As The Chronicles of Narnia were among my favourite children’s books when I was young, I of course go to see this films. I loved the 2005 version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though I gather many panned it. This week I went to see the next installment, Prince Caspian. I don’t know what I was expecting as I heard that they made a fair number of changes. I wouldn’t let me wife see the movie until she had read the book, so I took the time to read it again and now understand what Ben Witherington meant when he said he wasn’t the strongest of the 7 books. I had wondered if it was just childhood enjoyment that caused me to remember it so fondly, but by the end I began to wonder why the four Pevensie children were there at all (OK, Lewis did give Peter a bit role at the end by fighting Miraz). But, this is about the film, not the book. Mid-way through, I thought, ‘I’m not going to like this,’ but at the end I felt that I did overall. Despite the changes, it ended where the book did.
What I didn’t like (I will get that out of the way):
- A lot less Aslan: I thought for a while Douglas Gresham (a producer in the series) had give up reading his late step-father for John Shelby Spong and we were going to get an ‘Aslan is in your heart’ message. I didn’t like Lucy’s first meeting with Alan turning up as a dream. I think this book just seemed to miss out on the children’s connection with Aslan and Lucy’s faith in Aslan, though there throughout the movie, seemed dulled – espeically in respect to her sister, brothers, and Trumpkin, who came to believe along the way. Of course, this set up in part Peter’s feelings of returning hero and saying ‘Maybe Aslan wants us to do this on our own this time’ (a motif not in the book at all). I was relieved that at the end, Alsan returned in the ‘fur’.
- The Relationship with Trumpkin: While I thought Trumpkin was beautifully acted, I don’t know if I ever got the sense that the children and the dwarf liked each other – or at least why. The book played out their relationship much better.
- Peter’s Lonely Hero Development: Lewis hints at some changes in Peter throughout the book noted mostly through his inability to see Aslan at first, but why change him into a whiney complainer who feels he has to do everything on his own and prove himself? Not that it couldn’t be there at all, but it felt a little over the top.
- Susan: Not so much that I didn’t like it, but I wonder how they will carry it on? In book 5 (The Horse and His Boy) we learn that she didn’t fight because she didn’t like it. And then, of course, what happens to her in Book 7.
- The Whole Storming the Castle scene: was it necessary? I guess it was just a development that furthered the whole Peter as a wannabe lonely hero motif that I didn’t like.
So, why did I end up liking it?
- Character Development: In the book, Lewis kept saying they were being transformed into the kings and queens they were instead of children – I didn’t get that in the book but a little. Here they made a go of it. While I didn’t particurly like where they went, the characters in the book felt flat. I liked that they tried to go somewhere with them and even if it didn’t work always, the story ended up being deeper. (Perhaps the other downside was that Caspian came out flatter in the film – I didn’t quite get that he truly wanted to lead Old Narnia as much as he wanted to escape Miraz. Maybe ‘flatter’ isn’t correct, they substituted revenge as the motive rather than Caspian being a good person who truly wanted Old Narnia to return.) I don’t why they chose to take Susan as the withdrawn wallflower, but it worked better than the Peter development.
- Susan-Caspian Romantic Tension: perhaps forced for a book with no romantic involvement, but it worked for me and helped Susan to overcome her withdrawn personality.
- Lucy’s Faith: With Peter trying to be the hero, I am glad it was counterbalanced by Lucy who believed Aslan would come. It set up a great question when she asked Peter, ‘Do you now believe it was you who defeated the White Witch?’
- The Scene with the White Witch: I thought this was awesome. They brought out what was implied in the book and drew it out for a great reunion. I loved when she looked at Peter and recognised him. I wonder if the scene would have worked slightly better with Edmund, but again they need to have Edmund say his line to Peter about doing it all himself.
- Reepicheep: I’m waiting for the battle between him and Shrek’s ‘Puss in Boots’. The cat tied up in the castle was great.
So now the wait is on for Book 3, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, my favourite growing up (outside of LWW). I am a little nervous, but we will see.