DD; French, Spanish 2.0 DD



Feature & Bonus: English SDH, French, Spanish



• Disc 1: Audio Commentary with the Director & Stars

• Audio Commentary with the Filmmakers

• Discover Narnia Fun Facts

• The Bloopers of Narnia

• Disc 2: Exclusive to Blu-ray: Battle for Narnia (role-playing video game)

• Creating Narnia: Chronicles of a Director (38 min.) • The Children's Magical Journey (26 min.) • From One Man's Mind (38 min.) • Cinematic Storytellers (55 min.) • Creating Creatures (54 min.) • Anatomy of a Scene (20 min.)

• Creatures, Lands & Legends: • Creatures of the World • Explore Narnia 3-D Map




The Film:

The Movie : 7
Released on Blu-ray by Disney, also in a 2 disc edition, only two weeks behind of New Line's Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia is timed to coincide with the theatrical release of the second installment in the franchise: Prince Caspian. The Narnia books are among the more visible of children's books made into movies lately – movies such as The Polar Express, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bridge to Terabitha, et al. And why not? There is an enormous potential for CG special effects, often incorporating fantastical beasts into live action. I remember being quite impressed with Narnia in the theatre in that respect.

Given a smart adaptation –in terms of both storyline and dialogue – compelling performances, especially by the children, eye-popping production design and seamless effects, the potential for a successful aftermarket merchandizing blitz or quite possibly even good art, is palpable.To the extent that there is a religious subtext in Narnia, it is not really necessary to make it apparent in the screenplay. Even so, while offering more than a casual nod to the notion of Asaln as life-giver, the adaptation sidesteps most parallels to Catholic symbolism in favor of a titanic struggle between Good & Evil and a war to end all wars. Much of the original book describes events in drag-and-drop cinematic terms, and the movie does take advantage of this, while more or less keeping to its scenario.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe would never have gotten out of the closet without the services of Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund, particularly Miss Henley. The two elder siblings are quite properly demoted (along with Aslan) as mere nuisances for the longest time, until they finally catch on to the idea that there is not only an opportunity here, but – as with the great war being waged in the parallel universe on the other side of the wardrobe - great forces at work. I guess that what comes with age, and why Lucy remains the only child with both imagination and wisdom.


Image : 8 (7~9/9)
The score of 8 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value on a ten-point scale for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

I admit I was truly surprised at the less than stellar performance of the image, though the evidence points to the source material as the culprit. Some frames – very few, but now and again, even in Narnia itself - are razor sharp and juicy with good color and contrast. The scenes in London, in the countryside and in the mansion are also lovely to look at, with saturated color and a filmlike look. But some of the bits in Narnia are difficult to take
seriously by today's standards for fantasy subjects. I don't think I ever quite recovered from the winter forest that the children encounter when they first come through the wardrobe: I remember, even when I saw this in the theatre, it looked like Lucy was walking in front of ancient rear projection instead of through a set. The lighting is horrendous, as we can see plainly the various light sources in cross shadows over her person. Not content with having destroyed the illusion, some parts are grossly overexposed. Once the action locates to the home of the beavers and from then on, excepting the scene where the children meet up with Father Christmas, the photography and lighting is unobjectionable to very good.

All that said, it is quite possible that the Blu-ray is fairly faithful to the original. A shame, really.


Comparing Narnia and Compass: I would have said that the audio is very good on both; the image is less consistent on Narnia; the extra features are more extensive on Narnia, but in lesser resolution. The video game on Narnia is much better than the 3-D map on Compass. There's more going on in Narnia's story, partly because there are more actors whose subplots are better developed. Compass really only has one actor; everyone else is supporting, and some of them are creatures.














Audio & Music : 8/8
The audio mix fares much better. At least there is some consistency. Right from the opening blitz, through the scurrying about the mansion, to the ambient sounds throughout the film, the audio is always dynamic and clear. Voiceover dialogue was nicely integrated as well. My only complaint is that the sound of trekking through the snow isn't convincing. To be fair, it rarely is.


Operations : 9
Easy to read menus with lots of descriptive information, including times for most of the bonus features.


Extras : 8
Like New Line's Golden Compass BRD, Disney's Blu-ray has an extra disc for Bonus Features. Disney's is a full 50GB (as compared to New Line's 25), though this only buys you a video game in HD, not an improved image for the doc's and featurettes. Disc one includes two audio commentaries: one with the director + the four children. It's fairly chatty, as the children respond as if looking through an old scrapbook. The second commentary track features director Adamson again, producer Mark Johnson and production designer Roger
Ford. As expected, this track is much more informative, if academic by comparison. There are the usual Bloopers and HD trailers (the one for The Nightmare Before Christmas looks terrific in HD), and pop-up "Fun Facts" that appear briefly and on occasion, mostly about the book.

Disc two offers two documentaries, just over one and two hours respectively. These are detailed and enjoyable looks at everything about the production (locations, set design, costumes and creature magic), casting, and a technical breakdown of the "Melting River" sequence. Regrettably, the biographical note about C.S. Lewis is just that at only four minutes. "Creatures, Lands and Legends" is aimed at younger children. On a large screen
I found all this fairly tiring to watch, since the SD image is less good than most feature films in that resolution.

Also on Disc two is the single HD experience on this BRD besides the trailers and the feature film: The "Battle for Narnia" is a fairly sophisticated video game, given the circumstances, that takes a while to get under way, but could take serious time to play through.



Bottom line:

Recommendation : 7
What begins in a hail of falling bombs in the London blitz, the movie finds it way through intimate moments of childlike wonder, the dangers of sibling rivalry, sacrifice, rebirth and triumph. But most of all, there is Georgie Henley as Lucy who, for me, is the main reason for me to revisit this movie. On the other hand, much of the features on the bonus disc are in fairly weak SD resolution. Some of the character effects, especially Aslan, are
very nicely rendered.

Leonard Norwitz
May 11, 2008









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