Saturday, June 7, 2008

Prince Caspian

Like most American Christians, I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis' writings, particularly The Chronicles of Narnia. When the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came out a few years ago, I was excited. I went to see it almost immediately after it came out (a rarity for me), and I was not disappointed. The cinematography was beautiful, the acting was good, and the film was very faithful to the book.

So, as the time for the release of the Prince Caspian film drew near, I once again found myself getting excited. I went to see the movie only two days after it came out. This time, though, I was confused. I constantly found myself asking, "that wasn't in the book, was it?" It seemed that great liberties had been taken with the text. However, I was not completely sure, since I had not read the book in quite some time, and my memory of it was quite fuzzy.

(SPOILER ALERT: The following contains details about the book and movie!)

So, I quickly reread the book and discovered, not to my surprise, that the movie was indeed quite different from the book. One major difference is that Susan, who in the book is gentle and mild and who does not get involved in the fighting, has been turned into a butt-kicking Rambina who is deadly with her bow at any distance (much like Legolas in the Lord of the Rings). At one point, she even commands a platoon of archers. This, of course, is a tip of the hat to modern feministic sensibilites, and I have no problem with it, since it really does not affect the overall story at all.

Second, unlike in the book, Susan and Prince Caspian have a crush on each other throughout the film. While a little silly and annoying, this change also does not alter the overall story much. Again, it is a nod to modern sensibilities; after all, what's a movie today if it doesn't have some element of romance in it?

A third difference from the book concerns the scene where Prince Caspian is tempted to seek out the help of the White Witch. In the book, the temptation is a mere suggestion, whereas in the book, the Witch actually appears, along with a couple of gruesome characters that will be very frightening to young children (Audrey held her hand over Beth's eyes until this scene was over; this is the only part of the movie that I think is unsuitable for children under ten or so).

The fourth and most significant difference lies in what the Pevensie children, Prince Caspian, and the army of Old Narnia do once the children link up with the Prince. In the book, when Peter and his siblings meet the prince, Peter happily turns over his kingship to Prince Caspian. But in the film, Peter has obviously been struggling with the ordinariness of life as a schoolboy in England after having been a warrior and king in Narnia. When he returns to Narnia, he is eager to reassert himself and prove that he still has what it takes.

This, of course, leads to a confict between Peter and Caspian as to who is really in charge. Knowing that Caspian's wicked uncle king Miraz and his forces will soon be on the attack, the two clash over what to do. Caspian wants to let Miraz come to them, while Peter wants to go on the offensive. Caspian also urges that they wait on Aslan's guidance before deciding what to do, but Peter will have none of it. Finally, Peter pulls rank and leads the Narnian army on a disastrous assault on Miraz's castle that costs countless Narnians their lives. In doing so, he learns a valuable lesson about pride and control.

As William Moseley, the actor who plays Peter said, "I think my character learns a very important lesson about humility. He learns that leadership at the end of the day is about serving other people--serving a place or a country and not serving yourself. And Peter had to reinstate his trust in Aslan to learn that lesson." Well spoken, William! (Source: WORLD magazine, May 17/24 2008).

And as my daugher Audrey said on the way home, Peter's experience in the film teaches us that when we refuse to wait on the Lord, taking things into our own hands and doing our own will, rather than His, bad things always happen. (I was immensely proud of Audrey for seeing that!)

So, by making this significant change to Lewis' classic book, the filmmakers (intentionally or not, I don't know), actually made the spiritual content of the book even stronger and more powerful. In so doing, they made the movie even better than the book. I cannot recommend the film highly enough (as long as you are 10 or older)!

Pre-production on the film version of the third book in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favorite book in the series) has already begun. This film is scheduled for release in 2010! I can't wait!!

To read WORLD magazine's two outstanding articles on the film from their May 17/24 issue, click here and here. Click here to read another excellent article.

Also, click here for a review of the film by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Just for fun, here is the trailer for the film. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

The BBC many years ago made a serries of films on the Narnia Chronicles. It's available on DVD.


Clint said...

Typing from a hotel lobby....

We saw the movie the other day and liked it even more than the first one. In fact, I couldn't wait for the first movie to come out a few years ago, and when I finally got to see it, I was a little let down.

Don't get me wrong, it was good, but not as good as I had expected. I think that it was the problem of comparison with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is just more complex and involved. Narnia tends to be simpler. But I liked it.

But Prince Caspian was VERY good. I think, as a whole, it was more impressive than the book - which is a rarity. (Nod to Frederica on that one, too).

All of that to say, that I second your recommendation!

Jessica (Fulton) said...

Well, I probably should keep my mouth shut since I haven't actually seen the new film yet, but I'm going to have to say that I agree with Clint about the previous Narnia film. Basically, I liked it, but I wasn't blown away by it. The special effects were really cheesy, especially the extended battle scenes with creatures straight out of the LOTR movies (e.g., the flying eagles dropping rocks, etc.).

My critique, though, is probably just because I'm much more a fan of books than movies in general. I'm definitely glad that Narnia is getting some good exposure; hopefully it will inspire people to read the books and get the message behind them.