Well, it took half a century, and it probably never would have been done if not for the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise, but The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has finally made it to the silver screen. It's being touted in many promotional circles as "a cross between The Passion of the Christ and Lord of the Rings."
Let me start by saying that as a child, this was my favorite book of all time. I was very impressed by how close the movie was to the actual book. Of course the action is jazzed up to get audience members' pulses going, and they've actually gave Susan a bit of character. (Let's face it, she really doesn't serve any purpose to the plot.) The characters were portrayed exactly as they should be. Hell, they even pulled off the "Father Christmas" shtick without getting corny. They were able to translate a children's book from the fifties to the big screen with flying colors. So, all in all, there was a lot of substance.
The problem is, especially in a fantasy movie, you also need a little bit of style.
I've never seen the Passion of the Christ, and I'm not going to get into the whole Aslan is Jesus thing, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who does not know the plot.
But this ain't no Lord of the Rings.
To be fair, there weren't any furry, fuzzy or hairy things in LOTR. Fur and hair is very hard and time consuming to do in CGI. Especially dynamic, flowing hair, hair that is blown in the breeze. Not only does every little hair have its own physics, but each hair effects the physics of every hair around it in a domino effect. Hair has a translucent/ shining/reflective quality to it. I have to admit that I was not even impressed with some of the shots in the over-hyped King-Kong trailer, because the sheen of Kong's hair is a dead giveaway that he is CGI.
Now, TLTW&TW is full of furry, hairy creatures, including two beavers that are far too cartoony (though miles better than the six-foot tall people in beaver suits in the the 90's BBC version,) and of course, there's Aslan, the titular Lion Himself. Every shot of Aslan, though I am sure they are top of the line, screams CGI.
And while that is forgivable, there are many other shots (the witch's sled zooming across the snow) that are obviously CGI or just badly composed. Even the lovely Jennifer caught a few shots that were obviously blue screened. On top of it all, many of the monster masks are obviously latex and fake.
Personally, I'd rather have substance over style any day, but suspension of disbelief is essential in a fantasy film. And if every ten minutes you're snapped out of it and realize that you're just watching a movie because the special effects are badly done, it takes away from the overall experience.
And one more thing. Although unicorns are mentioned in TLTW&TW, and the final book in the series features a unicorn, there is no mention of Peter riding a unicorn. Why is this worth mentioning? Well, obviously, someone at Disney just thought, "Hey, it's a kid's fantasy movie; let's have the lead boy ride into battle on a unicorn!" Sadly, I can only assume that no one in the making of the movie knows what unicorns are for. Unless, of course, it was done under the religious influence of the Walden Media group, wanting to assure moviegoers that all of the citizens of Narnia- especially those four kids- are virgins. Or else that unicorn would have ripped their hearts out.
So I would heartily recommend the movie to anyone and everyone who likes fantasy, or is a fan of the series. It's very well done, and dramatically perfect. Just be prepared to occasionally smirk. And watch out for those unicorns.