Prince Caspian

This past weekend I saw the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I’ll say up front that it’s worth seeing, though there were a few things I wish had been done better. Be warned that there are spoilers in this review, and it assumes you are familiar with the first movie (or book) in the series – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

I love the Chronicles of Narnia books, and hope to see the entire series go to screen. Whether all seven get made depends on the success of each movie as it is released. The problem is that in my opinion, Prince Caspian is the weakest of the Narnia stories.

The story of how Caspian X comes to rule Narnia is not so compelling in itself as it is a combination of Narnia-revisited nostalgia and a bridge to the next book – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which is my favorite of the series) – introducing two new Narnians – Caspian and the chivalrous mouse Reepicheep – who have larger roles in the next story. In the first two-thirds of the book, the four Pevensie children, back from the first story, wander about attempting to discern just why they have been summoned back to Narnia, what happened in the thousand or so Narnian years they have been gone (only one year in their Earth-lives), and where to find Aslan. In the end, the kids and Caspian marshal Narnians to battle against their Telmarine (Spanish pirate) oppressors and Aslan appears to set things aright.

This is not to say Prince Caspian is a bad book – it has its moments. But the movie makers really had their work cut out for them, and my hope was that they’d pull it off and not let the weakest story abort the film series. I think they succeeded. First, the movie has much better pacing than the book, at least until the gratuitous failed castle assault (which is not in the book). Secondly, the film did a nice job of fleshing out the Telmarine characters who are stiffs in the book. Also, the CGI is excellent.

On the negative side, there’s just too much battle and too much killing – and I’m someone who likes war movies. But it’s just out of place here. The book has only a short battle at the end. I can buy that more action is needed in the screen version for box office appeal, but it was over-done and became tiresome toward the end. Secondly, what is perhaps the most vital moral theme in the book – Lucy’s struggle of faith in coming to follow her vision of Aslan, even when her family discourages and hinders her – is truncated in the movie to the point of being non-visible to anyone who hadn’t read the book. I hope this is amended in the director’s cut DVD.

The best character in Prince Caspian (and in Dawn Treader) is Reepicheep the swash-buckling mouse – a classic little guy who talks big. Though always a comic character, Reepicheep backs up his mouse-that-roared style with valor and eloquence, and evokes affection from readers of the two books in which he appears. My second concern going into the movie was whether the film-makers could pull off Reepicheep, who I think was as essential to do right as Yoda was to Star Wars. I think they succeeded, though I wish the scene where Aslan grants Reepicheep a new tail (after his is lost in combat) had been done less comically and more dramatically as in the book (where it is almost a tear-jerker).

Other differences are in detail, but one is mildly poignant to those familiar with the entire series. The movie adds a romantic interest between Caspian and Susan that is not in the book. It seems unnecessary, but the final scene does serve as an affectionate good-bye to Susan, who does not appear again in the series, and in the final story (The Last Battle) is revealed to have undergone a kind of fall-from-grace in allegorical terms.

Despite my criticisms, I like the movie version of Prince Caspian. And here’s hoping the series makes it to the action-packed The Horse And His Boy (5th) and bittersweet The Magician’s Nephew (6th), and that I live long enough to see them all in peace and in freedom.

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2 Responses to “Prince Caspian”

  1. Norm says:

    We saw the first one, but neither KK or I seem to be interested in seeing this one.

    Must be the weather, we both liked the first one.

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