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BBC Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe- 2019 Review  

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Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

This past month I watched the BBC version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" for the first time! I had seen all the other BBC Narnia movies, but I finally got around to watching the first one last! :-
So here's my review:
First, I would like to make allowances for the lower level of technology these people had to work with (who doesn't?). BUUUT.... for the 1980's even, I think this was totally corny. The animal costumes were not as realistic as they could have been, the acting (especially Barbara Kellerman as the White Witch) was overdone and awkward, the animated creatures were both stupid AND unnecessary, and the battle... oh boy. They didn't even look like they were fighting! And the music didn't fit and blah blah blah blah....
OK, I know that's probably a common shpiel among many Narnia fans. So now, what aspects of the BBC LWW were admirable? What did they get right that other versions should (have) pay(ed) attention to?
There were a lot of things that did stand out to me, actually here's a few of them:
1. The White Witch's Castle was made of stone. True to the book, with a very creepy interior, though not a very big one. And it doesn't run the obvious risk of melting. ;)
2. Slower pace. There's more time to meet the characters (though I may not have liked all of them) and enjoy the atmosphere of the world (which for the most part is pretty enjoyable. Especially because it's REAL.)
3. More real stuff! There's just no need for CGI backdrops and excessive use of studio sets! The real world has enough beauty in it to have inspired Narnia; let it represent it!
These are just a few on my list; I'm hoping to further discuss this with ya'll later!
4.

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Posted : February 26, 2019 2:50 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

It's been a while since I watched that adaptation but I remember not liking the casting of Peter. Or maybe there was a problem with the writing.

He was always chastising Edmund for being a brat which I theoretically like; it definitely makes sense for the characters. But the way it played out, it made Peter come across as really self righteous compared to the other kids. I found it hard to like him. (When Susan objects to being "it" when they play hide-and-seek, he says she has to because he's the oldest and he says so.)

I know some people are throwing up their hands at me saying that about the BBC series when the Walden Media adaptation of Peter made him way more full of himself and hard to like. But...I can think of other things to say, both good and bad, about that Narnia adaptation. There's not a lot about the BBC LWW that stands out me so I focus on what I can.

I kind of wish there was a transcript of online for me to read. Then I could give more thoughts on the adaptation without having to actually watch the bland thing. ;))

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : February 26, 2019 3:22 pm
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Regular

There was one thing that I liked about the BBC production that hasn't been mentioned here before was the location of filming in Wales and other parts of Britain. I think Narnia (as C. S. Lewis portrayed it) was much like medieval England. The outdoor locations made the setting feel more like Britain (where much of it was actually filmed), and although they didn't have much money, I think that part of it worked. As for the sets, they were simple and maybe even a bit plain according to the small budget, but I think they did the job. The Beaver's house and dam were actually quite good. If they had more expensive equipment the artwork of the sets and the outdoor locations (e.g. of Scotland where I think the White Witch came to Edmund) would have shown up better.

Of the actors I loved Tom Baker as Puddleglum in The Silver Chair. In fact I think he was as about as good as he was as Dr. Who. It doesn't really matter that much to me if some people believe the series was corny. The actors playing the four children were not professionals and performed as well as most children would. The animal costumes probably could have been better, but maybe the people that made them thought they were making the best ones possible.

If you visit The Lamp-post Listener podcast you will find a generally positive review of the old BBC series. Here is a link to the podcast:

http://narniapodcast.libsyn.com/wardrobe-bbc-adaptation

I think it is the best and most fair review that I have found of the BBC version because it discusses both the positive qualities and limitations (imperfections) that the old series had. It's also well worth checking out their other podcasts.

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Posted : March 5, 2019 3:34 am
Courtenay liked
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Regular

I wonder if the BBC will ever become involved with Narnia again. They stopped at the end of the Silver Chair and that was the end of it. But it would be nice if there were a biography series similar to the one on Charles Dickens, which was made in the 1970’s. It explored the life of that author, and C.S. Lewis’ lifetime would be just as interesting to portray. :)

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Posted : January 14, 2020 10:26 pm
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

and the battle... oh boy. They didn't even look like they were fighting!

While I mainly found the BBC LWW to be an adaptation that was not fantastic but not horrible either, I do have to agree about the battle scene.

Kind of an epic fail.

To put it in perspective...
About 10 years ago, a Christian K-8 school in my city put on a stage play of LWW (I went to one of the shows because a bunch of my friends were in it). Youngest member of the cast was 5, oldest was 14, varying levels of acting ability. And their battle scene was literally better than this one.

Love can save a life like music warms the night
Everything is beautiful
So open up your eyes, fall into the light
Everything is beautiful now

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Posted : January 21, 2020 1:57 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I wonder if the BBC will ever become involved with Narnia again. They stopped at the end of the Silver Chair and that was the end of it.

I note that since the BBC TV serials, the BBC has been casting the child characters much too old for the role. I'd only be happy if they were to use younger actors, and were very true to the books, while making good TV.

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Posted : January 21, 2020 5:35 pm
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

To put it in perspective...
About 10 years ago, a Christian K-8 school in my city put on a stage play of LWW (I went to one of the shows because a bunch of my friends were in it). Youngest member of the cast was 5, oldest was 14, varying levels of acting ability. And their battle scene was literally better than this one.

Why am I not surprised? Just give a crowd of kids some safe prop swords and shields, they'll figure it out themselves and make it more realistic than this every time.
I suspect the "battle" in the BBC show was being deliberately toned down to make it as non-scary to little kids as possible.... but I think even the little kids might expect more out of a movie battle than a man in a beaver suit repeatedly poking a spear at a monster that's not there. =))
PS- love your new avatar btw!

PM me to join the Search for the Seven Swords!
Co-founder of the newly restored Edmund Club! Find it on the Talk About Narnia Forum!

signature by aileth

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Posted : January 22, 2020 2:42 pm
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

PS- love your new avatar btw!

Aha thanks, brother!

I figured it was about time I got one :D

One thing I really liked about the BBC version was the professor. Michael Aldridge was just amazing in the role - especially in the beginning when he mocked Mrs. McCready straight to her face and she just had to go with it. Also, when he was, quoting Peter, "trying to be military". =))

That was one thing that they did better than the Walden film - which kinda ruined the professor for me. He only got 4 minutes of screentime, and he's in pajamas for 3 of them.

Love can save a life like music warms the night
Everything is beautiful
So open up your eyes, fall into the light
Everything is beautiful now

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Posted : January 23, 2020 3:56 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I didn't get the impression from the professor's performance that he was being sarcastic in response to Mrs. Macready. It came across to me like he was unaware how silly he sounded.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : January 23, 2020 5:50 am
Ryadian
(@ryadian)
Member Moderator

That was one thing that they did better than the Walden film - which kinda ruined the professor for me. He only got 4 minutes of screentime, and he's in pajamas for 3 of them.

In so much agreement here. I still haven't forgiven the Walden professor for not taking Peter and Susan seriously until they mentioned that Lucy's adventure started "in the upstairs wardrobe". I believe that book-professor would have taken them seriously even if they had never mentioned the wardrobe. Plus I loved Michael Aldridge's read on "Oh, logic! What do they teach children in these schools?!" Maybe because that was an overly repeated quote in our house. ;))

...And the music didn't fit and blah blah blah blah....

Huh, the music is actually one of the things I really liked about the BBC Narnia. Granted, not all of the music is entirely memorable, but the opening theme is probably my favorite bit of Narnian music anywhere - it instantly transports me to Narnia whenever I hear it. I wish other adaptations could use it!

Then again, I also remembered the music when Edmund is crossing the courtyard full of statues being sufficiently eerie. I re-watched that scene, and in hindsight, I think the music itself was perfect, it just... didn't fit with Edmund casually walking across the courtyard. (Not helped by the fact that that scene starts by continuing the weird "Edmund's conscience is literally speaking to him" thing. I'd completely forgotten about that!) So maybe that's what you meant. ;))

N-Web sis of stardf, _Rillian_, & jerenda
Proud to be Sirya the Madcap Siren

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Posted : January 23, 2020 8:31 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

Then again, I also remembered the music when Edmund is crossing the courtyard full of statues being sufficiently eerie. I re-watched that scene, and in hindsight, I think the music itself was perfect, it just... didn't fit with Edmund casually walking across the courtyard.

That's interesting because I think the music for the Narnia miniseries is kind of overrated but I'd describe the scene in the White Witch's courtyard being one of the best scenes in the LWW one. Of course, I don't remember a lot specifically about either the music or Edmund's actor's performance. (I'm sorry. I'm bad at remembering actors' names.) That was just sort of my broad impression.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : January 23, 2020 5:02 pm
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Regular

I wonder if the BBC will ever become involved with Narnia again. They stopped at the end of the Silver Chair and that was the end of it.

I note that since the BBC TV serials, the BBC has been casting the child characters much too old for the role. I'd only be happy if they were to use younger actors, and were very true to the books, while making good TV.

It would be nice if they would try again, but I’m afraid that they wouldn’t finish the series (it happened before). Having younger actors might help to draw more viewers. However, I think there are too many unfinished versions of Narnia, and it would be just another incomplete serial.

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Posted : January 24, 2020 9:09 pm
Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Regular
Posted by: @col-klink

Then again, I also remembered the music when Edmund is crossing the courtyard full of statues being sufficiently eerie. I re-watched that scene, and in hindsight, I think the music itself was perfect, it just... didn't fit with Edmund casually walking across the courtyard.

That's interesting because I think the music for the Narnia miniseries is kind of overrated but I'd describe the scene in the White Witch's courtyard being one of the best scenes in the LWW one. Of course, I don't remember a lot specifically about either the music or Edmund's actor's performance. (I'm sorry. I'm bad at remembering actors' names.) That was just sort of my broad impression.

The music was much like classical symphonic music and for those who like the genre it is excellent. Geoffrey Burgon was a very fine composer, and his work certainly fits the medieval fairy tale atmosphere of Narnia.  I wish that the entire soundtrack of the BBC series was released on audio CD— including all of the music from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I like the movies’ music too, although some of it may be too modern for Narnia. “Wunderkind” and “Can’t Take It In” are a bit too much like today’s popular music.  Those songs may sound nice, but something more old fashioned would suit the Narnia stories better.

 

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Posted : July 7, 2020 6:21 am
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

Ok, can I add something else right quick??

Rant incoming, so prepare yourselves!

I just thought of this, and it is driving me crazy.  During my last re-read of LWW, I noticed that when Edmund asked for another piece of Turkish delight to eat on the way back to England, this is the Witch's response.

(Laughs) No, no! You must wait until next time.

So pardon my extreme confusion when, for whatever reason, the BBC writers/directors interpreted that scene as follows:
Edmund: Please your majesty, may I have just one more piece of Turkish delight, to eat on my way home?

Witch (instantly loses all composure, eyes become wide, flails arms and makes the whole sledge rock back and forth): NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooOOajlsk;lkjaslkjdf;ljkasldj!! (the horses do not bolt, perhaps because they're either a. deaf, or b. used to such histrionic displays of - ahem - lung capacity). 

What the heck, BBC?

There's no way Lucy and Tumnus wouldn't have heard that all the way from his cave. It's not even how hammy and over-the-top Barbara Kellerman behaves in this exchange, but how you're left wondering where it even came from, or what words CS Lewis used to give them the impression that this is how she should respond to a child when she is trying to gain his trust (against his own/his siblings' self interest?). Alternatively, if it was - in fact - an intentional deviation from the source material (which I'm beginning to suspect it was), how on Earth is that an improvement on the way Lewis wrote the Witch, in which she doesn't come across as totally off her head? 

Well.....it becomes a recurring trend, but the BBC Chronicles seem to have a villain problem.  Their villains consistently appear to have one setting; shrieking.  Obviously every villain in the series  played by Barbara Kellerman (including the White Witch) possesses this trait, but even Nikabrik, Miraz, and Gumpas all possess this quality to some extent, even when (often) it's (really) not warranted by the source material.  

Love can save a life like music warms the night
Everything is beautiful
So open up your eyes, fall into the light
Everything is beautiful now

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Posted : July 10, 2020 11:58 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @glenwit

Witch (instantly loses all composure, eyes become wide, flails arms and makes the whole sledge rock back and forth): NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooOOajlsk;lkjaslkjdf;ljkasldj!! ...

Well.....it becomes a recurring trend, but the BBC Chronicles seem to have a villain problem.  Their villains consistently appear to have one setting; shrieking.  Obviously every villain in the series  played by Barbara Kellerman (including the White Witch) possesses this trait, but even Nikabrik, Miraz, and Gumpas all possess this quality to some extent, even when (often) it's (really) not warranted by the source material.  

 

You left out Maugrim appearing in the notice left in the wreckage of Tumnus's house, with the legendary "Long live the Queen! RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" Grin  

Good point, though, and I've no idea either why the BBC, in this particular series, decided to make nearly all the villains shouty and shrieky — especially when, as you say, it's usually not warranted by the source material (which the script writers stuck to pretty closely in most cases). Maybe they somehow felt the baddies wouldn't be scary enough unless they all screamed at the top of their lungs at every possible opportunity...

I enjoyed the Talking Beasts review of BBC Narnia that they did during the past year and I hope they'll finish it off next season. Meanwhile, I've earmarked The Lamp-post Listener's review for listening to in the next couple of days, whenever I can fit it in — thanks, @narnian78.

I have fond childhood memories of the BBC versions, as they were first shown on TV not long after I finished reading the seven Chronicles, but I can assure younger viewers here, they WERE hopelessly hokey even by the standards of the time!! Tongue But CGI barely existed in those days — nor did we have any idea then that within 15 years, it would advance to the point where animators could create incredibly lifelike digital scenes and characters that you'd swear were real and solid. So back in 1989, we just giggled at the bottle-shaped beaver costumes and the silly flying scenes and all the other really-not-so-special effects and put it down to the poor old BBC trying to create an epic fantasy on a shoestring budget, which I think was the case at the time.

For all their shortcomings, those were the best screen adaptations (and in the case of everything but LWW, the only screen adaptations) of Narnia that we had back then, so I always enjoyed them for what they were and appreciated the fact that they were mostly very faithful to the books. But I'm hoping Netflix's versions might, just might, be the first-ever adaptations that REALLY do Narnia justice...

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : July 10, 2020 1:24 pm
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