THE SILVER CHAIR
Review by Ed Nguyen
David Thwaites, Camilla Power, Tom Baker, Richard Henders, Barbara Kellerman
Director: Alex Kirby
Audio: English 2.0 mono
Video: color, full-screen 1.33:1
Studio: Home Vision
Features: stills gallery, interactive game
Length: 168 minutes
Release Date: August 27, 2002
got to start by finding the ruined city of the Giants.
Aslan said so."
to start by finding it, have we? Aren't
we allowed to start by looking for it?"
Lewis was a professor of medieval and Renaissance literature at the dignified
British institution of Cambridge University.
Somewhat less formally, he was also a successful fantasy novelist, of all
things. His early works included
such tales as the satirical The Screwtape
Letters and the science fiction trilogy of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra,
and That Hideous Strength.
But Lewis is most revered today for his classic tales of a fantasy world
accessible from within the confines of an old wardrobe.
Those tales, beginning in 1950 with The
Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, comprise The
Chronicles of Narnia, possibly one of the most beloved series of all
its initial publication, The Chronicles of
Narnia has made the transition off the printed page a number of times.
There was a 10-episode television series in 1967.
There was also an animated film in 1979.
Both productions focused on the first book in the series. However, it was not until the 1980's, when England's BBC
began a collaboration with the PBS children's series Wonderworks, that an earnest effort was made to translate several of
these beloved stories into live-action films. Three films were eventually produced. The first was The Lion,
the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a faithful re-telling of the first book of the
series. The second film was Prince
Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a combination of the second and
third books in the series. The
third and final film was The Silver Chair,
a tale of the search for the lost heir of Narnia.
those readers not in the know, Narnia is a wondrous, magical land populated by
mythical creatures and chivalrous people. Even
many of the animals are capable of speech.
As The Silver Chair begins, the
current king of this noble land is Caspian the Tenth.
But, the youthful boy of Prince
Caspian is a weary and saddened old king by this film, for his beloved queen
was poisoned by a serpent many years ago, and their only son, Prince Rilian, was
lost in an attempt to seek vengeance upon this serpent.
Now, in the twilight of his years, King Caspian wishes to journey into
the seas once more in the hopes of finding Aslan, the mythical Lion of Narnia.
Perhaps the wise Aslan will be able to advise him on who should rule
after Caspian's passing.
in the previous stories of The Chronicles
of Narnia, Aslan does intervene from afar, albeit somewhat indirectly.
To assist in the crisis in Narnia, Aslan calls forth a boy and a girl
from the world of humans. The boy
is Eustace Scrubb (David Thwaites), who had partaken in the Dawn
Treader's wonderful odyssey in his previous visit to Narnia. The girl is Jill Pole (Camilla Power), a newcomer to these
lands. The two children
accidentally enter Aslan's realm through a magical portal at their school one
day. When they become separated
briefly, Aslan appears before Jill and explains to her the reason for which he
has summoned both children to Narnia.
Rilian, it appears, is not dead but merely lost. Jill must re-join Eustace and aid him in rescuing the lost
Prince, or die trying - that is Aslan's task for the children.
While Aslan cannot help them directly, he offers four signs by which the
children might complete their quest. Of
the first, Eustace must quickly greet an old friend upon his arrival back in
Narnia. Of the second, Jill and
Eustace must travel north to the ruined city of the Giants.
Of the third, they are to follow the instructions written in stone.
Of the fourth and last sign, they will eventually meet someone who will
ask them to do something in Aslan's name, and they must do it.
it is with these four signs that Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb set out upon their
adventure. The children are
initially assisted by friendly owls and eventually gain a traveling companion,
the gravely pessimistic Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum. Their journey will take them from the fields and elegant
castles of Narnia to the barren wastelands of the Giants' realm and the house of
Harfang and ultimately to the Underland of the Lady of the Green Kirtle.
Along this odyssey, they will encounter dragons, giants, gnomes, and
several manners of sylvan talking animals.
They will have to overcome sorcery and imprisonment, often with little
more than their wits to save them. It
has all the makings of a grand, epic adventure.
fans of the original Narnia books will feel very much at home here, for The
Silver Chair is quite faithful to the novel.
Other than a few minor omissions in the plot (for the sake of pacing),
the storyline is very true not only to the letter but also the spirit of the
the downside, The Silver Chair was not
a huge production. In fact, the
combined budget of the three Narnia
films probably did not even amount to a significant fraction of a typical Harry
Potter film. The
Silver Chair is also a film from the pre-CGI effects era, and consequently,
the eye-candy quotient in it is very low. In
truth, the special effects are pretty laughable.
Some scenes are very blatantly blue screen shots, and many of the talking
animals are obviously little people in cute and fuzzy costumes.
A good portion of the budget was used to create the enormous animatronics
robot which portrays Aslan, albeit a bit stiffly.
No one will mistake it for an actual lion, although the head is realistic
and does demonstrate a good capacity for motion and expressiveness.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a dragon and a giant serpent
which appear later in the film, as neither is very convincing.
it to say that the special effects in The
Silver Chair are about on par with those seen in another long-running BBC
production, Dr. Who.
In fact, there is a common link - Tom Baker, who plays Puddleglum in The
Silver Chair, was one of the many actors who portrayed Dr. Who!
also has glacial pacing, or lack thereof, really.
This film moves along at a dignified crawl and, except for a portion of
the climactic Underland sequence, has very little action.
American audiences expecting a thrill-ride of a film will be
disappointed, for the film's decor and acting are somewhat stagy (as is typical
of BBC productions), and the film is mostly dialogue-driven during much of its
nearly three-hour length.
yet, despite its budgetary shortcomings, The
Silver Chair is a highly enjoyable film.
Its faithful and gripping storyline more than makes up for an absence of
white-knuckled action sequences. Of
the three BBC-Wonderworks co-productions, this is probably the finest.
Whether as an enchanting introduction to the land of Narnia for newcomers
or as a re-kindling of fond childhood memories for others, The
Silver Chair is a nice reminder that the prettiest CGI graphics will not
save a lousy movie, while a solid and imaginative story can easily overcome even
the constraints of a public television budget.
is presented in a full-screen format and was originally photographed on
videotape, not film. The image is
mildly soft and at times a little pixelated.
Colors sometimes look a little washed out in some daylight scenes or a
little muddy at night. Overall, an
okay transfer, but nothing spectacular.
is presented in Dolby Stereo with a merely serviceable audio.
Some scenes, such as the climatic Underland sequence, are loud but could
have benefited from a surround 5.1 audio or a more aggressive bass.
However, since the film is mostly dialogue-driven, this audio track is
isn't much in the way of extras here. The
stills gallery has only six production photos.
There is also a trivia game which tests your knowledge of the film (or
book). Complete it, and you'll get
a code word which will unlock a special treat at the Home Vision website.
- Clive Staples Lewis was not very fond of his birthname and much preferred the
nickname Jack, after his childhood dog.