The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I went out with a bunch of friends last night to see the newest fantasy movie for the winter season. Although I've only read the novel that it was based off of once, I found it to be a wonderful adaptation on the story and technical levels. It's certainly one of the better Fantasy movies that I've ever seen, easily topping the three Harry Potters, although not as good as the Fellowship of the Ring.
However, comparisons to these two major franchises is unfair. They have almost nothing in common, save that they take place in fantastic locations and things along those lines. Narnia stands alone, with a very different feel and color to it's pictures, while Lord of the Rings and Harrpy Potter do the same.
Narnia, however, is the only one that I can really remember where I didn't feel that I was sitting watching a movie. I felt very much apart of the story, as a spectator while all of the action went on before me.
Storywise, the adaptation is almost flawless. A couple of scenes have actually been added, but they are not very intrusive to the overall story and add to parts of it at times, namely the London Blitz that we see in the beginning. The only other scene that I can recall being added was the waterfall fight, which also worked fairly well.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, you're missing out. It begins with the 4 children, Lucy, Edmond, Susan and Peter Pevensie, who are relocated to the London countryside during the bombings of London. While they are in the house of a Professor, Lucy stumbles across something wonderful- an entrance to the world known as Narnia, in the back of a wardrobe. There, they find a world covered in a hundred year winter, with a number of animals and creatures, under the rule of an evil queen. Their coming to the land fulfills a prophesy that "Two daughters of Eve and Two sons of Adam" would come to free Narnia from the queen, and are caught up in the fight for the land. It's a very fun little story, mainly for children. And the movie does this story exactly, and it maintains the same feelings of wonder and hope that the book contains.
The main strength of the movie are the four child actors, who really bring the movie along, especially Lucy, who excells as a young, innocent girl caught up in all this. However, Peter, Edumond and Susan are all done outstandingly. They each have their moments and there are some scenes when I felt like laughing and crying along with them as the story progressed. It was a good move on the part of Andrew Adamson, the director (Who also directed Shrek and Shrek 2) to cast unknown actors, and it really helped to not know who these actors were. One of the best things with the children was seeing in the beginning, Peter, Susan and Lucy standing together with Edmond standing slightly apart, but at the end, they are all together. And eye for detail such as that does wonders.
The animals of Narnia were also brilliantly done, especially the two Beavers, Aslan and the Fox. The CGI involved with these characters were very very good, and at times, I forgot that I was staring at a CG construct. They work extremely well with their real environments and the intigration helps a lot. Aslan is probably the best, with Liam Neison voicing him. Every scene in which we see him, he dominates, with a roar or with his words. While I think that James Earl Jones might have done better, Neison does an excellent job. The other character to note is Mr. Tumnus, who was played by the very good James McAvoy, who I remember from SciFi's Children of Dune series. He does an outstanding job as the Faun.
The world of Narnia is also extremely well done, and was filmed in New Zealand, but it manages not to look like the world of Tolkien's epic. Instead, we see locations that are shrouded in snow and ice for most of the movie, and some of the locations could be set here in Vermont. The landscape doesn't play as big of a role in most shots, but there are some outstanding visuals in which we see some wonderful countryside.
The other thing about the filming is Adamson's style of shooting, which maintains a very grand, yet artistic at points. There are some sweeping shots with the camera as the children run along an ice river at one point, and some interesting placements at others. One of the very cool parts was after the White Witch was killed, when Peter and Aslan stand almost still, while people streak past them in a blur. Very interesting choice, and very cool looking. At other points, such as when Edmond is gravely wounded, the sound drops out of the battle completely, which was also a very good thing to do. The battle cinematography is very well done, although much cleaner than anything Peter Jackson did with LOTR. It's definently more family friendly than Rings.
But above all, the story is what counts, and what we get is a superb adaptation with a truely wonderful story. I'd highly recommend this to anyone.