Review: Prince Caspian Movie

While The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stayed very true to the original text, its sequel, Prince Caspian strayed from it. However, since Prince Caspian has been cited as among Narnia fans’ least favorite of the series, I suppose it is likely that the filmmakers thought it wise to take liberties to change the story, in the hope that they could make it better. Either they change the story, or they choose another novel to adapt.

Since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is often cited as Narnia fans’ favorite of the series, it seems logical to start with that book, even though it does not come first chronologically. (Read this page for more information about written vs. chronological order.) C. S. Lewis wrote it first, so it makes sense to adapt it first for that reason, but some backstory is left untold, and the question remains of where to go next? Producers chose to continue with the written order, rather than the chronological order, which I would have loved, since The Horse and His Boy is one of my favorite books in the series, and its events occur during the Golden Age of Narnia, the sixteen years during which the Pevensie’s are kings and queens.

Regardless of proper order or fan favorites, Price Caspian was chosen as the film sequel, and for reasons I am about to contemplate, another choice was made to not make a true-to-text adaptation of the novel.

Storyline: One of the biggest storyline differences from the book to the screen involves a nighttime raid on Miraz’s castle, which simply does not happen in the book. The idea to do so may have been suggested, but it was later refuted, and so the raid did not take place. I suppose it’s much like the attack on the Burrow in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It didn’t happen in the book, but in hindsight it may have been necessary to keep the film moving, exciting, or to add length. Be that as it may, this attack is among my least favorite scenes of all the Narnia movies. Cornelius, who in the book escapes the castle on his own, is right when he tells Caspian that he didn’t help him escape just so he could break back in. But then Cornelius makes a mistake when he eludes to Miraz’s murder of Caspian’s father, after which Caspian gets upset, wakes Miraz to get an explanation out of him, which he gets, but at the price of raising the alarm and putting a wrench in the plans. Edmund doesn’t help matters when he drops his flashlight (torch). All in all, it’s a difficult scene to watch, because we see the heroes of the story fail time and time again, as the arrogant antagonists win this battle.

Apart from this one big addition, there are events that happen out of order and characters who meet each other out of order. Also, there are some character relationship changes, which I will explain next, and several more character trait changes, which I will explain later.

One character relationship change is the romance between Caspian and Susan, which simply did not take place in the book. But, let’s face it: this is Hollywood.

Another character relationship change is the conflict between Caspian and Peter. In the book, Caspian seemed to respect Peter and vice versa. In the movie, Peter openly blames and insults Caspian for ruining the whole Operation Miraz-Castle-Invasion, even though it was Peter’s idea, and Caspian was against it from the start. They argue about many things, but then, Peter argues a lot more with everyone in the movie than he does in the book, which is his added character trait, as I will explain below.

Characters: Peter the prideful. From the very start of the film, Peter gets into a fight in the subway station, because someone bumped him, because he didn’t think he had to apologize, and because he was upset that he spent sixteen years as an adult in Narnia, only to become a child again after his return from Narnia. All because of pride, because he thinks he is better than he is in that moment. Later, in Aslan’s How, Peter totally dismisses Aslan out of pride. He says, “I think we’ve waited for Aslan long enough.” Then, during the castle invasion, when he still had a chance to call it off, he let his pride get in the way. He says, “I can still do this!” Notice he says “I”, not “we”. Then, when he leads the charge, he yells, “For Narnia!”, which is in stark contrast to the first film, when he yells “For Narnia, and for Aslan!” before that battle. In his pride, Peter has forgotten Aslan. He lost faith in the face of pride.

Susan the apathetic. Where Peter, in his pride, has dismissed Aslan, Susan has dismissed Narnia altogether, which again explains to me why she isn’t included when the others arrive in the New Narnia of The Last Battle. She says to Lucy, “I finally just got used to the idea of being back in England.”

Edmund the changed. Edmund has changed for the better as a character. He learned so much from his prior transgressions, that his character doesn’t have to learn any new lessons during the course of this film. He is a strong, loyal character, especially to Lucy, as he takes her side when she tells the others that she saw Aslan. I think Skandar Keynes is a fine actor, and possibly my favorite of the four, particularly in this film.

Lucy the hopeful. It would seem that Lucy can do no wrong. Her character has no flaws in the previous film, nor does she have any in this one. She has not lost faith in Aslan. When Susan asks why she didn’t see Aslan, Lucy responds, “Maybe you didn’t want to see him.” When Peter asks the same question later and wonders why Aslan didn’t give him some sort of proof, she says, “Maybe we’re the one’s who need to prove ourselves to him.”

Prince Caspian. His character is the victim of the story, and even though the film is named for this character, I don’t have a lot to say about him. He is a major character, but his character seems pretty flat to me. He deals with pride too, but not on the same level as Peter does. Obviously, Peter’s pride won out in the battle against Caspian’s pride when deciding to invade the castle. Nonetheless, well done, Ben Barnes.

King Miraz is the new evil character in this story, but he is no white witch. After all, he is human. He is not openly evil either. After all, he had is wife fooled about murdering his brother, though her character is much different in the movie compared with the book as well. He is very much a Macbeth-like character. He commits murder in order to usurp the crown. He becomes a corrupt leader. The lords of his own country don’t like him and encourage him to fight with Peter, not because they were confident he would win, but because they knew it was possible he could lose. Speaking of which, in the book, Miraz was always king, but the movie elaborates on politics, on the council of lords, and on his becoming king.

General Glozelle is an interesting character to me. Despite receiving many orders from Lord/King Miraz to kill innocent people–Caspian, three soldiers after the Narnian raid–Glozelle remains loyal to Miraz. Only in the end, when the other lords appear to go against him, does he also encourage Miraz to fight against Peter. He is not killed by Peter, as happens in the book, but instead, his character is redeemed. When Glozelle has an opportunity to kill Caspian, he hesitates and doesn’t. Instead, he is among the first, along with Miraz’s wife and child, to walk through the Door in the Air.

The Telmaries are not what I expected, but considering that Aslan reminds us in the end that their ancestors were sea-faring brigands from our world, I can excuse and even embrace their dark skin and their accents.

The White Witch symbolizes something slightly different than pure evil in this film. Instead, she is the symbol of temptation. She tempts Caspian with power that he does not currently have. She does the same for Peter. Edmund, who was not tempted, pierces through the ice wall, destroys her magic a second time, and utters my favorite line to Peter, “I know, you had it sorted.”

Aslan appears much later in this film than he does in the first film, and even later than he does in the book. He explains to Lucy why he couldn’t come roaring in like last time, and the reason has to do with faith. Lucy was right all along. Aslan left, because his people lost faith. He didn’t come roaring in as he did last time, because his people didn’t have faith that he would come. Lucy rode out to find him. Lucy looked for him, because she had faith in him. She had faith that he would return. And so, he did. As Narnians, or rather, as Christians, we have to meet Aslan, or God, halfway. We can’t expect God to give us $100 if we pray for it. He’s not a genie, so it doesn’t work that way. We have to prove ourselves to him, as Lucy says. If we want $100, we have to ask God for guidance, perhaps, in choosing the right job to work for that money. God can help us, but we have to work too.

Aslan is the one who really teaches the final lesson about pride in the end. When he asks the kings and queens to rise, Caspian doesn’t, saying, “I do not think that I am ready.” Aslan responds, “It is for that reason that I know you are.” Caspian shows humility in that moment, which is a kingly trait. Later, when Reepicheep, another awesome character, asks for a new tail, Aslan gives him one. This moment shows the difference between pride and nobility. Reepicheep is noble, not prideful. He may not always be humble, but he is honorable. Centaurs also are not prideful; they are noble.

Visuals: There is some pretty awesome scenery in this movie too, which is understandable as almost the entire movie appears outdoors. The scenery from Bovec is particularly incredible. (Bovec is the small town where the bridge was built and filming took place.) Before the bridge scenes are the battle scenes, and they are also particularly well filmed. The trees coming to life and tearing down the catapults? Very cool. I especially like the way, before that, the Narnians break the underground columns so that the Telmarine cavalry would fall into them. It is a visually awesome scene.  The computer graphics are not flawless in this scene, but I forgive them for the brilliant idea. Before that, Susan standing alone, ready to shoot arrows into her pursuers, in the forest with light filtering through the trees is also breathtaking.

The coronation, while different than the first movie’s coronation, is also a visually cool scene, I think. I especially like that each lord pledges troops from each “province” in Narnia, using real names such as “Ettensmoor”, where Puddleglum (from Silver Chair) is from. Even though I don’t care for the castle invasion scenes, from a visual standpoint, I do like the flying attacks from above the castle.

Later in the movie, the Door in the Air visual effect is also pretty awesome. So is the train leaving (in the beginning as well as the end of the film). I like that after the train leaves, the station is completely empty and we hear Aslan’s roar, as we did from the wardrobe in the first film. Speaking of Aslan, visually, the hairs of his mane improved even from the previous movie’s near-perfection.

Music: Great music, again by Harry Gregson-Williams, though I admit I don’t care for this soundtrack as much as the first one. The first soundtrack, indeed the entire first movie, seemed much more magical than this one, but then, that has more to do with the storyline than it does with the composer. Four tracks I do like, though, are: “Return of the Lion” and “The Door in the Air” (very similar to “Only the Beginning of the Adventure”), both by Gregson-Williams, as well as “The Call” by Regina Spektor, and “This is Home” by Switchfoot. I tend to notice the very small things too, such as Mr. Tumnus’s theme come in very briefly when we see his drawing on the walls of Aslan’s How, a theme I loved from the first movie.

I should note here that the special features in the two-disc DVD edition are pretty awesome, particularly where music is concerned. There are two piano pieces that are featured that, despite my searching far and wide, I have not been able to identify. Perhaps I’ll post them here later.

Summary: Despite the many changes that were made from book to film, this is a wonderful family-friendly film that can readily be used to teach kids two very important lessons: pride and faith. What can happen if you give in to the temptation of pride, how to avoid the sin of pride, and what it means to have faith. Having faith doesn’t mean you can expect wishes granted by a genie around every corner, and it doesn’t mean that God is going to be visible to you in every moment. Faith means that we have to prove ourselves to God, and meet Him halfway, if it is in His will to help us.