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The Chronicles of Narnia on DVD:
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: 1-Disc & 2-Disc Collector's Edition • 4-Disc Extended Edition & Gift Set / Prince Caspian / Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie Info)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Four-Disc Extended Edition DVD Review - Page 1

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Theatrical Release: December 9, 2005 / Running Time: 150 Minutes (Theatrical Cut Runtime: 143 Minutes) / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut Rating: PG)

Director: Andrew Adamson

Cast: Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie), Skandar Keynes (Edmund Pevensie), William Moseley (Peter Pevensie), Anna Popplewell (Susan Pevensie), Tilda Swinton (White Witch), James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus), Jim Broadbent (Professor Kirke), Kiran Shah (Ginarrbrik), James Cosmo (Father Christmas), Judy McIntosh (Mrs. Pevensie), Elizabeth Hawthorne (Mrs. Macready), Patrick Kake (Oreius), Liam Neeson (voice of Aslan), Ray Winstone (voice of Mr. Beaver), Dawn French (voice of Mrs. Beaver), Rupert Everett (voice of Mr. Fox), Cameron Rhodes (voice of Gryphon), Philip Steuer (voice of Philip the Horse), Jim May (voice of Vardan), Sim Evan-Jones (voice of Wolf)

Buy 4-Disc Extended Edition from Amazon.com • Buy 4-Disc Extended Edition Gift Set from Amazon.com
Buy 2-Disc Collector's Edition from Amazon.com • Buy 1-Disc Widescreen Edition from Amazon.com


Page 1: The Extended Cut, The Movie, Video and Audio
Page 2: Discs 1-4 Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Exactly a year after being released to theaters, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Disney's top-grossing film of 2005, is being revisited in a Four-Disc Extended Edition, reaching stores today on its own and as part of a Gift Set with bookends made by the movie's creature designers.
Available for a period of just seven weeks, the set is touted as an excellent holiday gift and it is unquestionably intended to capitalize upon both the Christmas season and the fantasy film's very warm reception, which made it the best-selling DVD title of 2006 up until last month's release of Disney/Pixar's Cars.

With both the movie and its April DVD release very fresh in mind, there's little point in me struggling to find something new to say about either the film or the recycled bonus features, so you'll find that much of this review is reproduced from my critique of the Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition published last spring. That's something I usually avoid doing, but which was inevitable out of consideration for all else that's going on this month. That said, there's a reasonable chance you didn't already read my review of the 2-disc set and if you did, that was likely several months ago. Furthermore, I've implemented some minor revisions, and of course, comments on the new content are scattered about. Thus, you are encouraged to read on and I'll point out passages that are okay to skip beforehand.

Before diving into a general critique of the movie, the question that most people will want an answer to is "How different is the Extended Edition from the Theatrical Cut?" To which my answer is "not very." The packaging on the movie's previous DVD releases underestimated the film's runtime, which was actually 143 minutes with the end credits included. We may never know if that was part of a deliberate scheme to dupe prospective shelf-browsing Extended Edition purchasers into thinking the extensions were more significant than they are. In fact, the Extended Edition clocks in at 150 minutes and that additional 5% of content is anything but major.

The new Walt Disney Pictures logo boasts elaborate computer animation. It appears at the beginning of the Extended Edition of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." Susan (Anna Popplewell) makes a snow angel in the Pevensie children's extended introduction to Narnia.

The Extended Edition's Additions

• The movie now opens with the new computer-animated Walt Disney Pictures logo that debuted before Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as opposed to the black and orange logo that originally introduced the film. This adds about 25 seconds to the runtime. The logo at the end of the end credits also gets updated but with no difference in time.
• There is some additional footage in the train station, as a few shots are held a few seconds longer and we get to see more of the kids and parents saying goodbye to one another.

• There is a brief addition to the Pevensies' train ride, as Lucy gives a stuffed doll to Edmund, who gives it to the briefly seen younger children.
• The scene in which Mrs. Macready chases the children after they break the window has been extended by about 10 seconds.
• There is a bit more depicting the Pevensies' first impressions of Narnia, such as Susan making a snow angel and more snowy scenery being admired.
• The walk to Beaver's house has been extended by about 30 seconds, with more scenery and a longer shot of his quarters. Perhaps the most significant addition, Lucy noticing a frozen fish in the lake, lasts merely seconds and seems not quite finished-looking.
• Edmund's walk among the statues in the Queen's ice palace has been extended by about 15 seconds.
• There is a bit more of the wolves' sniffing, scratching, and searching for Beaver.
• There is about thirty seconds more footage of spring befalling Narnia.
• There are slight extensions to Susan's bow and arrow practice and the establishing shots.
• There is more of the White Witch approaching the big fight at the end, driven by polar bears alongside weird bat-ish companions, who do battle with gryphons.
• Also scattered throughout the end battle... A few additional seconds depict the initial contact. There are a few extra seconds showing the phoenix under siege and more of the weird bat-like creatures. There are more shots of the line of fire. More of Oreius' charge of the witch is seen. There is an added shot of a gryphon. A few seconds showing Ginarrbrik fighting, and slightly longer footage of the Queen approaching Edmund.

The final count.... Theatrical Cut: 2:22:54, Extended Edition: 2:30:00 (plus 34 seconds of additional separately-encoded end credits).

It's an understatement to say that the differences between the two are minor. There are no whole scenes added and the overwhelming majority of the theatrical cut remains untouched. Most of the extensions are of scenery or of characters walking. The more remarkable but less necessary inclusions are found in the end battle, largely of the weird bat-like creatures and their airborne competitors. There is next to nothing in the way of new dialogue; in fact, there is not a single substantial addition of speech.

On the one hand, I can commend this Extended Edition as not hurting or betraying the movie to any degree. At the same time, one must wonder: what is the point? While home video does allow for more relaxed pacing, the mildly extended shots do little to change the overall viewing experience despite taking seven more minutes of your time. As such, the longer cut seems slightly indulgent and a questionable gimmick to get people to buy the movie again.

Lucy (Georgie Henley) looks at a frozen fish in this not-quite-finished looking addition. Seen here with the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), these bat-like baddies appear to gain more screen time in the Extended Edition than anyone else.

Movie Review (minimally revised from original April 2006 publishing)

Like Walt Disney, C.S. Lewis was born close to the turn of the 20th century and created some of his most enduring work during the 1950s. While Walt was adding television and the theme park to his list of achievements (which already included revolutionary success in animated filmmaking), Lewis was in England writing The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy books for children. First and foremost of these was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, published in 1950. The line would be met with vast, global success; to date, the Narnia books have been translated into several dozen languages and have sold over 100 million copies.
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Both Lewis and Disney died in the mid-1960s within weeks of their 65th birthdays. As relevant as it would be to this paragraph to say that they crossed paths and saw eye-to-eye, there is nothing to document such a meeting or shared priorities. But, in the decades since their passings, it is undeniable that their names have remained on the mouths of millions as their imaginative legacies continue to be celebrated.

For a tremendously popular piece of literature, Wardrobe took an unusual 55 years to receive feature film adaptation. The book had been tapped for television on multiple occasions: in 1967 as a ten-episode black-and-white series in the UK, in 1979 as an animated two-hour movie from Peanuts specials producer/director Bill Melendez and the Children's Television Workshop, and in 1988 as the first of the BBC's four quasi-epic and mostly literal Narnia productions. Wardrobe had even been dramatized on the radio and on stage in England, in the 1980s and late 1990s, respectively.

Finally, in December of 2001, Walden Media announced that it was partnering with C.S. Lewis's estate to adapt Wardrobe into a live action movie and that the six other Narnia books were also being considered for similar treatment with the hopes of developing a franchise. Walt Disney Pictures got involved with the project early in the spring of 2004, having already collaborated with Walden on adaptations of Holes and Around the World in 80 Days (plus a pair of James Cameron-directed IMAX documentaries), and scheduled a fairly global theatrical release for the Christmas 2005 season.

The four Pevensie children -- Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), and Lucy (Georgie Hensley) -- wait for their ride at the train depot. One of the movie's most memorable images: Lucy approaches the lamppost.

Clearly, the climate was right for Disney, Walden, Lewis's company, and the movie industry to see if the fantastic world of this beloved novel could be faithfully and cinematically realized. New Line Cinema's big budget adaptations of the three fantasy books in The Lord of the Rings series (written by Lewis's friend J.R.R. Tolkien and published alongside the final three Narnia volumes) had just been translated into a shade under $3 billion of worldwide box office gross, 17 Academy Awards, enthusiastic reviews, and a zealous fanbase. J.K. Rowling's contemporarily-published "Harry Potter" novels had found about the same success (sans the Oscars) in their leap to the big screen courtesy of Warner Brothers. Large scale fantasy novel-to-film adaptations had quickly become the most attractive listing in Hollywood's holiday season menu.

It also helped that the independent foreign language drama The Passion of The Christ handily became America's top-grossing R-rated film of all-time. Long perceived as falling outside of the mainstream, churchgoers were again deemed a viable demographic, for Wardrobe incorporated elements of the Christian faith that Lewis heartily embraced in his early thirties.

The final sign that the time was right for large scale live action Disney films was the smashing success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The action-packed, $125-million-budgeted, well-over-two-hour swashbuckler was easily the most ambitious non-animated Disney-branded film in a long time, and it paid off. Earning $300 million in North America and even more overseas, Pirates handily earned the title of the studio's highest-grossing live action film ever. (It has since been surpassed by its sequel, Dead Man's Chest.) After fifteen years of regularly churning out family comedies with modest potential, Walt Disney Pictures was ready to take gambles as they had rarely before.

Jim Broadbent plays Professor Kirke, the quirky fellow whose home offers wartime residence to the Pevensies. A faun (James McAvoy, playing Mr. Tumnus) with packages and an umbrella in the snow... This is said to have been the image that inspired C.S. Lewis to write "The Chronicles of Narnia."

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (titled with a hopeful franchise triumphing over brevity) opens during the German air raids on London during World War II.
As per a common practice of the day, the four Pevensie siblings (the human protagonists of the story) are sent to the countryside for their safety. They are from oldest to youngest: Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley). For the indefinite future, the brothers and sisters are to stay in the vast and intriguing quarters of Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). Amidst the boredom and unease that relocation has caused the Pevensies, Lucy makes a remarkable discovery. In the back of a wardrobe in an otherwise barren spare room, she happens upon Narnia, a snowy world of magic. The first individual she encounters there is the seemingly friendly Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), whose oddest quality may be his decision to trod around in the snow wearing little more than a scarf, if not for the fact that his lower half is covered with fur and features the legs of a goat. Tumnus is a faun, one of many creatures only to be found in Narnia.

After tea, cake, sardines, and some hypnotic woodwind music with her new friend, Lucy returns to the professor's home through the wardrobe, excited to share details of her wintry afternoon trip. But, though it seemed like hours, Lucy returns to discover that only seconds have passed. This, coupled with the impractical nature of her story leads her three siblings to chalk it up to her youthful imagination. Not long after, Lucy manages to venture back to Narnia. Edmund follows her in and happens upon a woman claiming to be the land's queen (Tilda Swinton). Because Edmund appears to value his appreciation for Turkish delight over familial loyalties, the second youngest Pevensie does some damage in his brief interactions but denies even being there, putting the land's existence again in dispute.

A cricket game and shattered window later, however, all four brothers and sisters end up getting to Narnia the same way that Lucy and Edmund previously did, through the enchanted wardrobe. There, they learn that Jadis -- who, despite her royal view of herself, is widely considered a witch and responsible for Narnia's interminable winter -- has troubled Tumnus for failing to bring Lucy, a "daughter of Eve" (Narnia-speak for a human being of the female variety) to her "highness." Jadis herself is troubled by the fact that sons of Adam and daughters of Eve have found a way into her dominion. The rest of Narnia's diverse inhabitants -- like the friendly Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French) who offer the Pevensies food and shelter -- hold hope that prophecies involving Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), the lion who is Narnia's true king, and four human visitors may be unfolding before their eyes.

This is our first look at Jadis, the White Witch of Narnia, who provides the "evil" quotient in the movie. And in case, the haloed lighting didn't clue you in, this is Aslan, the real (lion) king of Narnia who serves as "good" and many see as a parallel to Jesus.

As complicated as that premise may sound to the uninitiated, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is, like most children's book adaptations, fairly straightforward and simple to follow, though not without complexities that may or may not be grasped by younger audience members. Like the Lord of the Rings films and Star Wars films and, let's face it, basically any movie that has ever done mammoth numbers at the box office, Narnia relies heavily on the notions of good and evil, the intriguing battle which in some way factors into all of humanity's lives and beliefs.

That makes Narnia, despite being replete with fantastic imagery of talking animals and man-beast hybrids, a very palpable and engrossing movie. The film, like the Lewis novel it is based on, is easy for anyone to relate to, especially those who have not shut off their imaginations. The passing of more than half a century has not rendered Lewis's world any less magical and it is extremely well realized in this production. The adventure, handful of well-defined characters, and basic alignment of story elements all contribute to a gripping and highly fascinating fairy tale grounded in reality.

Enabling this adaptation succeed are the performances. Here, as often as that refers to the talented human cast (from which, the four young leads, Swinton, McAvoy, Broadbent, and little Kiran Shah deserve much credit) and capable voiceover performers (Winstone and French make the Beavers two of the film's most British and likable characters, while Neeson achieves restrained royalty if not the commanding tone of James Earl Jones's Mufasa), it refers to the technical wizardry of countless individuals whose work is showcased on Disc 2 and Disc 4. Without believable effects and lifelike CG-animated characters, the movie would suffer. Just try watching the BBC's version now and not getting a suspension of disbelief break when those beavers first show up. While I may not have the most rigorous standards for technical effects, the work here seems very stellar and pretty close to flawless.

This filming takes a fair amount of artistic liberties in translating the text to the big screen. Most of these changes are minor and serve to, if anything, strengthen Wardrobe as a piece of cinema. While there are those who will object to any tinkering beyond trimming with an adored literary masterpiece, most of the revisions here are to elaborate on things that are mentioned in passing, such as the backdrop of war and the battle which figures in the climax. Between this and the BBC's literal adaptation, there is no question as to what is more satisfying. (It's this.) And I'm very glad to note that, even slightly extended, the obligatory battle sequence exhibits some moderation, something I feared might not be the case from trailers and all of the Orc-defeating which preceded this release.

The Beavers (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French) are two of Narnia's most likable characters. On their first group visit, the Pevensie children meet Beaver.

Two final areas seem inevitable in any comprehensive critique of this film. The first is the religious aspect of Disney/Walden's adaptation. While it was marketed to churchgoers in ways similar to how Newmarket and Fox helped sell Passion of the Christ tickets and DVDs, the Christianity in Narnia is a much less evident one. If you're looking for parallels, then it's fairly hard to
miss the Aslan-Jesus similarities and the scene at The Stone Table's resemblance to the events remembered yearly in the Easter Triduum. If you're not looking for religion, it's more or less absent. Elements of mythology and paganism can also be found in the film, making the land of Narnia a blend of cultures and iconic imagery. Being a Christian may lead one to pick up certain things and indeed enhance their appreciation for the film. At the same time, not being a Christian does not hinder in any way. Whether or not you recognize or care about the faith which inspired Lewis, accept the film as a fantasy first and foremost and you won't be disappointed. Only those expecting something overtly theological may be let down by the subtlety of the symbolism.

The other area is less controversial for most people. It deals with a comparison between Narnia and Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. Even with a different format (Tolkien's three novels were epic, Lewis's seven were more child-friendly), the books had a common origin (penned by two Oxford professors/friends in 1950s England) and a common genre (fantasy). Now, being brought to film in similar methods (with a number of crew members in common) and only a few years apart, it seems inevitable that these two series be linked together and discussed simultaneously. Whether it's a case of the Rings movies beating Narnia to the punch, the Rings trilogy serving up quicker satisfaction with a release pattern keeping the films very much in the discourse for three years straight, or another reason altogether, critics and Internet fanboys seem to have taken more to Jackson's films than this premiere Lewis adaptation. Personally, I've got to throw my allegiance to Narnia.

Admittedly, I've thought more highly of Lewis's series (at least this particular chapter) than the Rings trilogy before seeing a second of film. But I feel objective in labeling Wardrobe as a film that is far more accessible and fulfilling than the three installments of the Rings saga. Don't get me wrong, I think the Lord of the Rings movies have their value, but, unlike many professional and amateur critics, I think there are a number of things separating Jackson's trilogy from sliced bread on that all-important "best things" list. While it's a bit unfair to compare an individual film to a set of three, I found the less restrained color palette, less repetitive structure, and more human nature of Wardrobe all refreshing. Perhaps future Narnia adaptations and endless hype may find me growing wary of these films the way I quickly did with Lord of the Rings, but for now, through a much-discussed theatrical release and two appearances on DVD, I would stress that A) I'd rather find myself back in Narnia than Middle Earth and B) there's definitely enough differences among the two to have room (and mixed reactions) for both film series, even coming as chronologically near to one another as they do.

Susan and Lucy are at Aslan's side on the Stone Table. Led by Peter, this is the good army. Why are they fighting? "For Narnia!!!!"

Despite having a cast of unknowns whose most recognizable names were limited to voice performances, a director making his live action debut (Andrew Adamson, whose prior filmography began with Shrek and ended with Shrek 2), and stiff competition from other much-anticipated films like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before and King Kong immediately after, Narnia outdid even high expectations, becoming the second highest-grossing domestically film released in 2005, having tallied more than $291 million in the US. When one factors in the additional $453 million taken in overseas, Wardrobe is the fourth highest-worldwide-grossing of all Disney films behind Pirates of the Caribbean: The Dead Man's Chest, Pixar's Finding Nemo, and The Lion King.

It is little surprise, then, that a filming of Lewis's second Narnia novel, Prince Caspian is currently in pre-production. Originally planned for release in December of 2007, it is now scheduled to reach theaters on May 16, 2008, with filming to begin next month. That's good news for Disney fans and good news for cinema in general. Lewis's tales are ripe for revisiting and if Wardrobe has accurately set the tone, then we're all in for an exciting franchise.
 

Buy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

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;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 12, 2006
Four single-sided discs (3 DVD-9s & 1 DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Digipak with Embossed,
Reflective Cardboard Slipcover
Buy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition DVD Gift Set from Amazon.com DVD Details

Four-Disc Extended Edition plus heirloom-quality bookends made by creature designers WETA Ltd.

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

VIDEO and AUDIO

As has come to be expected from a new theatrical release nearly a decade into the DVD format, the video quality is here is really, really good. There is only one version of the film offered (well, technically two, but only one that is the film itself); the Extended Edition (and, in turn, the Gift Set) wisely loses the reformatted 1.33:1 transfer that was only offered on the single-disc Fullscreen Edition. The film holds up wonderfully through both bright snowy scenes and darker moments and it has its fair share of both. There's excellent contrast, next to nothing in the way of unwanted grain, a fantastic amount of detail, and perfect levels of sharpness. Though the average bit rate has slightly dropped from 6.38 Mb/s to 6.14 Mb/s, there is no noticeable drop in picture quality; in fact, the very minor moiré effect I observed in the previous DVD seems to have been corrected. Considering that the movie runs two and a half hours and that the disc boasts a healthy offering of alternate audio tracks, this stunning transfer just shows you how good DVD compression techniques currently are and how the general public will probably be fine not upgrading to either of the dueling high-definition formats.

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Gladly, all newly-added sequences are integrated in a seamless fashion. Outside of the oddly superimposed shot of Lucy looking down at the fish, the visuals and audio match up with the rest of the film perfectly, and I imagine that required a lot of effort, even if the additions outside of the battle scene, are largely minor.

In the soundtrack department, Wardrobe is one of the rare theatrically-released Disney films equipped with both DTS and Dolby Digital. Like before, the Dolby track is billed as a "Home Theater Mix", but either one is guaranteed to please. The sound quality is outstanding. There's little else worth elaborating upon, but to clarify a bit, this is basically reference material and one of the most engulfing live action film soundtracks I've come across. Dynamics are (still) consistent, dialogue is (still) crisp, the directionality and design are (still) both terrific.

Four-Disc Extended Edition:

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Four-Disc Extended Edition Gift Set:

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Two-Disc Collector's Edition:

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Single-Disc Widescreen Edition:

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Continue to Page 2 >>

The Book: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Entire Series: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Related Reviews:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Peter Pan (1953) • Alice in Wonderland (1951) • The Phoenix & The Carpet (1997) • Finding Neverland (2004)
Bridge to Terabithia (2007) • Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) • The Water Horse (2007) • Holes (2003)
Around the World in 80 Days (2004) • Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) • Stardust (2007) • The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
National Treasure (2004) • Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: True-Life Adventures, Volume 3 (featuring The African Lion)
Chicken Little (2005) • The Incredibles (2004) • Valiant (2005) • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Soundtrack CD Review

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews | DVDizzy.com: DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Recent Live Action Disney Movies | Upcoming DVD Cover Art | Search

Page 1: The Movie, Video and Audio
Page 2: Disc 1 & Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed December 12, 2006.