Except for the trailers, I haven’t seen Prince Caspian. In the case of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I waited for it to come out on DVD.
In this case, I don’t know that I’ll bother. To judge by the reviews, it may actually be a better film than LWW, but I have certain reservations:
1. Although it may be a better film than LWW, yet, to judge by the trailers and the reviews, it looks a lot like a typical sword & sandal epic. I don’t say that as a put down. But it makes Prince Caspian less distinctively Narnian than LWW. More like a typical action feature. And as far as sword & sandal epics go, there’s a lot of competition. How many battle scenes and exotic locations have I seen over the years?
2. Another problem is that some things work in a book that don’t work on screen. In a book, it’s left to the imagination of the reader. But in film we’re used to a certain level of realism. It may be illusory, but it’s supposed to seem realistic.
Taking something from a fantasy book and putting it up on the big screen may make something which seemed plausible enough on the printed page implausible when you see it in action.
For example, the actor who plays Edmund is currently 16 years old. And he would have been younger during production. Not only is he young, but he has the slight build of an average teenage boy.
He doesn’t have what it takes for hand-to-hand combatant. You win or lose based on brute strength. Every boy may entertain the private fantasy of being able to win a sword fight with a towering, muscular opponent, but as soon as we actually depict these fantasies, we expose how silly they are.
It isn’t just that the actor is too young. In another sense, he’s too old. There are fantasy novels with heroic young boys. Preteens. Yet they best the villain, not through brute power, but through magical power or by simply outwitting the villain.
3.On a related note, there’s apparently a romantic subplot in the movie version of Prince Caspian. But when you have actors who look like high school students, this is clearly targeting the teenybopper demographic. Nothing wrong with that. But at that point it ceases to be a film for either children or grown-ups. Dawson’s Creek set in Narnia. Speaking for myself, if I want to see a romantic movie, I prefer actors and actresses who look like puberty is more than two years behind them.
Now I want to turn to something more serious:
As an adaptation of the novel, however, I was in fact grossly disappointed in the film altogether. I feel that the war, which at best is a background element in Lewis' novel (getting very little "airtime," so to speak), becomes completely foregrounded in the film, to its very great detriment. Prince
Caspian should not be about the battle for Narnia; it is first and foremost the story of the Lion of Judah preserving for himself a remnant (Caspian and the "Old Narnians") among those in exile.
Indeed, the Caspian of the film is but a pale shade of the character in the
novel; because the Caspian in the film had not been brought up by Professor Cornelius (whose inconsequentiality in this movie I found most disappointing) to long for the days of the High King Peter and the lordship of Aslan, I found I could not realistically believe in him as the "heir" to the throne of Cair Paravel. Caspian in Lewis' novels is a good king precisely because he recognizes from the onset his subordination to the High King Peter and to Aslan, the Highest of all Kings. (He is at his worst in The Dawn Treader, for example, when he forgets these, first at the isle of Deathwater and again at the Eastern End of the World.)
Next, I find that what was done to Peter's character bordered on the
criminal--perhaps even the obscene. The Peter in this movie is more of a
petulant child in the beginning than Edmund was in the first of the series,
allowing himself to be goaded into a fistfight because of an act of
impoliteness. He who was High King Peter the Magnificent would not eschew the aid of his brother; he would not view Caspian as an interloper, oppressor, and rival; and he would NEVER for one moment even COUNTENANCE the thought of allying himself with the White Witch. The mark of Peter's greatness in the novel is the moment when he first meets Caspian and welcomes and encourages him, saying, "I have not come to take your place, you know, but to put you in it." At no point in the film does Peter do anything to demonstrate himself as the true High King of Narnia, ruling by the decree and consent of Aslan.
Most regrettably of all the film's failures as an adaptation, however, is the gross minimalization of Aslan. Aslan is central in the novel, but little more than a cameo guest star in the film (his airtime is scarcely more than that of the White Witch herself!); your argument, Joe, has its merits, and I'd actually have no problem with Aslan's paucity of airtime, were it not for the simple fact that even his sparse appearances in the film are crassly and carelessly reductive. It's not only that Aslan doesn't appear as frequently in the film; it's that when he does appear, he's an Aslan who has been minimized almost to the point of inconsequentiality. (And, by the way, the idea that Aslan is the creator and sustainer of all Narnia is only tenable for those of us who have actually read the whole novel series--there's nothing IN THE FILM to suggest that he is the creator at all!)
I was deeply saddened to see the devaluing of the most deeply moving part in all the novel: Lucy's meeting with Aslan while the others are sleeping. It matters INFINITELY that the reason Aslan seems bigger to Lucy is not that he has grown in the long years of her absence of Narnia; it matters because the whole point of the novel as I read it is that the Covenant Lord of Narnia, the Son of the Emperor Over the Sea, is One in Whom "there is no variation, neither any shadow of turning." The Great Lion has not grown bigger over the years, for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and the more we come to know Him, the more great and glorious and majestic He seems to us whose eyes and minds and hearts are addled and fettered by the limits of our fallen race.
I was also profoundly disappointed in the scene where Aslan restores Reepicheep's tail; one of the great moments in the novel is where Aslan does this not because of Reepicheep's valor or honor, but for the love between he and his people, but MORE STILL for the love that his ancestors showed Aslan, biting away the cords that bound him to the Stone Table. This was a needless deletion from the film!
There are two basic problems with Scheidler’s analysis:
1.Even on literary grounds, it’s clear that he takes C. S. Lewis far too seriously. Lewis wrote some very enjoyable fiction. But he wasn’t one of the all-time-great fiction writers. Some readers have a textual command of Lewis which you should reserve for a truly great writer.
Lewis does some things very well, but there are mountains and valleys and plains and deserts of human experience which he either skims over gingerly or leaves entirely untouched. He was a man of books and ideas rather than people and places. He lacks the expansive humanity—or inhumanity—to be a great novelist.
2.There are Christians who get their creed straight from C. S. Lewis. Lewis is their Bible. And not just his expository writing. But the fiction. The fantasy novels. They quote this stuff as if it’s divine revelation. There is only one God, and Lewis is his prophet.
For them, the Bible is an inconvenience—especially when it’s full of nasty tales about a nasty, judgmental God. The Space Trilogy, The Great Divorce, the Chronicles of Narnia—this is their functional canon. Their Holy Writ.
They’re so immersed in this parallel universe that it no longer occurs to them that none of this is real. But this is not an alternative route to heaven. None of this exists—at all. It’s the imaginary world of a dead man. You can enjoy it at the same level you enjoy The Martian Chronicles. Nothing more or less.