Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
"Fantasy and adventure movie lovers won't want to miss Prince Caspian..."
On Friday, May 16th, eager Narnia fans packed out the seats in theaters around the country to have their first glimpse at Prince Caspian, the second of C.S. Lewis’ beloved series to be brought to the big screen. With a budget reportedly 20 million more than its predecessor at $200 million, expectations of what magic director Andrew Adamson and crew would dish out were running high. As the opening scene of Queen Prunaprismia giving birth played out, you could almost hear the thoughts running through everyone’s heads. Would Prince Caspian be as good as the first movie? Would they stay true to the book?
In this story the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have aged a year in England, but when they’re magically transported back to Narnia they find 1300 years has passed. The land in which they grew up as Kings and Queens – The Golden Age of Narnia -- is no more. Everything and everyone they once held dear is gone. All the old Narnians (the dwarves, Centaurs, talking animals, and the like) have gone into hiding, and the Telmarines who invaded Narnia shortly after the Pevensies disappeared from the land, rule with an iron fist. But there’s still hope. Queen Susan’s horn is blown, and the Pevensies are called back to help a young prince claim his throne and fight the darkness and evil hovering over Narnia.
Reprising their roles as the Pevensies, William Mosley (Peter), Anna Popplewell (Susan), Skandar Keynes (Edmund) and Georgie Henley (Lucy) take center stage again in Prince Caspian. But their sense of wonder and innocence found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has been replaced with confusion and inner turmoil, most notably in Peter. It hasn’t been easy becoming a man in Narnia and then returning to England as a boy, and this is evident in his struggles. Susan is less the questioning, know-it-all girl and more the confident, warrior woman. She wields her bow and finds herself in hand-to-hand combat during several battles (a slight but welcome diversion from the book in which Susan and Lucy were never allowed to participate in the fights). Edmund has also matured into a stalwart warrior, his brother’s right-hand man. Lucy is still the wonderful, trusting soul of before only this time she’s a little bolder at times and stands up for what she believes. All have clearly grown up, but not so much that we can’t jump right in and follow our friends in this new adventure.
Tilda Swinton played the White Witch of the first film so masterfully (she does make a cameo in this one too -- and watch for her playing a centaur), it was hard to imagine anyone else embodying evil to the same degree. But Sergio Castellitto as King Miraz comes oh, so close. There’s nothing redeemable about this character (except perhaps his love for his son), and some actors might find that restricting. Sergio takes it and runs, able to exhibit both calm manipulation and rage all in the same scene.
Though only a boy in C.S. Lewis’ story, 26-year-old Ben Barnes was given the difficult task of playing the title character of the film. His age is certainly a forgivable change. By the film’s end we can’t imagine anyone other than him in the role.
Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin and Warwick Davis as Nikabrik were also terrific cast choices. Dinklage is a master at delivering dead-pan one-liners, and Davis had some in this film as well. Anyone worrying about how they’d create Reepicheep need not have worried. The mouse comes out as valiant and humorous as we remember him. But Trufflehunter the Badger was my favorite CGI creation this time around. I felt like Lucy when I muttered to my sister Tracy in the theater, “He’s so cute!”
If you thought the cinematography in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was breath-taking, Prince Caspian’s is even more so. From the gorgeous mountains and crystal clear waters of New Zealand to the lush forests of the Czech Republic, they all give the film that other-worldly feel. It’s not hard to picture yourself right in the middle of Narnia.
Websites and fan forums have been buzzing about how the screenwriters and filmmakers had to adapt the original Prince Caspian story for the big screen. Director Andrew Adamson and others have talked about the added castle raid scene, for example, which isn’t found in the book. These type of additions are understandable. There were changes in the first film too. But here in Prince Caspian I felt like perhaps everyone tried a little too hard to heighten the suspense. Granted, the original pacing of the novel was very slow. I remember as a kid finding it the hardest of the seven to read. I knew they’d need to cut out some of the drier parts and add some excitement. But, I didn’t expect some of the key elements to be missing.
That’s not to say Prince Caspian isn’t a terrific fantasy film. If you haven’t read the book, then you’ll love it. If you have read the book and don’t care about these sort of things, then you too will find nothing but good in this movie. There’s adventure, unexpected but welcome humor (watch for a scene with Reepicheep and a cat), and lots of battles. All the essence of the story has been retained. That’s the important part.
However, Narnia purists might have a few objections. Because of its non-stop pace, there’s little time to truly get to know some of the key players before they’re thrust into another battle. Take Doctor Cornelius. Our first introduction to him is when he rescues Caspian from Miraz’s clutches in the middle of the night. There are no secret meetings on the roof discussing the Old Narnians. We don’t see how important a role he’s played in Caspian’s life thus far, so there’s less of an emotional pull when Caspian has to leave him. Caspian’s old nurse isn’t even mentioned.
We’re also given little time to enjoy the other Narnian creatures like Patterwig the squirrel (I don’t believe he’s even named in the film), The Bulgy Bears, and Giant Wimbleweather. We’re expected to care about them without given time to know them. Even Aslan’s role is smaller than it seems like it should be. He doesn’t lead the Pevensies down into the gorge as in the book. He only appears toward the end of the film.
A worry some fans had was the hinted attraction between Caspian and Susan in the trailers. Though also not in the book, rest assured. It doesn’t go any further than being hinted at. Susan does kiss him goodbye (just once), but it’s in front of her siblings and Aslan, so it’s quite pure.
The subtle spiritual message of Prince Caspian about trusting and believing in things you can’t see won’t be lost on Christian viewers, and it’s refreshing to see movies being made that aren’t afraid to include that element. C.S. Lewis would be proud that his little books are impacting so many. Fantasy and adventure movie lovers won’t want to miss Prince Caspian.
MPAA Rating: PG (for battle sequences)
WATCH THE TRAILER:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.