" Nobody goes into the valley of death. That’s why they call it the valley of death. "
— Grant Heslov, The Scorpion King

MRQE Top Critic

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At its best, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe creates a sense of wonder. When the four Pevensie children blunder through the enchanted wardrobe and into the strange, wintery world of Narnia, we can feel the exhilaration. The wonder doesn’t last, as the story takes many grim turns. The film moves along at a such a brisk pace that there isn’t much time to dwell on the darkness.

A two-disc DVD edition of the movie has bonus features that exhaustively cover the making of the movie. The discs also offer a look into the world of Narnia, though fans of the series of books may find themselves wanting more.

The Lion King

Narnia gets royal treatment on 2-disc DVD
Narnia gets royal treatment on 2-disc DVD

Narnia is the world created by author C.S. Lewis. His novels in the Chronicles of Narnia series are a mix of fairy tale, adventure and Christian allegory. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe begins during World War II, with German bombs raining down on London. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy (William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) are evacuated to a country mansion inhabited by a reclusive professor and his stern housekeeper. A rainy-day game of hide-and-seek leads Lucy into a spare room occupied only by a large wardrobe. As she makes her way inside of it, the fur coats suddenly give way to snow-covered pine trees.

Lucy and her siblings will learn that Narnia is stuck in a perpetual winter, imposed by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who fancies herself queen of the land. They will further learn, from two friendly talking beavers, that they are probably the four humans prophesied to lead an army against the witch and restore Narnia to the dominion of Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), the lion.

Overall, the film delivers a rousing adventure. The plot is tight and moves at a brisk pace without ever feeling rushed. Though there isn’t much opportunity for character development, the children’s characters feel distinct. The computer-generated effects, integral to a story full of talking animals and mythical creatures, serve the story without being too distracting.

DVD Extras

The first of the two commentary tracks on disc one has director Andrew Adamson and the four child actors. They get off to a slow start, with long pauses and much prompting by Adamson, but eventually the kids loosen up. It’s clear that the five of them enjoy each other’s company. Their good-natured ribbing and bickering makes the commentary fun to listen to. Henley, the youngest, is particularly chatty and precocious. The second commentary track, with Adamson, producer Mark Johnson and production designer Roger Ford is not as lively. In the more interesting parts, they point out details of the movie that might be missed by viewers – the logs of the beavers’ house, for instance, were made to look as if they had been chewed by beavers.

Also on the first disc is “Discover Narnia Fun Facts,” which has pop-up facts about the book, its author and the production of the movie. Multi-taskers can watch the movie with the facts and listen to a commentary track at the same time. “Bloopers of Narnia” has a few minutes of goofs and clowning by the cast and crew.

Disc two covers the making of the movie in great detail. “Chronicles of a Director,” is a 37-minute behind-the-scenes featurette which provides a good general view of the making of the movie. Anyone wanting to know more can watch the shorter features on this disc, which expand on the longer feature, focusing on various elements of the movie such as casting, creatures and visual effects. One of the more interesting featurettes, “Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River,” dissects the melting waterfall sequence, which was filmed in four different countries and required multiple models, as well as computer-generated imagery.

These features have much greater depth than the usual promotional behind-the-scenes videos that turn up on many DVDs. However, there are so many details that watching them all in one sitting can become overwhelming. Between the featurettes, the commentary tracks, and the pop-up facts, much information is repeated.

A second section on disc two delves into the land of Narnia, but not very deeply. Compared to the section devoted to the production, this part is rather sparse. An interactive map of Narnia has only five locations on it. Another feature has a timeline which summarizes the action of the book, and compares it to the time that has elapsed on the other side of the wardrobe in England. I was hoping that the makers of the DVD would expand the mythical world to include material about the other books in the series, but they stick to the one at hand.

For those who don’t want all of the bells and whistles, a single-disc edition is also available in either widescreen or fullscreen. It has all of the extras that are on the first disc of this set and is currently priced about $5 less.

Picture and Sound

Both picture and sound are excellent on this disc. Inevitably, the wide shots of the battlefield lose the impact that they had in the theater. The booming soundtrack is a reminder that filmmakers ought to let the images speak for themselves, rather than overwhelming viewers with loud, dramatic music.