Prince Caspian

Fran and Rhiannon and I went to see Prince Caspian last night. Just a few thoughts on it…

  • It is definitely a sequel. If you haven’t seen (or read) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first, I suspect much of the story simply won’t make sense. The pace is faster than the first film, and assumes you are familiar with the characters and events from before.
  • It takes more liberties with the story than did the movie adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But I think it works fine, in that it has faithfully rendered many of the book’s most delightful and dramatic scenes (the haunting return to Cair Paravel, the meeting between Trumpkin and the Pevensie children, the combat between Peter and Miraz, the temptation to conjure the white witch, and Reepiceep’s plea to have Aslan restore his severed tail). Furthermore, the moral of the story — that faith is not just given to us gratuitously, that it requires taking real risks, often risks that are both unpopular and apparently foolish — remains intact.
  • Best special effect: the destruction of the bridge at Beruna. Meanwhile, the reawakening of the forest out-ents the ents in The Two Towers.
  • Reepiceep steals every scene that he is in. Considering that he is a major character in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this bodes well for the next film.
  • The movie unpacks how Caspian relates to both Peter and Susan. The spark between Caspian and Susan is quite lovely and understated, but the rivalry between him and Peter strikes me as the movie’s major misstep — with no satisfactory resolution provided.
  • The other flat note is Peter’s fight at the Strand Underground Station at the beginning of the film. What was that all about? I fail to see how it added anything to the story, other than underlining just how imperfect he is by suggesting he’s a bit trigger-happy — a point that is clearly made over the course of the story.
  • Peter Dinklage, whom you probably know as Miles the “angry elf” in Elf or Peter the gay extortionist in Death at a Funeral, totally nails the role of Trumpkin.
  • As in the book, this movie really underplays the religious allegory. It’s message is about faith and trust, and I think anyone — of any faith perspective — could relate to it.
  • What I didn’t expect: how the movie subtly reinforced the idea that this story has echoes of the Arthurian legend of the once and future king; and how joyfully the sense of Lucy’s love for the spirits of the trees (a love she finds mirrored in Aslan) tickled my Celtic soul.

It was a fun movie. I think it satisfactorily propels the story forward, and makes the most out of what is arguably the weakest of the seven Narnia novels. Like the first movie, I came away with a clear sense that this is not in the same league as Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings — but then again, Lewis’s books are not in the same league as Tolkien’s. So it all hangs together quite well. Expect a nicely done fantasy for young adults (never mind it has a PG rating!) and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Jan

    I’m glad to hear your recommendation, as I rarely go to a theater to see a movie. I’ve read all the books, so I’d be prepared, though I read them years and years ago. Thanks.

  • Peter

    Followed your tip, went to see it this evening with the family (on a sudden whim), enjoyed it and agreed with basically all you said here, particularly about Trumpkin, and Reepiceep, who does steal all his scenes. I’m not quite sure why the family and clan of Caspian have Spanish accents and appearance–but hey, this is a fun movie, and well worth the trip!

  • Cat Chapin-Bishop

    I’ve got my fingers crossed–this book meant a lot to me, growing up, as I tried to find a spiritual “roof” to put over my unchurched head… Only _The Voyage of the Dawn Treader_ means more to me.

    The scene in which Lucy wakes up, restless, and tries, through the force of her longing alone, to fully wake the trees around her, spoke to me so well as a child. And the scene, such a short while later, where she is the only one of the Pevensies to see Aslan, and has the unhappy privilege of having to wake her older siblings and try to get them to follow her, means a lot to me now that I’m a Quaker. Poor Lucy! It is always hardest to be faithful to the unpopular messages; and yet, for us as for her, that’s the job, isn’t it? To follow where we’re led, even when we feel sure we’re being seen as self-important idiots for it?

    I love this book. I hope the movie will do it justice!

  • Carl McColman

    Cat, I agree with you the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the finest of the Narnia books. I’m seriously thinking about creating an appendix in my book where I can talk about it as Lewis’ attempt to explain the mystical journey by using the Irish immrama as his literary template.

    Back to Caspian: I’m having a hard time deciding just how Pagan-friendly a movie it is, which I suppose is why I didn’t speak to that question in my review. I don’t want to offer you any spoilers, so I’ll just suggest that you be prepared for a storyline that has been considerably rewritten. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, here’s a comparison: Prince Caspian is less faithful to the book than was the movie adaptation of The Two Towers. But yes, Lucy’s yearning to touch the spirit of the trees is in the movie. I was disappointed that Silenus and Bacchus didn’t survive the transition to the silver screen — but the river god did. Anyway, after you see it, please let me know, either here or via email, what you think of it.

  • Peggy

    Yesterday afteroon I treated my son (19), daughter (36), and granddaughter (17) to the film. Of the four of us, I am the only one who has read all the Narnia books (several times), and as far as religion I am the only one who is familiar with the Christianity that C.S.Lewis espoused. The two teenagers saw the film as a great fantasy adventure film but the spirituality of the story was missed. My daughter who was raised on a church pew and has a background of Sunday School loved the story as a story about faith in dark times. She has lived it. As for me I was crying in the end. There iwas something so deep and profound there that I couldn’t contain it. I can’t say anymore other than please encourage your friends to see the film. It would be a good way to introduce them to something beyond Christian faith lite.

  • Rosie

    For me, it was more or less like the first one. It was pleasant with some nice photography and visual effects. It had a few tearjerker moments. And the four leads were . . . okay. But like the first movie, it didn’t have that special something for me.

  • Cat Chapin-Bishop

    One of the things I really appreciate about Lewis is that, like you, he did not allow his heart-felt conversion to Christianity to cause him to scorn pagans or paganism–he was, and remained, fascinated by Classical mythology.

    As an adult, I appreciate the way he balances his love for the one with his devotion to the other; as a child, both spoke to my as-yet-unformed spiritual self. And it’s in _Caspian_ that Lewis does the best job to thresh out his feelings around his two great loves, Classicism and Christianity.

    Of course this movie-maker is not going to capture all of that. I can only hope there will be echoes–it’s pretty clear from the marketing that the makers of the movie are well aware of the Christian market. But the director does seem to have enjoyed it as a child mainly as an adventure story… and to feel perfectly comfortable re-writing the stories, not just to make them better movies, as Peter Jackson did with Tolkien’s writing, but to make them into the stories he would have preferred for them to be.

    It’s too bad he feels so secure that his judgment is superior to Lewis’s. But there it is… he pretty obviously does, and we’ll be stuck with the result.

    My fingers are crossed anyway!