The Narnia Exhibition is … not bad.
I start from a position where I have little interest in seeing a range of props, so I’m a critical audience. I thought the Star Wars Exhibition a couple of years ago did a fine job of melding props, fun and science – and that remains my benchmark for this sort of thing. I thought Harry Potter was all props and nothing much else. Narnia has a bit of a bet each way.
There are a range of costumes and props from the movies. The treasure-room is pretty good as are the ice-queen’s various bits of equipment. If you are a movie fan there’s certainly enough there to keep you interested.
The interaction is pretty lightweight – it will appeal mostly to younger children. The one thing that sounds particularly cool in the advertising – firing a catapult at the castle walls – actually is pretty cool but you only get to watch someone doing it. Otherwise you can build an arch, and lift some armour; that sort of thing. Probably the most inventive display is the frozen waterfall. There’s a large wall which is extremely reminiscent of the back wall of an old fridge. There’s no defrosting on this baby, so you end up with a wall covered in light frost. That one really showed some imagination and was a big hit with everyone.
There is some science too. At least, there are some videos and panels making a nod to the fact that the Exhibition is taking place in a science museum. So, for example, they draw a conceptual line between the perpetual winter in Narnia and global warming. Good they’ve done it, but there is a feel that they are stretching a bit. There’s also some irony in an author creating a work that in some degree makes comment on the world about us, that book being made into a movie and then someone else writing stuff to use the movie to make comment on the world around us. Makes the old head spin.
So where does all this take us? If you are into Narnia, the Exhibition is definitely worth a visit. If you more just interested in seeing a big show I’d probably hesitate for a moment before forking out $45 for a family of four. That said, I just checked with my kids and they rated the exhibition far more highly than I did (which is not as often the case as you might assume) and would definitely tell their friends to go. So overall we’d recommend stepping through the wardrobe.
If you do decide to go, it’s worth remembering that the Exhibition is really about the first two movies rather than the books, and you’ll benefit from taking a look at them again before setting out. Also if you’re taking kids be careful with expectation management – the only place you see Aslan is in the advertising.
The opening event, by the way, was not so hot (and I admit may have coloured our view of the whole thing). Herded into a side-room where we were offered a small range of finger-food while standing around for most of an hour while a few good actors struggled to entertain the kids – what were they thinking? Quite a few people talked longingly of the opening of the Star Wars Exhibition back in the day. I do so wish the Powerhouse would lift its game.