The Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack has me torn. On the one hand, I've now got another fantasy-themed soundtrack that I can use in my role-playing game sessions. On the other, my geek music collection now includes a song by Alanis Morissette.
I mean no offense to the women geeks out there, for whom this is probably a good thing, it's just that I've never really liked Alanis' music all that much -- its just too depressing, too angsty for my taste (but hey, I still regularly listen to Huey Lewis). Fortunately her track on this album -- "Wunderkin" -- is fits the soundtrack quite well, and has less angst-per-beat than most of her other music.
But I get ahead of myself.
Into the Wardrobe
In the Chronicles of Narnia, four children -- two brothers, two sisters -- travel through a secret, magical portal in the wardrobe in a rambling old mansion and find themselves transported to a mythological kingdom that lies frozen by the icy rule of the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia. Their prophesied task is to defeat this queen, and return light and warm to the kingdom.
The film's been endlessly compared with The Lord of the Rings, but in truth they're very different creatures -- C.S. Lewis' Narnia is fundamentally a children's tale, where as Tolkien's Rings trilogy is clearly for adults. As a result, Narnia is a fantastic place, but one that its safe for children to visit. Yes, there is darkness … but there's also a certain mythical lion there that's ready and willing to help fight it.
That distinction is reflected in the Narnia soundtrack as well, which evokes a wonderous, magical land, but eschews the more marital and darker themes found in the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. It also features more vocal tracks than the LOTR soundtracks did, reducing the number of purely-musical tracks that are available for use at the gaming table.
A Sense of Wonder
The defining aspect of Chronicles of Narnia is a sense of wonder -- there is darkness, and certainly evil, but the prevailing theme that comes through when watching the film, and again when listening to the soundtrack, is the wonder that the children feel at venturing into the world of Narnia.
"Evacuating London" is typical of this, opening with a softly-sweet opening that transforms into a sweeping, grandiose sound, and is the sort of track that can't help but cause your chest to swell. "The Wardrobe" features a slowly rising "Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus" is equally fantastical, though more subdued. "The Stone Table" is a moody, ominous piece, and easily the darkest on the soundtrack. Its percussion beat combined with the bursts of choral singing, make it a good track for a fevered battle in a dungeon, or perhaps an escape from said battle.
"The Battle" is a traditional sword-and-sorcery track, by which I mean it's got the epic feel, complete with dramatic horns, chorus, and percussion, that you would expect from a fantasy soundtrack. It's the track on the album that could most easily be integrated into your average D&D campaign, and at 7:08 minutes, it can easily last through the opening rounds of some grand fight.
The soundtrack features four vocal tracks, the first two of which fit it particularly well. Despite their somewhat easy-listening sound, Imogen Heap's "Can't Take It In" and Alanis Morissette's "Wunderkind" are endearing without being saccharine and combined with the images from the movie make me smile almost every time.
Yep, even Alanis.
The acoustic piano and wobbling crooning on Tim Finn's "Winter Light" made it a track I generally skip, and Lisabeth Scott's "Where" is just sort of "there" -- not particularly memorable save for the fact that when it plays I know the soundtrack's about over.
Narnia movie fans will enjoy this soundtrack, but its not the sort of thing that will ever join the annals of tabletop RPG music like the Lord of the Rings soundtracks or the classic Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. Surprisingly I found it to be a good soundtrack for listening to at work and listened to it so much during December 2005 that I will now forever associate it with learning the intricacies of Drupal.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams, Label: Disney, Released: December 13, 2005
- Duration: 1.1 hours
- Buy it from Amazon.com