The more I hear about the upcoming Prince Caspian film (to be released May 16), the more worried I am about it. First, there was director Andrew Adamson’s promise (clearly supposed to excite us) that the movie would be “battles all the way through.” Then there was the screenwriters’ post on the official film blog indicating that they would be exploring the psychological difficulties faced by the Pevensie children as they deal with the transition from being Kings and Queens in Narnia to being schoolchildren in England. Blech.
Now, a report from Quint at Ain’t It Cool News on 45 minutes of footage from the film reveals the details of these revisions (Feel free to skip the profanity-laced narrative of his plane journey and scroll down to where he begins to describe the footage).
Apparently the first scene with the Pevensies involves Peter fighting with another boy in a London Underground station. Great. Describing this scene, Quint reports, “It’s pretty clear that Peter wishes he was important again, someone to be loved and respected. He doesn’t say as much, but it’s pretty obvious. He went from King to child in war-torn Britain overnight.” It’s hard to tell how much of this is Quint’s interpretation and how much is actually in the scene, but it would seem to fit with what the screenwriters had in mind when they wrote the following:
Another intriguing thing for us in revisiting these characters has been exploring the effects their experiences in the first film might’ve had on them. It’s an area Lewis leaves mostly untouched. He memorably examines what it would be like for a 1940’s schoolkid to become King of Narnia. However, he doesn’t much consider what it would be like for a King of Narnia to return to being a 1940’s schoolkid.
That year back in London must have been awkward at best. Imagine going from giving orders…to taking them. From fighting wars and throwing royal balls…to doing homework. Given their different personalities, each Pevensie handles the situation with varying levels of success. Some are resigned, others frustrated, and their sudden return to Narnia should push different buttons in each.
Does it occur to them that there might be a reason that C.S. Lewis doesn’t explore this aspect of the children’s experience? That he might want to leave it up to the readers’ imaginations? That it might not be relevant to the story he’s telling?
I’ve been trying to figure out why the scene described bothers me so much, and I think it has to do with the fact that it basically undermines Aslan’s explanation (and yes, this is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which occurs after Prince Caspian) that the children have been brought to Narnia to meet Aslan so that they may come to know him better back in their own world. Lewis never really explores how the children come to know “Aslan” in England because this would obviously involve blatant didacticism. But this one passage from Dawn Treader has been a huge comfort for young readers like myself, who thrilled to the possibility that we could meet Aslan in our own world (hint: he’s Jesus), in our own stories.
From the film clip description, it seems like the filmmakers are more intent on exploring how the children are feeling bereft back in their own world—not even feeling bereft of Aslan, which would be understandable if they haven’t yet figured out that he’s in England too, but feeling bereft of grown-up “importance.”
From later scenes Quint describes, it appears that Peter’s return to Narnia doesn’t really improve his character. He pushes for a large-scale attack because his “over-confidence has crossed over into cockiness. He’s King here. He can do anything.”
Bah. Can’t contemporary Hollywood give us an uncomplicated, noble king for once? In the film of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter was the reluctant king figure—like a wimpier, adolescent version of what Peter Jackson made Aragorn into in The Lord of the Rings movies. Are we so steeped in irony that we can’t trust a character who is humble and yet kingly? Do we not understand the difference between humility and lack of self-esteem? Or between authority and cockiness?
Of course, the children do learn hard, character-forming lessons in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. They’re not perfect little beings, nor should they be. But there’s something about Aslan declaring you King or Queen that enables you to start acting like a King or Queen—and that’s the aspect that sounds like it’s totally missing here. Also, let’s not forget Aslan’s words at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.”
So, Christ and Pop Culture readers, do you share my fears about the Prince Caspian movie? Or am I being too picky?
Hat tip to Peter Chattaway’s FilmChat for many of these Caspian updates.