A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 540 – The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) – August 22nd, 2011

I grew up with the BBC adaptations of the Narnia books, which meant that I was used to this story getting folded in with the third one. And it’s understandable why that might be done, since the story itself is somewhat simple. Without the introduction of the world to fill the time, the story is mostly a walk through the woods and a climactic battle. The version I was used to uses this story as an introduction to the character of Caspian and whipped right through it all. This version, on the other hand, takes a much different route, expanding the story a good bit and building it up into something more substantial.

Honestly, I like it both ways, but in order to make this story a full movie on its own there had to be some serious adjustment to the story. I went back and reread the book to confirm what I remembered about the canon and indeed, I was remembering correctly. From what I’ve read, C.S. Lewis meant the story to be about the reaffirmation of faith after the corruption of a religion. What that means for the allegory he wrote is that there’s a hell of a lot of talking about whether the old stories are true or just made up. Whether Aslan is real. Whether it’s worth believing in him. Pretty much every character except Lucy and a talking badger named Trufflehunter need to be reminded of their faith in Aslan or discover it brand new. So in the book everyone walks around a lot and talks a lot and sits and debates a lot. The climactic battle is over in a page or two at most and we barely get to see Caspian once he’s fled the castle. That doesn’t really make for a great movie.

So, let’s talk changes. I realize a lot of people were unhappy with them, but I thought they worked fine for a movie adaptation. For one, Caspian’s not a boy here. He’s a young man. There’s a running theme of conflict between Caspian and Peter over who’s really in charge. The whole issue of no one believing in Aslan isn’t quite as heavily laid down and the battles take up a good deal more time. There’s more tension too, which I’ll come to.

The story involves the four Pevensie children being called back into Narnia unexpectedly, right off the train station platform, only to find that hundreds and hundreds of years have passed in Narnia since they were last there. The first story already established that time in Narnia passes much faster than time in our world, so it makes sense that a year for the Pevensies would be centuries for Narnia. In their absence, Narnia has been taken over by people called Telmarines, who are human but come from a long ways away and don’t have any respect for native Narnians or Narnian beliefs. They banished the Dwarves, the Giants, the Fauns and so on and so forth. The talking animals went deep underground, though many animals forgot how to talk and became wild again. The trees stopped talking, as did the rivers and streams. All the magic went into hiding.

Still, some people in Narnia like the old stories and the history, including Prince Caspian and his tutor, Professor Cornelius. But Prince Caspian’s uncle, Miraz, is on the throne, and he hates the old stories. And when his wife gives birth to a baby boy he plans on killing Caspian and taking over the royal line. Caspian flees, meets some old Narnians (two Dwarves and the aforementioned badget) and ends up pledging to lead a revolution against his uncle. Hurrah! He calls for help and that’s why the Pevensies end up there, answering the call of Susan’s horn.

The thing is, in this version what was all done separately by one group and another gets done more as a cohesive whole. In the book there’s a lot of “Now let me tell you the story of how this came to be, which the Pevensies only heard much later on” type narration. And it’s only mildly annoying as a device and works fine for the pacing. In a movie, on the other hand, it just wouldn’t work right. And if it isn’t going to work right as written, best to find a way around it. Having the Pevensies and Caspian meet earlier on is fine by me and most of the major events are kept intact regardless. They do still go to Aslan’s Howe and they do still have to deal with the hag and the werewolf who want to summon the White Witch back. They still have a duel with Miraz and his lords are still duplicitous bastards who stab him in the back and blame Caspian. And Lucy and Susan still go off with Aslan to help wake up the trees. It all just happens in a slightly different order and combination as it does in the book. And I don’t mind that. I think it works well for a cinematic version and keeps the story interesting.

By far the biggest noticeable change is Caspian’s age. I say noticeable because I honestly don’t think the pacing changes and lack of walking are noticeable in anything but a positive way, unless the only thing you like about the book is the discussions of faith. Caspian’s age, however, is a mixed bag. I can’t complain about Ben Barnes as Caspian. He’s got a good dashing quality about him and he’s got a noticeably different look to him than the Pevensie children, specifically Mosely and Keynes as Peter and Edmund. I understand why he was aged up. It created more conflict for the plot so there was more to deal with once Caspian and the Pevensies are united, and since the pacing was changed, that was going to happen sooner rather than later. At the same time, it very much changes the dynamic between Caspian and everyone else. There’s a romantic subplot for him and Susan that’s rather shoehorned in and then was apparently mostly taken out, leaving the remaining bits shallow and confusing. Despite all that, however, my biggest complaint is a nerdy nitpick: Caspian being a young man already in this one makes his relative lack of aging between this and Voyage of the Dawn Treader annoying from a continuity and Narnia canon standpoint.

Overall it’s a gorgeous movie, with good acting and visual effects, which is much in keeping with the first movie. I expected it to be beautiful. I expected lush backgrounds and I expected gorgeous costumes. I expected to enjoy seeing the Pevensies again and I expected to be impressed by the scale of the battle and the whole world. So I have no complaints there. And I felt like they did a good job adjusting the story to make a full theatrical feature. I think where it suffers is in its attempt to take a story that is far far less involved and impressive than the first and put it at the same level, which I honestly don’t think is a resolvable issue. It’s big and impressive, but it lacks the impact of the first movie, which isn’t this movie’s fault. It’s the story’s fault. Can’t really fix that.


August 22, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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