The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - Four-Disc Extended Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
Disney || NR - 150 minutes - $42.99 || December 12, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-12-14


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Andrew Adamson
Writer(s): C.S. Lewis (book), Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson (voice), Ray Winstone (voice), Rupert Everett (voice), Michael Madsen (voice)


Theatrical Release Date: December 9, 2005


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director & Stars Commentary
  • Production Team Commentary
  • The Bloopers of Narnia
  • Discover Narnia Fun Facts
  • Chronicles of a Director
  • The Children's Magical Journey
  • Evolution of an Epic (From One Man's Mind, Cinematic Storytellers, Creating Creatures)
  • Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting Scene
  • Creatures, Lands & Legends (Creatures of the World, Explore Narnia, Legends in Time)
  • C.S. Lewis - Dreamer of Narnia
  • Visualizing The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience
  • Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle
  • Art of Narnia Gallery


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (5.1 Home Theater Mix), English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

The literary-to-screen successes of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises have ignited the fantasy/action-adventure genre into full gear. While I (obviously) have heard of “Harry Potter” and, to a lesser extent, “The Lord of the Rings”, I never really heard of C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” before this movie and even afterward, I didn’t get the appeal and thus skipped seeing it in theaters. However, after watching it, I found it, as a film, below that of Rings and Potter in terms of story, yet on par in style.

This is the first of seven books by C.S. Lewis called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and follows the journey of four siblings as they venture through a new world called ‘Narnia’ where an evil witch proclaimed herself queen and wants to rule over the land. It is laid onto the children to protect the land and bring it back into harmony with the help of Aslan the lion (voice of Liam Neeson) and a vast number of mythological creatures and talking animals. The four kids come into the story as they are apart of a prophesy that saw a return of prosperity in Narnia from the wicked, iron fist, rule of the Witch.

Chronicles is helped the most from director Andrew Adamson making his live action feature debut after helming successful projects like Shrek and Shrek 2. His background in CGI work helps because rather than using the special effects and graphics as a crutch, they actually enhance the story. One of my biggest complaints about CGI-laidened blockbusters like the Star Wars prequels is I get distracted with the effects (which are great most of the time) and find it hard to focus on the story. With Narnia, even though certain elements might be more obvious for fans of the books, I still found it all entertaining and an entertainment level that both kids and adults can enjoy.

If there was one flaw in Chronicles it would be I never got a feel for how vast the land was. Unlike Lord of the Rings, it seemed they could move around fairly quickly from one end to the other. Obviously they can’t out everything in that might be examined in future sequels, but I never understood the scale of this world.

I cannot say I’m a Narnia fan or if it’ll grow on me like the Harry Potter series has (going so far as to actually reading the source material), but this debut went a long way toward adding one more viewer for upcoming sequels (next is The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian due in 2008). If you have yet to see this movie, you can choose either this extended edition or the theatrical one, either way you’ll get the essential story.

Speaking of the extended cut, I own the theatrical version (though never got around to actually watching it), and based on some comparisons, most of the new material come in 30 to 40 second batches that add some extra texture but nothing much in terms to the actual story. One instance is after the four siblings enter Narnia together for the first time, they track toward Mr. Thomas’ place. This section is a bit longer and shows them exploring more whereas the theatrical version cuts to the chase and gets them to the house quicker.

Later in this review, I’ll get to if it’s worth upgrading from the two-disc edition to this extended one for this extra material (amounting to around 14-minutes), but to me, I can’t see the harm in watching this first versus the original.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

New Line did a fantastic job with their initial two-disc and then four-disc extended edition releases of Lord of the Rings as each features different material that didn’t overlap. Universal did the same with Jackson’s King Kong, each version is well done and contain content that makes buying them easier to decide since added material is so different. In the case of Narnia, discs one and two are essentially the same (save for the extra footage). In fact, the menus are the same, so it looks like no work was done on that end either. Plus, where the deleted scenes? I can’t think every scene available was added back in.

The box art is nice -- though fingerprints are noticeable on the shiny surface -- and the four discs housed in hubs in a rollout digipak. A collectable booklet is included as well as a certificate for a $10 manufactures rebate form for those who own the two-disc edition.

Disc One:
Introduction by Andrew Adamson (0:22) - Adamson just gives a short intro into this extended cut and welcoming both those who have seen the other version and those new to it. Unfortunately, he does not enlighten us to what exactly is new nor why it was needed.

Director & Stars Commentary - These commentary tracks with kids normally annoy the hell out of me but director Andrew Adamson keeps things lively and in order as he and the kids provide some fun on-set stories. Overall, this commentary was funny even when they sometimes talk over each other.

Production Team Commentary - Director Adamson goes a second round of trivia this time with producer Mark Johnson and production designer Roger Ford (phoning in from Australia). This track definitely is a departure from the kids’ one providing more technical aspects of shooting these epic and other items for those interested in the more diminutive details. It’s not as interesting per se compared to track one, but it is more orderly.

Note: Since both tracks were recorded for the theatrical version, there are some pauses to keep things on topic during scenes added back in. These pauses weren’t too long, but they did showcase why a new track would’ve been preferred, perhaps one with just Andrew Adamson.

The Bloopers of Narnia (4:35) - More and more, blooper reels have become less funny unless they feature comedians like Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn or other members of the ‘Frat Pack’. In this case, flubbed lines and scene miscues are semi-amusing, but nothing more than that.

Discover Narnia Fun Facts - For the multi-taskers, you can turn this on while listening to the commentaries. This focuses primarily on author C.S. Lewis and other anecdotal trivia surrounding everything about the “Narnia” novels like the well-known friendship between Lewis and “Rings” writer J.R.R. Tolkien.

Disc Two:
CREATING NARNIA:
Chronicles of a Director (37:46) - This is a look at the making of Narnia beginning with choosing Andrew Adamson to helm this epic. It then looks at making the creatures, molding the story, casting and other aspects. There’s a more extensive featurette/documentary later on disc four, but this works well as an appetizer for the time-limited people out there.

The Children’s Magical Journey (26:23) - Focuses on the four stars from their experience in auditioning, the first day of shooting, training and having fun with each other and acting like siblings. Gives a good look at what these young actors have go through and their experience working on such a large film. You also get a glimpse at the four behind-the-scenes having fun and clowning around.

This next set comes under the subheading, “Evolution of an Epic”:

From One Man’s Mind (3:55) - This quick featurette gleams over “Narnia” author C.S. Lewis’s life from childhood and the death of his mother to Oxford to fighting in World War I and to his death in 1963. Doesn’t provide anything of value, but I guess for anyone wanting just a “Cliff’s Notes” on Lewis, it’s alright.

Cinematic Storytellers (55:06) - There are eight featurettes viewable with a “play all” option or individually, focusing on key members on the production team. It starts out with Richard Taylor from WETA and features people involved with the creature design, costumes, the production designer, editor, composer Harry Gregson-Williams and capped off with producer Mark Johnson. Each contributor gives insight into making the picture and what he or she came away from it.

Creating Creatures (53:30) - Like ‘Cinematic Storytellers’, here you can view the various creatures in Narnia from the White Witch to Aslan to Goblins, Minotaurs, Wolves and others. These feature behind-the-scenes footage along with comments from filmmakers about the characters/animals and meshing CGI with real elements. This 10-part featurette is well done and in-depth.

Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting Scene (11:31) - Looks at how the melting ice sequence was done from using hydraulics to move the pieces to actual filming. These kind of featurettes are fascinating to watch and see how they are filmed, using sets, miniatures and large miniatures, and then integrated into a final film. This one sequence was shot on various locations: New Zealand (live action), Poland (water plates), Prague (tank) and Los Angeles (miniatures).

CREATURES, LANDS & LEGENDS: Creatures of the World (14:16) - Eleven creatures are examined from the movie in an animated story with words I assume taken from Lewis’s novel. They can be played individually or all together. For the someone interested in the material, this might be worthwhile, but I don’t think it added anything of substance for me. Click on the Wardrobe and you can view the one’s seen in the “Creating Creatures” section.

Explore Narnia - Allows you to check out the different locations in the world of Narnia with a mixture of graphics and footage from the movie. Locations you can explore are (with corresponding run times): The Lantern Waste (1:57), White Witch’s Castle (1:00), Battlefield (0:55), The Stone Table (0:57) and Cair Paravel (1:07).

Legends in Time - Lets the viewer see what’s going on in the parallel worlds that have different kinds of time using film footage. Good for those who don’t know much about the stories...

Disc Three:
C.S. Lewis - Dreamer of Narnia (1:15:40) - Author C.S. Lewis’s life is examined in this beautifully insightful documentary, we discover through a letter from Lewis to a class of children (and to the rest of us, actually) where he discusses his inspirations behind the Narnia series. Added for more depth, various people connected with Lewis be it with the publishing company, foundations and his step-son who was very close with Lewis. Using visuals from Northern Ireland, Oxford and the area that Lewis considered Narnia in this world, we see a lion walking about. You get to experience what was in his mind, his hardships and struggle with his faith in God. They also discuss his connection with a group of writers named “The Inklings” which included J.R.R. Tolkien. This was one great documentary that could’ve been longer.

The documentary is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Disc Four:
Visualizing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2:20:21) - This set tries something different when showing the different aspects of this production. This is actually the feature length film (theatrical version) in full with picture-in-picture of nearly everybody involved, talking about making the movie or the particular scene at hand. Sometimes the scene would be replaced with raw, visual effects footage with only the sound behind it. Others have three or four windows open, one with the final feature, another with talent talking, another with behind the scenes footage of that scenes being filmed.

While I commend the DVD producers for trying something new, it was tough following each department. It would go from costume design to visual effects, to casting, then to pre-vis shots, and then perhaps back to costume design to set design, etc. This doesn’t add much more than what was shown on disc two in the “Cinematic Storytellers” and “Creating Creatures” sections.

The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions seem to put each element together better, so I wonder why fix something that isn’t broken? I give them props for trying something new and it’s OK, but it could’ve been better organized. I think a production diary documentary would’ve made better use of this material.

Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle (7:47) - This focuses squarely on the technical aspects of the final battle sequence and how much work went into shooting it. Like Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers own epic battle scene, this had 20,000+ creatures to create and when they clash, each computer generated one had their own “brain” and using artificial intelligence, the battle was played out where certain creatures had settings of how they can die or when (some are more resilient than others).

The disc wraps up with the Art of Narnia in Concept Art, Landscapes and Maquettes.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The video on Narnia is, as far as I could tell, the same as the original release. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35 OAR and looks absolutely perfect. For me, it is the visual that was the best part of this film (not to say the rest was bad). Darker scenes come through fine and daylight scenes splash onto the screen.

Also carried over is the English DTS and 5.1 Home Theater Mix (equivalent to DD). I switched back and forth a couple times and didn’t notice that big of a difference between the two. Both present some depth (slightly more with DTS) during action scenes and dialogue comes through nicely as well.



.::OVERALL::.

This “Four-Disc Extended Edition” is a great collection... for those who don’t already own the “Special Two-Disc Collector’s Edition”. So I will say with this caveat that for $35, this is a worthy set to own but if you already own the previous release, I find it hard to recommend paying more (even with a $10 rebate that you MIGHT get in 3-4 months). The one thing that you might want this for, is the C.S. Lewis documentary which is great and, of course, the extra 15-minutes of footage added in to the feature.