Blu-ray: Highly Recommended
4.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: May 13th, 2008
Movie Release Year: 2005
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe

Review Date May 2nd, 2008 by
Overview - Prepare to enter another world when Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media present C.S. Lewis' timeless and beloved adventure. With the stunningly realistic special effects, you'll experience the exploits of Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, four siblings who find the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing a game of "hide-and-seek" at the country estate of a mysterious professor. Once there, the children discover a charming, once peaceful land inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs, and giants that has been turned into a world of eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Aided by the wise and magnificent lion Aslan, the children lead Narnia into a spectacular climactic battle to be free of the Witch's glacial powers forever!
OVERALL
Highly Recommended
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Java Enhanced,All Region
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:143
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):2.35:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English PCM 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features: Audio Commentaries
    Featurettes
    Bloopers
    Interactive Map
    Movie Studio: Disney Home Entertainment
    Release Date: May 13th, 2008

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3 Stars out of 5

The latest (and by far the most ambitious) filmed adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic children's fantasy saga, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' is also the most magnificently realized. Though previous versions (mostly shot for television) had their simple charms, Disney's $180 million-plus budgeted 'Wardrobe' is the first to do Lewis' complex mythology any justice. I still find the film imperfect -- and I have trouble with some of Lewis' spiritual allusions -- but it's certainly an arresting, visually sumptuous retelling, and one that kids undoubtedly love.

Not only are there few on the planet who don't already know the story of 'Chronicles of Narnia,' much of Lewis' story has become undeniably iconic. Who hasn't banged on the back of their wardrobe chest, wondering if will lead to some strange, magical new world? Lewis' imaginative characters and creatures have, along with J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' served as the template for decades of subsequent fantasy stories, and while the film's quartet of protagonists -- Edmund, Lucy, Peter, and Susan -- may not give Harry Potter a run for his money, they've nevertheless captivated the spirits of millions of young readers with their pluck and courage. Yet, because the world of 'Narnia' is so beloved and well-known, previous adaptations have been unable to match, let alone exceed, the way generations have always imagined the story. Disney's 'Narnia' doesn't completely surmount such impossible expectations, but it sure makes a hell of a try.

Directed by Andrew Adamson, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' ultimately works because Adamson (who co-wrote the script with Ann Peacock) is able to condense Lewis' sprawling tale into a coherent narrative, and always makes sure the viewpoint of the film is that of the children. Aided by an inexperienced but immensely likable young cast (Georgie Henley as Lucy is a particular standout), our identification is immediate, and as the kids are essentially orphans, their situation is surprisingly poignant. Rather than devolving into an effects show or a bunch of CGI creatures passed off as plot, 'Narnia's emotional pull is genuine. In fact -- and I'll risk the wrath of the faithful with this -- I actually find the human element in 'Narnia' stronger than that in 'Lord of the Rings' -- the kids in 'Narnia' are more appealing than that dull old Frodo, and the stakes are more riveting.

Less successful for me is Lewis' overall worldview in 'Narnia,' which is a mix of metaphysical mumbo jumbo and, arguably, none-too-subtle intertextual weaving of Christian mythology. Granted, Lewis (an adult convert to Christianity) always maintained that he didn't set out to create a religious parable, but the parallels have been analyzed to death, and it can't be denied that the books have been used for Christian evangelism. For me, the real problem is not that Lewis browbeats us, but that subtly, the imposition of a deity-based ideology in the film diverts focus from the human struggle of the kids. The film, like the books, doles out monologues about iffy spiritual conceits like M&Ms, which feel a bit forced and slows down the pace. In comparison, the world of Harry Potter never gets so heavy-handed and is therefore more universal in its appeal (and more fun to interpret on one's own).

'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe's biggest flaw, however, may be that it loses its footing near its conclusion. A stand-alone film in a series designed as a trilogy is rarely fully satisfying (unlike, say, a 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' or 'Star Wars,' where the sequels were not preordained), because it doesn't really resolve itself so much as it just stops. To be fair, that's inherent in the source material, but like 'Fellowship of the Ring,' I couldn't help but feel I was only just getting to the meat of the story when the credits rolled.

Still, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' is a magnificently-produced film, one filled with genuine wonder, and populated by a strong cast (particularly the child actors). I suspect I would enjoy 'Wardrobe' more if I could be patient enough to watch it all in one sitting with its upcoming sequels, but on its own, it has enough magic and excitement to succeed. Despite some of its more debatable quasi-religious qualities, it's a great family film, and one that -- at the risk of using marketing hyperbole -- is truly enchanting for audiences of all ages.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Java Enhanced,All Region
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:143
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English PCM 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Featurettes
    Bloopers
    Interactive Map
    Movie Studio: Disney Home Entertainment
    Release Date: May 13th, 2008

Video Review

5 Stars out of 5

One of Disney's most eagerly-anticipated Blu-ray catalog releases yet, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' does not disappoint. This is an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that can easily stand as a demo disc.

Aside from a few darker moments of slight stylization (which display a decidedly desaturated and blue cast), the majority of 'Narnia' is bright, bold and lush. The sense of depth is simply fantastic -- the "picture window" effect is on full display. The color palette is very pretty, with wonderful pastoral greens and oranges (a rarity, it seems, with most transfers today, which look all hi-tech and "edgy"). Saturation is excellent, with a super-clean look and no chroma noise or fuzziness.

Blacks are rock solid throughout, and contrast is strong enough to deliver the required detail while never sacrificing realism. Even the widest shots are alive with detail and sharpness, and the source print is spotless. Disney has also produced a clean encode, so compression artifacts are not a problem. 'Narnia' looks smashing.

Audio Review

5 Stars out of 5

Disney offers an uncompressed PCM 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit) track for 'Narnia,' and it's excellent. Some may complain about the lack of 24-bit resolution, but I was so engrossed in this mix I can't say I minded.

Right from the opening prologue of a WWII attack, the aggressive dynamics are couch-rattling. Low bass is terrific, and the clarity and sheer impact of the entire frequency spectrum is exactly what home theater audio is all about. Dialogue is perfectly balanced as well, so even during the loudest scenes I never had to strain my ears or adjust volume levels.

Surround use is also fantastic. There is rarely a dull moment, even during the quietest dialogue scenes. There's always some sort of minor ambient effect or location sound, plus the melodic score by Harry Gregson-Williams is perfectly blended, for a harmonious immersion throughout. Action scenes, are predictably gangbusters, with the "wall of sound" effect emanating from the rears, and the sense of transparency seamless as sounds move about the speakers. This is a reference-quality presentation.

Special Features

4 Stars out of 5

Disney produced so many extras for the original DVD editions of 'Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' that it needed two full discs to contain it. They haven't skimped on the Blu-ray, which also houses two actual Blu-ray discs (not just the lazy path of throwing in a second standard DVD with extras). Granted, none of the material is in full 1080 video, but the content here is still extensive and insightful. (Optional subtitles are provided on the supplements in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese [both Traditional and Simplified].)

Disc One

  • Audio Commentaries - Track one features director Andrew Adamson and the film's four main child stars, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. It's a fun track, even if the kids often talk over each other and occasionally break down into slumber party-like ramblings. Adamson reigns it in, often explaining to the actors how certain scenes were accomplished (as the majority of the effects were created digitally), and recalling the events of specific shooting days.

    The second track features Adamson, producer Mark Johnson and (via phone) production designer Roger Ford. It doesn't have the youthful energy of the cast commentary, but there is far more production info imparted. Sequences are broken down, and the logistics of such a major, sprawling shoot are analyzed in technical (but not dry) detail. Listening to two commentaries for a single film is a bit much, but both of these tracks are rather good.
  • "The Bloopers of Narnia" (SD, 5 minutes) - A standard set of bloopers, but given the young cast, big production and fanciful scenarios, this reel is actually much funnier than most.
  • Discover Narnia Fun Facts - Introduced by co-producer Douglas Gresham (stepson of author C.S. Lewis), these factoids are almost solely about the original novel, the influences behind the story and characters, and Lewis' real-life background. Unfortunately, the pacing is way slow -- what seems like an eternity goes by between the pop-ups. The info is quite pithy, too, with maybe ten words at most per factoid.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD) - Theatrical trailers are offered for 'Tinker Bell,' 'Sleeping Beauty,' 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets,' 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' and the upcoming theatrical features 'Wall•E' and 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.'

Disc Two

  • Documentary: "Creating Narnia" (SD, 64 minutes) - The first of three sections on disc two, these comprehensive docs are excellent -- filled with tons of behind-the-scenes footage, cast & crew interviews, and biographical data and stills. "Chronicles of a Director" (38 minutes) profiles Adamson, who talks eloquently and at length about the entire production process, while "The Children's Magical Journey" (26 minutes) introduces us to Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan, including cute footage from casting sessions and on the set.
  • Documentary: "Evolution of an Epic " (SD, 123 minutes) - This four-parter begins with "From One Man's Mind" (4 minutes), which is a far-too-short bio of C.S. Lewis. "Cinematic Storytellers" (55 minutes) is rather massive, chronicling just about every technical area of the movie, from costumes to locations to production design and editing. "Creating Creatures" (53 minutes) takes us into the magic shop for a look at the denizens of 'Narnia.' Finally, "Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River" (11 minutes) is just that, breaking down one of the film's most impressive setpieces.
  • "Creatures, Lands and Legends" (SD) - Not a doc per se, this is really three features geared more towards the kiddies. "Creatures of the World" (14 minutes) is a narrated montage of the various creatures of the film, sort of a like a Nature special on 'Narnia.' "Explore Narnia" allows for manual exploration of the film's mythical locations, while "Legends in Time" is a timeline of the entire 'Narnia' franchise, including the publication of the books and other events.

Final Thoughts

'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' is a lavish mounting of the classic C.S. Lewis tale. I'm not a huge fan of the overtly religious themes of the story, but the film is certainly entertaining (which its huge worldwide gross only underscores). This Blu-ray version is truly excellent, with top drawer video and audio and a wealth of supplements. By all means, if you are a fan of 'Narnia,' this is a no-brainer.

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3rd Party $25.95
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Java Enhanced,All Region
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:143
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English PCM 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit),English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Featurettes
    Bloopers
    Interactive Map
    Movie Studio: Disney Home Entertainment
    Release Date: May 13th, 2008