Theatrical Release: December 9, 2005
Running Time: 150 Minutes (Theatrical Cut Runtime: 143 Minutes)
Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut Rating: PG)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Home Theater Mix (English),
DTS 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish;
Release Date: December 12, 2006
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Alex Stroup reviewed The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when it was originally released back in December 2005.
The film, an adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic children's book, garnered positive reviews all around, and made Disney and Walden Media a passel of money. No doubt hoping to rake in a few more dollars, Disney has released a beautiful four-disc collection covering all possible aspects of the film. Two of the discs in this new set are almost the same as the two-disc deluxe set released in April 2006, with the main difference being the extended scenes added to the new release. The last two discs are brand new and sure to pique the interest of Narnia fan. Some highlights of the set include:
"Extended" version of the film with enhanced special effects and extended battle scene (1:50:10) the extended part is in quotes because, believe it or not, only seven minutes are added to the original film. The disappointing part is that most all of the added footage is merely extended shots of original scenes, which add nothing to the enjoyment of the film itself. The only mildly interesting additions are in the climatic battle scene at the end, where we see more of the fantastical creatures doing battle. Here again, though, it's nothing crucial to the enjoyment of the film. Though the "extended edition" is being billed in the title of the set, it's the least of the reasons I would recommend for picking up a copy. The good news is the other extras in the other discs make up for the lack of any extension in the film.
The Bloopers of Narnia (4:35) this is a repeated feature from the original 2 disc set.
Narnia Fun Facts this is a pop-up feature written by Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis. During the movie, various facts about the book and more insight to the creatures of Narnia pop in and out of scenes. The information seems geared more towards younger viewers, and there's nothing revelatory in the facts, but it's a nice change for viewers who have seen the movie several times in the standard way.
Kids and director commentary self-explanatory commentary by Director Andrew Adamson, Georgie Henley (Lucy), Skandar Keynes (Edmund), William Moseley (Peter), and Anna Popplewell (Susan). This is a repeat from the original two-disc set.
Filmmaker's commentary this is also recycled commentary from Adamson, production designer Roger Ford and producer Mark Johnson that appeared on the two-disc set. It's fine, but the final disc in the set does a better job of giving an all-encompassing look at the making of the film and makes the two commentaries on this disc a bit redundant.
This disc is identical to the second disc of the two disc set released in April 2006. The extra features are very good but do overlap somewhat with the new features included in this new edition. Highlights include:
Chronicles of a Director (37:45) this featurette looks at the initial decision to have director Andrew Adamson take on the daunting task of bringing the classic to the big screen, and also includes Adamson's thoughts on casting and visualizing the novel.
The Children's Magical Journey (26:21) is a behind-the-scenes tour led by the child stars of the film. If you have never seen the footage of Georgie Henely seeing the Narnia set for the first time, it's worth a look at this featurette.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River (11:30) this featurette goes in-depth to explore the making of the waterfall scene, including the special effects and computer animation work together to create a seamless work.
Cinematic Storytellers (55:00) is an interesting way to give many different perspectives on the filming process from producer Mark Johnson, production designer Roger Ford, costume designer Isis Mussenden, editor Sim Evan-Jones, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, make-up and special effects manager Howard Berger, Weta Workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, and director of photography Donald McAlpine.
From One Man's Mind (3:55) is a biography featurette on author C.S. Lewis. It's very brief and one would be better of skipping to the third disc in this set for the much more satisfying full-length biography.
The entirety of disc three is a feature about the life of C.S. Lewis, entitled "C.S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia" (1:15:39). This is an excellent look at C.S. Lewis using the seven books of the Chronicles as touchstones to major events in his life. Each of the novels have parallels to his life. It is evident that the filmmakers wanted to make the feature compelling to children, as they keep the story of his life moving with rough animation of the original illustrations from the Narnia books and do not dwell on any camera angle more than a few seconds. While I appreciate that they tried their best to make hip-and-now an Oxford scholar, theologian and author to the Hannah Montana generation, I think older kids and grown-ups will enjoy this feature the most. I happen to be a big fan of Lewis' writing, so it was interesting to see the various locations in Ireland and England where Lewis lived, visited, and may have been inspired to create the worlds of Narnia. I also appreciated the straightforward look at Lewis' conversion to Christianity, and how the religion influenced the Chronicles.
Visualizing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2:20:10) is the most interesting feature in the set, for it is designed like a visual commentary, with inset boxes next to the running film explaining every scene and every aspect of the filmmaking process. The film itself is seen from start to finish, sometimes in fullscreen, and sometimes just a quarter of the screen while the rest is filled with storyboards and clips of CGI effects. One of my pet peeves during a commentary with multiple voices is that it's often difficult to distinguish between the various voices. Although many, many people give commentary to this version, they are introduced by the producer before the film begins, and given bits of screen time making their comments, so it's much easier to follow who is saying what. I found this disc mesmerizing, as did my kids, who enjoyed the comprehensive look at the film.
Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle (7:45) is a look at the final battle between Aslan and the White Witch, from storyboard to computer imagery, to special effects filming. This is even more in-depth than the visual commentary, if possible.
The interface ties in perfectly with the film, with each disc highlighting different areas of the Narnian world and Aslan's face in scrollwork around each of the menus. Instrumental music plays over the menus, and some of the discs have short clips of the film for so many features on each disc, it's easy to navigate. The film is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, and looks amazingly crisp and colorful. The film has two audio options, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Home Theater Mix. Since I don't have a surround sound home theatre, I found that either option was great for traditional TV viewing.
If you have not picked up any DVD copies of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I wholeheartedly recommend this set as an excellent choice. The real question at the end of the day is: do you buy this four-disc set when you already have a perfectly good two-disc version at home that's only 10 months old? Depends. If you are a mild to medium fan of the movie, I think you can live with the two-disc set and be happy. If you enjoyed the novels, appreciate C.S. Lewis, and are interested in hours of storyboards, production shots, and interviews with cast and crew, you might think about picking up this new setnot for the so-called extended aspects, but for all the other detailed information. The visual commentary on disc four, combined with the biography of C.S. Lewis on disc three will make Narnia enthusiasts happy for hours upon end, if not until trailers for Prince Caspian start appearing in theatres. Don't take too long to decide whether you must have the new version: keep in mind that Disney is only keeping this set on the shelves until January 31st, 2007.
(Send an email to Lisa Perkis)
Lisa Perkis is a mom to two girls who also love Disneyland and have been annual passholders since they could toddle onto Peter Pan. Lisa has a degree in English literature, which naturally led to a career in early childhood education. She lives with her husband and children down the street from her girlhood home in North San Diego County. Some of her favorite Disneyland things are: A Christmas Fantasy Parade, pumpkin fudge, rope drop from the Camera Shop on Main Street, the Matterhorn, and freshly made candy canes from the Candy Palace.