Prince Caspian, a Review

May 19, 2008 | 24 comments
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This movie was better than the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (reviewed here). Prince Caspian was a good movie.

[SPOILERS]

[SPOILERS]

-The story is pretty different than the book, though recognizably related. It works OK, at least as well as mechanically reproducing the book would have.

-The story is still too much Adventure and not enough Romance. This ruined the first film more than it does this film, though, because the feel of Prince Caspian the book is a more warlike and adventurous feel. Even so . . . someone should tell the fightscene choreographers that in the Narnia books, ‘the bolt of Tash falls from above’ move in swordplay is ridiculuous, not gee whiz awesome. And someone should let the writers know that Sir Reepicheep is not just a kick-butt scrappy dude. He is the comic but sympathetic exaggeration of aristocratic honor. The film doesn’t show that until the end, by which time it almost seems out of character. An opportunity lost. Honor is the element of the feel of Prince Caspian the book that is most missing from the film.

–I need to see more movies or y’all need to see less. The problem with the arts these days is that they are too bifurcated: fine art is too exclusive, endlessly quoting and commenting on itself and comprehensible or enjoyable only to those who have made it their life, while popular art lacks subtlety or intelligence. I would have said that movies suffer from being “popular,” but while watching this film I wondered if movies might also suffer from being “fine.” The overwrought, lurid action (to me) might well suit y’all who watch these things all the time and enjoy the choreography and spectacle for themselves.

–Others abide our question, but Trumpkin the dwarf stands free. He is absolutely perfect, much more himself in the film than what I imagined reading.

–The growing-up theme with Peter and Susan leaving Narnia forever hit me deeper in the film than in the book.

–The trust-in-Aslan theme from the book got too much play.

–The Aslan of this film is, I’m sorry to say, mostly a tame lion. I see him publishing a self-help book and doing the daytime talk circuit.

Update:
Some good reviews here. I mostly agreed with the Greydanus review, though I obviously think the movie’s version of Trumpkin was a noteworthy creation even though it wasn’t the one from the books.

24 Responses to Prince Caspian, a Review

  1. Russell Arben Fox on May 19, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I finally did see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by the way. It was all right. It did nothing to change my fundamental doubts about about the appropriateness of Lewis’s stories of Narnia for the epic-fantasy-movie mold, but only confirmed them, and it seems likely–based on reviews, interviews, and trailers–that Prince Caspian will only continue to do so.

    Still, being geeks at heart, we’ll see it…eventually. As we’re basically broke, the odds of us catching it in the theater are about a thousand-to-one, so it’ll be Netflix for us. There are only two movies coming out this summer that are important/appealing/exciting enough to us to shell out the $20 to catch them on the big screen, and they are Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Overlong (and Arguably Compensatory?) Title Making Vague Reference to the Interest Communist Crystalline Aliens may Have for Capturing Harrison Ford’s Crusty, 65-year-old, Whip-Slinging Body, or The Dark Knight. I’m pushing for the latter, but Melissa wants the former, for nostalgia’s sake.

  2. Geoff B on May 19, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Adam, I saw “Prince Caspian” with the entire family over the weekend. Loved it. A bit violent for the smaller kids, but otherwise an “A.”

    If I can find the time, I will be posting on M* as to how this is a “non-Mormon Mormon movie,” which means a movie that has a lot of unseen (by the authors) Mormon themes. One hint: isn’t it interesting that the Pevensies return after an “Apostasy period” of 1,500-odd years in which the people completely forget who Aslan is? A clue for the humorless — I am not advocating that “Prince Caspian” has any themes that are deliberately Mormon — instead just showing some interesting parallels as part of an intellectual exercise.

  3. Adam Greenwood on May 19, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Put up a link here when you post it, Geoff B. We’d be interested.

  4. William Morris on May 19, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Mahonri Stewart has reviewed the film at A Motley Vision: “Prince Caspian” Doesn’t Sell It’s Soul.

    It makes some of the same connections Geoff B. is alluding to above (not to steal your thunder Geoff, a longer treatment would be very interesting).

    I’m usually for film adaptations (I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, for example), but so far I have not been able to bring myself to watch either of these Narnia films. Or any of the other adaptations.

  5. mmiles on May 19, 2008 at 11:42 am

    My son thought it was better too. My husband thought it was not as good. Everyone thought it was much more violent–and the little romance between Susan and Prince Caspian didn’t quite go with the movie. My 2cents

  6. Adam Greenwood on May 19, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    and the little romance between Susan and Prince Caspian didn’t quite go with the movie.

    Agreed. The movie makes the point that Peter and Susan can’t return to Narnia because they have to grow up now and Narnia for them is essentially a child-like place. So it jars to have this little romance going on there.

  7. TMD on May 19, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    The portrayal of Edmund is much better, even than in the book.

  8. Kevin Barney on May 19, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    At first I was thinking that Prince Caspian was maybe being played by Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood). If so, that last kiss would have been sort of creepy, given the large age differential. I stayed through the credits to make sure it wasn’t Olyphant playing the part, and it wasn’t. (My wife would happily kiss him, though.)

    I enjoyed it, but then I’m not a critic.

    Speaking of seeing too many movies, I usually see two each weekend (one Friday night, one Saturday morning or afternoon), but this time I splurged and saw three: Prince Caspian, What the Garcia Girls Did over the Summer Saturday morning, and Son of Rambow early in the evening. Son of Rambow was my favorite of the three. (Since I’ll be at MHA this weekend I’ll probably only catch one flick, on Monday, so I wanted to be sure to catch the independent films that may not be hanging around too long.)

  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 19, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I see him publishing a self-help book and doing the daytime talk circuit.

    I liked that!

  10. jrl on May 19, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Am I the only one that thinks Edmund is the best character? The redeemed traitor seems to understand certain things much better than is older siblings. This is well illustrated in the White Witch scene. And Lucy is still so innocent that I can’t quite identify with her.
    Sorry if this is a threadjack. On the topic of the post – I thought it was better than the first movie. The parts that were added in (not from the book) didn’t bother me at all. I thought they were good additions, given the different medium. Overall, it was a great flick. But I only see a couple of movies a year.

  11. Geoff B on May 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    That Mahonri dude sure is one smart feller. There may not be a need for two such posts, and his is much better written than mine would ever be. Dang, you gotta be quick in the Bloggernacle these days!

  12. Jonovitch on May 19, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    *averting eyes from the spoilers while typing*

    Great, now I’m going to have to go watch this movie, too. Except this time, I’m going to have to shell out some real cash to pay for a theater ticket for my wife and myself — plus a babysitter! — instead of simply renting a DVD (i.e., States of Grace) from the local store and watching it while the kids are asleep.

    Thanks a lot, Adam. ;)

    Jon

  13. jjohnsen on May 19, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I fell asleep during the first movie in the series, and so will probably skip this one. But anything that might get people to read the excellent series gets a thumbs up from me.

  14. alison on May 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Edmund is the most interesting character in the films and the best acted by Skandar Keynes. I dont get why he didnt get more lines. I hope this is rectified in Dawn Treader.

  15. Long Tom on May 19, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    We saw the movie as a family. I thought it was excellent. Much better than the first one which seemed to be trying to be the Lord of the Rings. I agree that Edmund was very good. Caspian was good enough that I have good hopes for the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but that one will be much trickier to turn into a movie. I liked the kiss with Susan.

    Miraz was absolutely perfect, the best villain I have seen in quite a while. He was both true to the book and and improvement. Wow!

    I was very disappointed with Reepicheep. The mice should have acted like the Three Musketeers and sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

    Aslan was referenced a lot, but didn\’t show up until near the very end and then didn\’t do much more than send the Huorns into battle. I missed Him.

    This movie was clearly made by someone who loved the books and has some talent at movie making. I can\’t wait for the rest.

  16. Sean on May 19, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Interesting, Long Tom. My wife and I both thought Prince Caspian was more like LOTR than the first film was.

    I saw Prince Caspian Friday and really enjoyed it, even more than the first film. There is a moment near the end of the film when Lucy gives Aslan a look that says, “I never want to leave you”. It really moved me, and made me wonder how much I feel that way about the Savior.

  17. Jan on May 19, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I saw the film yesterday and agree Edmund was played beautifully by Skandar Keynes. He should hopefully get more screen time in the next film. I did find the pacing in the film at times wasnt right and the end battle went on too long. We had too many FOR NARNIA moments.

  18. Joseph D. Walch on May 19, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    very good movie I thought. Very enjoyable.

  19. Adam Greenwood on May 20, 2008 at 10:41 am
  20. Geoff B on May 20, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Well, Adam, I ended up writing my “non-Mormon Mormon movie” review at M*.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/2008/05/20/non-mormon-mormon-movie-prince-caspian/

  21. Sarah on May 21, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Well, I’ve become a committed “don’t change the material from the book unless you absolutely have to” kind of purist crank, but I understand why they made nearly every change they did. The romance subplot was unnecessary, and my sister and I were snickering lines like “get over it, you’re going to marry the daughter of a star soon enough!” for at least an hour afterwards. Probably because Caspian was supposed to be young enough to make the separation from his tutor a tad more traumatic, the idea of his uncle wanting to kill him seem completely improbable (to Caspian himself at least, and any romance with Susan a total non-starter from her POV. Though Ben Barnes is cute, and will be able to do Older And Sadder, two more movies hence. So long as all future romance is confined to the said celestial chick, I’ll be okay.

    I’m very glad the film let me keep my favorite character rankings intact — Peter was always too much of the vaguely obnoxious/somewhat bland older brother in my mind, and Susan always liked boys too much. Edmund and Lucy are where it’s at: one of the best pay-offs in Dawn Treader was Eustace starting to act so much like them, and then in The Silver Chair, he manages to rub that same quality off onto Jill. It makes up for not getting to see Edmund and Lucy till the last bit of The Last Battle, and you hardly even care about the one appearance of Peter and non-appearance of Susan in that same book. Though I am sort of hoping they’ll do The Horse and His Boy with a cameo by Anna Popplewell rather than her old folks heading back home past the lamppost counterpart.

    Oh, and both Reepicheep and the Dwarves were perfect. They even made the Mice the right size (bigger than non-talking mice, but NOT played by Warwick Davis, thank you very much.)

    Note: I judge everything Narnia in part off of the BBC miniseries… we watched them so much when I was a kid, we actually destroyed the tapes. During the years after my dad confiscated my paperback Prince Caspian for reading it at 3am on a schoolnight, that was my only way to experience this story. So I may be a bit more generous in my analysis than someone whose main focus has always been the books.

  22. James on May 22, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I\’m not sure what happened to the writers from The Lion, but I was completely disappointed by this movie adaption of Prince Caspian. It eviscerated the original storyline for no apparent good reason – contra several posts above, the changes were not improvements.
    It wouldn\’t be so bad if the script writers had substituted thoughtful drama for their deletions of book material. But time and again they turn to tired cliche – a hero (Caspian) escapes just minutes ahead of death (unlike the book), a heroine (Susan) nearly falls off the ramparts and is barely saved by an outstretched hand, a battle plan (at the castle, which isn\’t even in the book) goes badly awry, a prince finds a love interest and rescues her from peril (not in the book), and on and on.
    And what they took out was some of the most meaningful scenes of the book. No Pan, no schoolchildren morphing into pigs, no request of the river for freedom from a long-standing stone bridge, no choice by the children to have to trusty Lucy step by step and slowly begin to see Aslan. And to have Aslan respond to Lucy with \”Oh child, no one will ever know\” rather than \”Oh child, no one is ever told that\” utterly changes the implicit theology of the scene.

    Save your money. Read the book – it\’s a much better story and doesn\’t take much longer to read than this travesty of a movie.

    PS – for Dawn Treader, please meaningfully involve someone who is actually familiar with C.S. Lewis\’ thought. Not only were the changes to Prince Caspian insipid, but they would have been anathema to Lewis himself.

  23. patrick on May 22, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    haven\’t seen Prince Caspian yet but definitely looking forward to it… i\’ll have to look over the book one more time just to remind myself how the original story goes

  24. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Patrick,
    you’ll enjoy the movie more if you leave the book alone until after.

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