Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

As a kid, I liked the novel of Prince Caspian pretty well, but when I re-read it in my early 20s - and worked out that Aslan = Jesus - I noticed that not a lot actually happens in it.  The bulk of the book is taken up with the Pevensie children's long journey to actually meet Caspian.  In their 1989 adaptation of the series, the BBC didn't even bother to do a separate adaptation of Prince Caspian - they just merged it into the same serial as the third book.

Fortunately, the movie takes a different approach.

Now, I know some people 'on principle' dislike films that make significant changes from the books they're based on.  I take a more open-minded approach.  Books and films are different media and what works in one may not work in another.  Changes aren't necessarily good - I'm happy to talk your ear off about changes I dislike in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Two Towers, for instance - but they're also not necessarily bad.  And in this case, I think the film-makers make good choices.

First and foremost, I like that they inject a lot more action into the film.  We get to see - rather than hear about only in brief summary - the engagements between the Narnians and their enemies.

I also like that the film works in a low-level romance between Susan and Caspian, an inclusion that many howled about.  To me, this works well as a nod to the fact that Susan and Peter are growing up and moving beyond Narnia.  It's also a bit of a raspberry toward the fate that C S Lewis ultimately bestowed upon Susan in the books.  Which is something from the series that I hated, because it's reactionary, old-fashioned misogynistic claptrap.  So anything that seems to run counter to it is OK by me.

The plot?  A year has gone by since the Pevensie children were in Narnia, and they are struggling to adjust to life in our world.  Fortunately, a wind blows up and whisks them back to Narnia.  But time does not pass at the same rate there, and over a thousand years have gone by since they were last in the land.  It is now overrun by Telmarines, human invaders from another land.  Recently, however, a resistance army has formed under Caspian, a Telmarine prince who does not share his people's normal hatred of the non-human peoples of Narnia.  It is Caspian who has summoned the Pevensies, by blowing on the magic horn Susan received in the first book.

Like the first film, this movie profits from strong casting.  Peter Dinklage is excellent as Trumpkin, the grumpy but good-hearted dwarf who is the first more-or-less friendly face the kids encounter.  It also helps that the script is strong, with a good leavening of humour among the action and drama, and a fine judgment of how to use characters.  It's a tribute to the script that Asterias the Minotaur, a secondary character who gets almost no dialogue, can become such a recognisable element of the cast.

Overall, I think this is probably the strongest of the three Narnia films released (or released to date, at least: there are rumours a fourth film might actually happen). I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching it, and if you don't mind some fantastical elements in your adventure yarns, you should check it out.

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