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A Review of Prince Caspian: One Christian Disappointed

I’ve heard a handful of rave reviews for Prince Caspian the movie but can’t say that I can join them in their enthusiasm.  I feel even like I ought to title this review something like “A review of that movie which is titled after Prince Caspian and has characters similarly named and slight plot resemblances.”  But that is too long.  I probably would not be as disappointed if the first Narnia movie hadn’t been so faithful to the text of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I favorably reviewed here.  I assumed that the same careful attention to the text would be paid.

Alas, it was not so.

It left me scratching my head, to be honest.  Some of the changes were unnecessary, or so it seems to me.  A very small example would be the rephrasing of Aslan’s statement about not knowing the future so that it came across as ‘open theistic,’ when they could have just used the statement that Lewis put in his mouth which would have avoided that.  What did they trim out, 4-5 words?  More substantially, Bacchus and Silenus are  completely omitted, though they played such an important role in the book.  Is it because of the pagan overtones? But that did not stop the movie producers from presenting the ‘river-god’ though probably viewers could not guess at Lewis’s description of him in the book just from what was seen on the screen.

All this I could probably abide.  The thing that really bothered me was the presenting of the characters, in particular the four children.  Miraz was well enough and so was Reepicheep, and I suppose Lucy, but the rest… a little strained, in particular and mostly Peter himself.  The movie begins with Peter and Edmond in a fight with rowdies from school and we are led to believe that this is angst of some sort from being away from Narnia.  Then, in Narnia, he is very headstrong, and clashes often with Prince Caspian, and this is nothing like what we see in the book.  This plot innovation culminates in the insertion of a really long scene which is filled with action and excitement for the movie goers and solidifies the fact that Peter is hell bent on doing things his own way.  The book does not contain that scene.

The book does have a bit about the dilemma about whether or not to put their trust in Aslan, though it is expressed differently and doesn’t require Peter becoming a complete ass, having half the army slaughtered on account of his arrogance, before learning his lesson.

I know that the movie producers probably had a problem and a half trying to turn Prince Caspian into a feature length movie, and so the insertion of the scene I mentioned followed naturally.   I would have suggested a way which did not require almost completely redefining a character as important as Peter’s.

Other revisions were not as significant.  Caspian and Susan’s mutual attraction for each other seems natural enough.  Other things they got reasonably close, like the coming of the trees, the single combat, and the explanation for the Telmarine presence in Narnia, which I was afraid they were going to skip.

All this said, as a stand alone movie it is well enough.   It is still a worthy competitor to the Philip Pullman Dark Material series.  It still has some spiritual sustenance, but not, I’m afraid, the amount, nor the kind, that was found in the book.

It pains me to say it, but there it is.  Maybe I’m too much of a purist.



    • Helen on June 2, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I totally agree. I missed the presence of Baccus and Silenus and the marvelous feast of grapes. I hated the way that they turned Trumpkin into a grumpy dwarf that was more like Nikabrik than anything else. And do you realize that they didn’t even mention Dr. Cornelius’s name? He was such an important figure in the book. They left out what is perhaps my favorite moment in the whole book, where Aslan takes up Trumpkin in his mouth and tosses him into the air. What disturbed me most, however, is the utter lack of consequences for Peter. If C.S. Lewis had written a “storming of the castle” scene into the book, and Peter HAD just walked off, abandoning the army to their fate, there would have been dire consequences, not just for the army, but for Peter PERSONALLY. And this is not just speculation. Towards the end of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Prince Caspian head-strongly decides to go to the end of the world with Reepicheep, and throws a temper tanrum when told he mustn’t. He is then told by Aslan that he must go back to Ramandu’s Island as a punishment ot sorts. i left the theater after watdhing the movie feelinglike I’d been betrayed by a close friend. I know I’m not the only one to feel this way. Let’s just hope that they stick more closely to the book with the rest of the movies. If they don’t, I shall scream.

    • Anthony on June 2, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your comments. I’ve had some friends tell me that they believe that Peter’s castle charge, though not in the book, was consistent with and a clarification of the lack of trust illustrated when Lucy first told them that she had seen Aslan. It seems disproportionate to me, but I hadn’t thought about the proportional remedies which Lewis includes elsewhere. Prince Caspian’s annoyance in Dawn Treader is one example and it made me think too of the Eustace’s situation on Dragon Island and Aslan’s solution. “No one is told any story but their own” but the innovation with Peter is not balanced with Aslan’s response.

    I have likewise heard complaints about what they did with Trumpkin.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. I for one think it would be horrid if you were driven to screaming, but I will keep a sharp ear out for it the next movie release. 🙂

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