The Chronicles of Narnia is a collection of well-known fantasy novels written by C. S. Lewis in the middle of the twentieth century. The series was about a group of children who found a portal into the world of Narnia and how they became engulfed in a massive battle between good and evil. The stories from Lewis' novels have been adapted into television (both animated and live action), film, radio, and theater.
The most recent adaptation was the 2005 movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which was based upon the book in Lewis' series of the same name. In April 2006, the movie was released on DVD in single- and two-disc versions. Both versions included the theatrical cut, while the two-disc collection's edition included a second DVD of extras.
This review covers the extended edition of the movie, which also includes all of the extras found in the single- and two-disc versions, as well as two additional discs of exclusive content. It is also important to note that the extended edition will only be available in stores from its debut of December 12, 2006 to January 31, 2007. It's a time limited release.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is an epic story set in a fantasy world called Narnia. The movie was directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek). With "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", Adamson does C. S. Lewis' story justice by bringing it to life and at the same time keeping true to Lewis' original story (or at least as much as I can remember). The movie was nominated (and won) several awards.
The story is set in World War II and is about the four Pevensie children, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henly). When the war came to the children's home town, they were sent to temporarily live with professor Kirke. In Kirke's large manor, they found a gateway into the world of Narnia. In Narnia, the children fulfilled a prophecy that stated two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve would appear to defeat the White Witch and restore goodness, joy, and happiness to the world.
For many years, the lands of Narnia had been covered in a cold, snowy darkness. The White Witch, a self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia, through fear and brute force took control of Narnia. To any who oppose her, she takes their lives by turning them into stone statues. Narnia has been waiting for the arrival of four special children to join Aslan, the true king, and his army in a massive battle of good against evil.
The first time I saw "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", I was in awe. I thought the movie was fantastic. Specifically, the movie incorporates drama, action, comedy, and suspense in such a manner that can only be described as grand. The story is just fun and exciting. I loved how Adamson represent Lewis' original story in a way that was fun on so many levels and also true to the original story.
One aspect that makes "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" such a great film is its production values. The movie was put together very well, with a superior audio track that features vibrant sound effects, a musical score that helps give the scenes character, and vivid visual and special effects that bring the world of Narnia alive.
The characters are also handled well; roles such as Lucy, who is just so adorable and cute, Mr. Beaver, a goofy character who provides humor, Aslan, the strong and magnificent leader, and the White Witch, an ice cold performance that almost perfectly embodies evil. The roles are admirably filled and portray solid characters that help bring the story alive.
Overall, I was really enjoyed seeing "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and seeing it again only reinstated how much I enjoyed the film. I thought it was a powerful representation of the Lewis' work and I greatly look forward to the subsequent movies in the series.
The Extended Edition
All in all, the extend edition provides a longer cut of the movie (approximately seven minutes worth of additional/extended footage), but the additional/extended portions give the movie very little in terms of substance. For instance, consider an extended scene where the camera shows the scenery a few seconds longer than the original cut. Such a change is what the extended version provides. The changes are so subtle that there is little effect to the movie as a whole.
For those who are purely considering to upgrade your single- or two-disc versions solely based on the value of the extended edition and its impact on the Narnia-journey, it might be best to keep your old discs. Bottom line, the extended edition's seven minutes have very little bearing on the story. (Admittedly, there are a couple additions/extensions in the final battle scene that were a nice touch, but clearly not enough moments like these.)
I thought extended portion's lack of influence was a shame, because, for instance, the extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy provided new, extended, and alternative scenes that really changed the overall flow of the movie. Instead, the only changes The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe get are so minor that the only effect it has is making the overall feature run longer. Again, the problem is that the majority of the changes are extended scenes with non-consequential elements (e.g., more shots of the snowy Narnia mountain side) that have no impact to the story. If anything, I was let down by how un-extended this extended edition was.
Here is a list of the differences between the original movie (OM) and the extended edition (EE). Please note that the list may not be complete in full. I detected the differences manually, watching the videos side-by-side using changes in audio and video as clues to differences. But, I am fairly confident I did not miss anything. Please note that the list contains massive spoilers to both versions of the film.
There release also supports subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
The extras included with the four-disc extended edition include all of the original extras that are found in the single- and two-disc versions released earlier this year. Disc 1 contains the same extras from both previous versions, although disc 1 features a new introduction to the movie with Andrew Adamson. Disc 2 has identical content to the second disc included in the two-disc version. The new and exclusive material is found on discs 3 and 4. This content is completely new, with two full-length features about the movie and additional extras. In regards to the full-length features, they are put together very well and feature a lot of intriguing and interesting content. I especially enjoyed watching the one provided on disc 4.
However, while I enjoyed the extras on disc 3 and 4, there were times I felt that content was being overplayed/overused. Specifically, disc 2 contains a lot of featurettes of interviews with cast and crew discussing their experiences, opinions, behind the scenes, casting, directing, special effects, etc. Some of the material between disc 2's contents and the full-length features is similar. In one they will go into more detail than the other, which makes watching both worth it, but at the same time slightly redundant. The final point here is that the content sometimes overlaps. Perhaps watching all of the extras back-to-back was the problem.
Audio commentaries are the first set of extras included with the main feature. There are two. The first track includes Andrew Adamson, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and George Henley. The second track has the production team, Andrew Adamson, Roger Ford, and Mark Johnson. The commentaries are the same tracks that are included in the single- and two-disc versions. Note that during the extended scenes, there is simply no commentary.
The Bloopers Of Narnia (4:34) is a collection of goofs during filming. It shows the cast messing up and acting silly. It has a few laughs.
Discover Narnia Fun Facts features co-producer Douglas Gresham (step-son of C. S. Lewis) providing pop-up facts, i.e., as you watch the movie readable information will appear on the screen.
Introduction By Director Andrew Adamson (0:24) is a short introduction with Adamson. He basically says hello and thank you for watching the extended edition, I hope you enjoy it.
Chronicles Of A Director (37:59) is a featurette about the director Andrew Adamson. It begins by explaining how Adamson was selected to direct the movie and then continued with thoughts from cast and crew. They talk about how they think he is a great director and his vision for the movie was the right choice. They also talk about different aspects of directing, challenges, and other such things.
The Children's Magical Journey (26:22) is a behind the scenes featurette focused on the movie's four child stars. There is behind the scenes footage intermixed with cast interviews talking about their experiences and crew interviews discussing what it was like working with them.
Evolution Of An Epic is a series of smaller featurettes that contain details about the Narnia tale. "From One Man's Mind" (4:15) is a biographical featurette about C. S. Lewis. It talks about the important events in his life. "Cinematic Storytellers" (55:06) is a collection of interview featurettes with Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop), Howard Berger (KNB Creature Shop), Isis Mussenden (Costumes), Roger Ford (Production Designer), Don McAlpine (Director of Photography), Sim Evan Jones (Editor), Harry Gregson Williams (Music Composer), and Mark Johnson (Producer). The interview featurettes have the individuals providing detailed descriptions about their role in the movie and their own backgrounds. "Creating Creatures" (53:30) has cast and crew talking about different aspects of the creatures in the world of Narnia. They include White Witch, Aslan, Tumnus, Wolves, Centaurs, Minotaurs, Ankle Slicers, Ginarrbrik, Beavers, Satyrs, and Goblins. "Anatomy Of A Scene: The Melting River" (11:31) is a featurette that contains a behind the scenes look at the design and production of the melting river scene.
Creatures Of The World (14:16) is a series of animated clips that tell back stories and provide information about the various creatures and their personalities. It includes the White Witch, Aslan, Tumnus, Wolves, Centaurs, Minotaurs, Ankle Slicers, Ginarrbrik, Beavers, Satyrs, and Goblins.
Explore Narnia is an interactive map of the world of Narnia. The key locations from the movie such as The Lantern Waste (1:57), White Witch's Castle (1:00), Cair Paravel (1:07), Battlefield (0:56), and The Stone Table (0:57). When one of the locations is accessed via the DVD remote, a short clip is loaded that provides its importance.
Legends In Time provides an interactive timeline that shows different key events in time. It shows how the events relate in Narnia's and England's respective timelines.
C. S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia (01:15:39) is a full length documentary and according to the DVD packaging, exclusive to this set at the time of its release. It focuses on the history of C. S. Lewis and the important events of his life that helped shape the world of Narnia. The documentary features a variety of individuals from common Joes (children and adults) to academics to religious figures to prominent actors. For those who are curious about C. S. Lewis' background, this documentary provides just that--a full account of his life and the important events from his childhood to adulthood. In addition, the documentary should prove insightful for those who are curious about how Lewis dreamed up the world of Narnia.
The documentary is told in a narrative story fashion, which is one of its more attractive features. I have seen a number of documentaries that attempt to keep the viewer's attention by telling a story in the first person. They typically prove to be more engaging for the viewer than other styles. This documentary's narrative approach provides an easy to follow storyline about Lewis' life.
The narrative storyline is supplemented with interviews and dialogue from a variety of figures from children to academics to religious figures. As each important portion of Lewis' life is presented in the narrative storyline, interjections are taken with discussion that is relevant to the focus of the timeline of Lewis' life. These interjections provide the necessary critique and evaluation of how this or that part of Lewis' life had a significant impact on the world of Narnia. There is also short, color synopses provided for each of the Narnia books as they pertain to the current topic.
The most interesting aspect of Lewis' life that ties into the creative development of Narnia is his ties to religion. This aspect is a big portion of the documentary. It really ties into a lot of the material. What is really interesting about it is his relationship with God and religion. Lewis had many hardships in his life, such as his mother dying at a young age, fighting in World War I and having to care for his best friend's dependants, and so on. He was not one to believe in God. But, there is an intriguing discussion about the events that changed his beliefs.
Overall, "C. S. Lewis: Dreamer of Narnia" is an interesting and intriguing documentary that features a historical overview of Lewis' life. In addition to the biographical review, the relevant stages of his life are tied into how they helped shaped the world of Narnia. The documentary is great for those who are curious about Lewis and/or interested in learning about everything that helped birth of the world of Narnia.
Some other important details about this documentary are that it is provided in a sharp looking 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color presentation. For sound, it has an English 2.0 Dolby stereo sound track and optional subtitles in French.
Visualizing The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience (2:20:12) is full-length feature about the making of the movie. The feature begins with an introduction from Mark Johnson. Johnson basically introduces several of the key individuals in the feature and talks about the purpose of it. The introduction lasts for a little over a minute.
The feature is has many key individuals who were responsible for putting the film together and several of the actors and actresses in it. It feels much like an audio commentary in that the general progression, i.e., the topic of discussion advances in accordance to the movie. For instance, it begins with the discussion about opening World War I scene and ends with Kirke addressing Lucy after she tried to go back to Narnia. Basically, as each major event in the movie occurs, they discuss different aspects that include casting, directing, production, photography, visual and special effects, music, props, wardrobe, make-up, writing, and so on. The information is provided with cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes footage, and clips from the film.
As an overall behind the scenes feature, I found it to be interesting and intriguing. The interviews clips with cast and crew contained dialogue that had a lot of informative facts. Some of the specifics I enjoyed dealt with special effects, casting of the kids, wardrobe and costume, and the general comments from everyone dealing with the story and how they were trying to deliver this epic tale.
Additional aspects I enjoyed dealt with the feature's production. First, I really liked the outline and general progression. Instead of focusing on a single aspect at time and then focusing on another, changing the topic of discussion around in accordance to the relevance of the key topics in the movie's timeline worked well. I found it very easy to follow and it also helped keep the content fresh.
Second, I liked (and something that also made the feature even easier to follow) is the use of picture-in-picture. Pictures of cast and crew interviews are shown along with clips from the movie and behind the scenes footage. While many behind the scenes featurettes use this style, I just found that the editing was handled very well and the picture-in-picture was utilized to good effect.
Overall, I thought that this was a solid production. I enjoyed the content, it was very informative and intriguing, and I really liked how it was provided. The general flow was accomplished well. It felt like much like an audio commentary with behind the scenes and interview footage. I believe that if you enjoy commentaries, then this feature should be right up your alley. However, if you are the type of person who does not care them, this feature will probably bore you (unless, of course, you are really interested in learning more about the production of the movie.) In the end, I believe this is a fantastic feature.
Anatomy Of A Scene: Behind The Battle (7:47) is a behind the scenes featurette about the making of the final battle scene. It features discussion about the difficult aspects of putting everything together, supplemented with raw footage, animated concepts (computer graphics), and other various key aspects to putting together this massive portion of the movie together. One of the more interesting portions they talk about is the computer program they used to simulate the battle and artificially draw many of the soldiers seen in the battle scene.
Both of the previous extras have optional French subtitles.
Art Of Narnia is a collection of artwork. The collection is divided into three categories: "Concept Art", "Landscapes", and "Maquettes". The first, "Concept Art", contains ninety-one different images that range from props to characters to settings. The next is "Landscapes", which, don't be surprised, features landscapes! There are twenty-nine images. The last of the collections is "Maquettes". For those not familiar with the term, a maquette is a small-scale model. There are fifty-three images of various characters and creatures.
In addition to the special features included on the DVDs, there is a mail-in certificate provided for those who already own either the single- or two-disc versions of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. The certificate allows one to reclaim ten U.S. dollars. Proofs-of-purchase from both the single- or two-disc version and the extend edition are required, along with the original (or photocopy) of the receipt clearly showing the purchase of the extended edition between the period of December 12, 2006 to January 31, 2007.
Lastly, the extended edition is supplemented with a companion guidebook (or at least according to the DVD box cover). I cannot comment on this item because there was not one included in my review copy.
The other main appeal of this release is the three DVDs of extras. The first of these discs was previously released in the two-disc edition released earlier this year. However, the other two discs feature new content. The biggest items are two full-length features. One details C. S. Lewis' history; how his life and key events helped shape the world of Narnia. The other is an informative and intriguing behind the scenes look at many different aspects of the movie. I found both of these full-length features to be great watches. The unfortunate part is there is some redundant information between the extras on disc 2 and full-length features. While footage is not reused, occasionally there is discussion about the topics (with more detail provided in one or the other). Still, the extras should prove to be of interest to anyone who thoroughly enjoyed the film.
In final, I have a few different recommendations based upon your potential interests. If you are interested in seeing the longer version know that the differences are so subtle I do not think it is not worth the investment. If the extended edition is your only reason to purchase this set, I would purchase the single- or two-disc version, or rent the extended edition if you already own a previous release. However, if you are also interested in the extras, then this set is recommended for purchase. Remember there is a ten dollar rebate if you already purchased the previous version. But in the case you do not own any of the previous releases, I do recommend purchasing this set. The feature is great and there are some fascinating extras to watch afterwards.
For my final, final comment, I want to explain why I gave this release the highest rating of DVD Talk Collector Series. I think this movie is a bundle of fun (despite the extended edition not being very extended) and the extras have hours of solid material. And thus, I provide the final recommendation based solely on the contents of this set and not in respect to whether or not it worth double-dipping.