If Disney’s adaptation of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” felt inevitably overshadowed by another CG-heavy, Kiwi-helmed fantasy franchise, so this dual-disc collector’s set suggests a “Lord of the Rings” extended extended edition. The extravagant behind-the-scenes bonuses deliver an overwhelmingly comprehensive primer on visual effects, critter cosmetics and the logistical challenges of shooting in New Zealand, in the process relegating C.S. Lewis (you know, that English dude who wrote the book) to a beaver-sized footnote.
Shrewdly packaged as it was for mainstream Christian consumption, the film didn’t call attention to its allegorical parallels, and neither does the DVD. Indeed, any suggestion that Lewis was a serious theologian as well as a great fantasist appears to have been gently airbrushed away from the bland, brief featurette on his life and writings, “From One Man’s Mind.”
That title seems to better describe helmer Andrew Adamson, a heretofore unobtrusive figure who emerges here — in a 38-minute documentary, interviews with the pic’s top craftsmen, and two individual commentary tracks — as more or less the auteur of the whole enterprise, like a lighter version of his countryman Peter Jackson.
“He’s not only a genius, which is rare enough in itself, but he’s a nice genius,” says thesp Anna Popplewell, whose chemistry with young castmates William Moseley, Skandar Keynes and too-cute Georgie Henley is showcased as effectively behind the scenes as it was in the finished film.
The pic’s digital wizardry receives the lion’s share of the extras on the creatures of Narnia, including Aslan, the film’s furry facsimile of Jesus, who is revealed as an uncanny synthesis of CGI and hand-crafted puppets.
In the meantime, one learns all one could possibly want to learn about the finer points of medieval weaponry, and the prosthetic miracles that enabled the creatures to come to bigscreen life. Given how little Lewis elaborated on this stuff in his novels (unlike “Rings,” where Tolkien’s meticulously crafted worlds actually warranted Jackson’s geeky attention to detail), all this behind-the-scenes technical bloat can’t help but feel a little misplaced. When the lion and witch are this compelling, why should the wardrobe hog all the attention?