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June 25, 2008
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/20054/6/2008Walt DisneyAndrew Adamson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4PCM 5.1 Uncompressed 4.6MbpsPGGeorgie Henley

THE MOVIE
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe is based upon the book written by C. S. Lewis in 1950. Indeed this is actually the first in a series of seven books which may ultimately become another massive movie franchise, this time for Walt Disney Studios. We say another as we believe this franchise has every chance as being ranked up there with New Line's The Lord of the Rings and Warner Brothers' Harry Potter series'.

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The four children entering Narnia, each is superbly cast.
In doing research for this review I discovered that C. S. Lewis was actually a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, writer of The Lord of the Rings. There are indeed some similarities between the two series of books. Whether these are intentional or not is unknown, but then again many could argue that Harry Potter has similarities to The Lord of the Rings in several scenes as well.

Set in World War II England, four Pevensie siblings – Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter – enter the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing a game of hide-and-seek at the rural 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 become a world cursed to eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Under the guidance of a noble and mystical ruler, the magnificent lion, Aslan, the children fight to overcome Jadis' powerful hold over Narnia in a spectacular, climactic battle that will free Narnia from her icy spell forever.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe has a lot to live up to. The books are multi-million sellers the world over and with The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies succeeding both critically and commercially Disney will be hoping for the same here. Directed by Andrew Adamson (who also directed Shrek and Shrek 2) this was a big gamble with a budget around $US180 million. For the most part this movie is a success. Despite some slightly inconsistent pacing this is an engrossing movie, and one with impressive acting and voiceovers.

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William Moseley as Peter, heartthrob central.
Indeed the four child actors have been perfectly cast, and have a great rapport with each other. Of particular note the youngest child, Lucy, is perfectly played by Georgie Henley. This really is her story and the 9 year old actress (she was that age when it was shot, not now obviously) puts in a performance as impressive as any child actor.

Balancing the good of the children is the evil White Witch played by Tilda Swinton. She's not your cackling, hunched-over old hag of a witch, but a devilishly evil, presence commanding tyrant. Voiceovers include Liam Neeson as the lion Aslan, Ray Winstone as Mr Beaver, Dawn French as Mrs Beaver and Rupert Everett as Fox. All put in fine, and convincing, performances.

As with any movie that is based upon a series of books the ending leaves you wanting more. It ends rather abruptly and really leaves you wondering what they do at the conclusion. The ending makes it pretty clear that there is much more to see in upcoming pictures, but it leaves you feeling like you're missing the big picture. Still, the second movie is out in cinemas now, and no doubt heading to Blu-Ray one day, and the third movie has been green-lit for production as well. It must also be said that the ending is no where near as abrupt as that in The Golden Compass.

Overall The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a good movie, and is what could be a great start to a big franchise. If you haven't seen this movie yet then sit back and enjoy, if you have seen it I feel your sentiments will, more likely then not, be in line with mine.

VIDEO
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Narnia, not really a place for humans.

Walt Disney Studios are, at this point in time, the most consistent in producing the finest in Blu-Ray transfers. The good news is that this release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe doesn't alter that fact, and may in fact be setting new benchmarks for the company. Encoded at 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 this really is a magical release. The first time Lucy passes through the door into the snowy world of Narnia you will be amazed at the richness of detail. In fact, no matter which scene you are looking at the detail and sharpness to the image is stunning. Black levels and shadows are superb while the entire picture has a rich vibrant colour to it.

Released in 2005 it comes as no surprise to see that there isn't a single blemish or moment of dirt on the print. It is pristine. The compression is also wonderfully handled with not a hint of artifacting from start to finish. Actually I did notice some slight shimmering in some of the opening credits scenes, and there was the odd scene or two where the level of film grain seemed excessive to other scenes. These are, though, extremely minor issues in an otherwise faultless presentation.

AUDIO
Not to be outdone by the fantastic video transfer the audio on this disc is also impressive. Certainly the choice of audio tracks is the Linear PCM 5.1 Uncompressed audio encoded at 4.6Mbps. As such a recent film it's not hard to imagine that the film contains some wonderfully aggressive use of surround sound channels. Dialogue remains crystal clear from start to finish, on the human and non-human characters alike. When the movie ramps up into the battle scenes the clarity and directional use is heightened to sensory overload and the music from Harry Gregson-Williams (who many gamers would know as the composer of music in Metal Gear Solid) is superb. This is a stunning, faultless audio experience on Blu-Ray.

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Georgie Henley is superb as Lucy, as is James McAvoy as Mr Tumnus.
It must be mentioned that the audio on this disc is significantly better then the DVD release which, in Australia, only contained a pretty poor Dolby Digital 5.1 track at a paltry 384kbps (where 448kbps is standard on DVD) while the American DVD release was fortunate enough to have a DTS track. No matter which DVD version you look at the audio on this Blu-Ray disc easily surpasses all DVD releases of this film.

There are many other tracks on this disc including an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. It must be said that this track is also extremely impressive, with only a little less fidelity then the PCM track. Also equal to the task are the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish and Icelandic Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, all encoded at 640kbps and - you guessed it - also quite superb. We obviously didn't watch the movie in each language, but samples of each were impressive.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe on Blu-Ray includes subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish and Icelandic. Sampling the English track showed it to be accurate to the dialogue on screen.

EXTRAS
Despite being a children’s movie Disney have to be applauded for making this quite an extensive set when it comes to extras. Indeed this release comes on 2 Blu-Ray discs with the first holding the audio commentaries, bloopers and trivia track, and the second disc holding the documentaries.

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That's Tilda Swinton as the White Witch.
Audio Commentary with director Andrew Adamson, producer Mark Johnson and production designer Roger Ford: Quite a detailed commentary which looks at the production of the movie including where scenes were shot, the ideas behind them, and difficulties encountered. The audio is pretty good, although Roger Ford is commenting via phone from Sydney which makes his comments a little more muffled.

Audio Commentary with director Andrew Adamson and four child actors Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell: This is quite an entertaining track, certainly more entertaining then I thought it would be. The children are actually pretty enthused about the movie, and the commentary and it's a joy to listen to their experiences while filming this movie.

Discovering Narnia Fun Facts: Basically a pop-up trivia track which plays during the movie. There are some interesting facts here especially as they tend to focus on C. S. Lewis and the novel rather then the movies production. At times the pop-up are a little sparse, but it's worth putting on if you've seen the movie and want some more details.

The Bloopers of Narnia (4:36): I actually felt that this was one of the weakest extras on the Blu-Ray set. The bloopers are - more often then not - simply the actors pulling faces at the camera.

So now we get to the second disc in the set, and certainly the bulk of the extras can be found here...

Battle for Narnia : Now this is, without a doubt the best Java based game I've played on a Blu-Ray disc to date. Essentially a card based battle game we'll admit it nothing like a real game on the PS3, but it could easily chew up a few hours of you life. Well done Disney on the effort that has gone into this game, let's see more in future.

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Aslan looks superb in this movie.
Creating Narnia (3:16:27): Split up into six parts (Chronicles of a Director, The Children's Magical Journey, Cinematic Storytellers (split into smaller parts given the 55:09 runtime!), Anatomy of a Scene, From One Man's Mind (this 3:34 featurette is in High Definition), Creating Creatures (also split up due to a 53:55 runtime)) this is a brilliant, and extensive look at the production with tonnes of behind the scenes, on-set, pre and post production footage as well as an extensive look at costumes, makeup, special effects and creating the creatures. All the main cast and crew are interviewed and this will keep you engrossed from start to finish. This is one of the best documentary featurettes I have seen on Blu-Ray or DVD. Brilliant.

If there is one disappointment with this extensive featurette it's that it is only provided in Standard Definition on this Blu-Ray disc. Surely an upgrade to HD could have been afforded for this movie which was the third biggest grossing movie around the world in 2005.

Creatures, Lands & Legends (13:39/HD): A look at the world of Narnia in two ways. The first looks at the characters through animated storybook sequences with clips from the movie, artwork and storyboards. A second part allows you to click on locations on a map to get details about that location including artwork and film footage. Brilliantly presented this is great feature which, thankfully, is presented in High Definition using the AVC codec.

OVERALL
If you're reading this Blu-Ray review it's likely that you've already seen The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe either at cinemas or on DVD. This Blu-Ray release really is quite superb with dramatic audio visual improvements over the DVD release, a slew of fantastic extras and a couple of new ones too. This is one of the most impressive Blu-Ray releases we've seen and fans won't be disappointed.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7/10
THE VIDEO
9/10
THE AUDIO
9/10
THE EXTRAS
9/10
OVERALL
8/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Walt Disney Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.