Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MOD-BLOG REVIEW: Prince Caspian

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

MPAA Rating: [PG]

Mod-Blog Rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Version:

This big screen adaptation of the second book in C.S. Lewis's Narnia books departs from the original far more than the earlier effort. But it is a fun movie with good characterization and a strong plot. This movie is much darker than the predecessor, as well, so parents of small children may wish to be especially careful of bringing them along. Christian themes remain, but as with the books are not overt and the general moral should be enjoyable to peoples of all faiths (and no faith).

The Long Version:

Of all of the Narnia books, Prince Caspian is generally regarded as the weakest. When C.S. Lewis wrote "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", he did not intend it as a series of children's books. And he resisted calls from his editors for years to write one for the profit of it. But one day, the muse took him and he quickly wrote this sequel. The unplanned nature of the story is fairly evident in the book in weaker characters, a plot which is pretty much a long walk followed by a short battle (a criticism often made of Tolkien as well), and a sense that Aslan's appearance is almost an afterthought.

When the filmmakers set out to adapt the book, they sought to correct many of these weaknesses and bring out some of the thoughts Lewis mentioned after the fact. This has lead to a significant departure from the original plot including a new (bad) attitude in Peter, a raid on a castle that never existed in the original, and brings together the main characters and the eponymous Prince Caspian much earlier. It also, strangely, gives Aslan even less screen-time than in the book. This has lead to some outrage on the part of Lewis purists.

But, the changes work and each provides a specific piece of the puzzle missing from the book. (Peter's attitude finally lets us think about what it was like to go from being adults in Narnia to children in England, the raid on the castle explains why the bad guys act as they do in the final battle, etc.) The whole is stronger than the original in many ways. The themes of perseverance in the face of evil, courage, and following your heart (God) even if no one else believes remain clear. And the additions also allow for highlights of the depth of Lewis's imagination (and WETA's workshop) by showing some things only implied in the original (for example, heroic creatures which were shown as evil in the original).

However, the movie is not perfect and the changes make the tone far darker than the first movie. Some parents who were happy to bring their young children to "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" may want to keep them at home and bring them back in a few years. Real deaths are shown (without gore), good characters are lost in apparently unjust ways, and some of the visuals certainly lend themselves to nightmares (the images of the walking, warring trees, which are far less anthropormophic than Peter Jackson's Ents seem designed to terrify toddlers). This should not be taken as a criticism, per se. These images and choices are essential to the drama.

Overall, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is an excellent movie worthy of your time.


"Nick" said...

I concur with your assessment:) I always liked the book, for a while it was my favorite. Not having read them in a while, I hadn't thought about the failings of the book... but I did think the movie was quite good, well plotted and characters were pretty well developed.

shadwomom1 said...

I did not read the books, but enjoyed the movie.