Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (the Movie, not the Book)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis is one of those fantasy series that many of us have read as children and even as adults. And while it has been some time since I last read the series, I have always been of the opinion that Prince Caspian was the weakest entry in the series. It seems that this will not be the case with Walden Media's film adaptations of the books, as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is over all a better film than The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Of course, the weakness of the book are inherent in the movie. Of The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian easily has the weakest plot. In fact, it is a veritable cliche. Prince Caspian, the rightful ruler of the Telmarines, has been usurped by his evil uncle, Mriaz. Worse yet, the Telmarines long ago invaded Narnia and suppressed the Talking Beasts and other creatures to such a point that they are believed extinct. It was not particularly Lewis's most original plot, and it does not seem any more original in the film. That having been said, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian more than makes up for what is essentially a fairly weak plot.

Quite simply, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is simultaneously a darker and funnier film than The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It has been 1300 years since the Pevenie children last visited Narnia, even though only a year had passed in their own lives on Earth. In that time Narnia has changed dramatically. Long ago the Telmarines siezed control of the land. The Talking Beasts and other creatures such as centaurs and fauns are no longer to be found. Miraz, ruling the Telmarines since his brother's death, is an oppressive tyrant who wants his nephew Caspian out of the way so he can permanently have the throne. Aslan has not been seen in so long that many Narnians think he does not exist. Narnia has changed, and not for the better.

While The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a darker film than The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is also a funnier film. Much of the humour comes from the characters of Trumpkin, a somewhat cranky but good hearted dwarf, and Reepicheep, a swashbuckling mouse (lest anyone think the makers of the film were ripping off Puss in Boots from the Shrek franchise, I must point out Reepicheep appears in the book pretty much as he does in the movie). This film has a number of funny, quotable lines, much more so than the first one.

It is perhaps because The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has more humour that it also seems to me to be a much warmer film than the first one as well. While I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it always seemed to me to lack any real emotional depth; it had less emotional depth than C. S. Lewis' original book. For me this made the film seem in some ways a bit distant and even cold. This is certainly not the case with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, in which a good deal of emotional breadth is given to more than just the Pevenie children. Caspian, Trumpkin, Reepicheep, and even the villainous Miraz are very much three dimensional characters.

Of course, I must warn any Lewis purists out there that the movie does depart from the book in some respects. An entire action sequence is added to the film, as is one other scene, and others are padded out. Personally, I do not think this detracts from the story at all but has instead improved it. The action sequences are not only exciting, but look entirely realistic. And while the movie does depart a bit from Lewis's original work, it does remain loyal to its spirit.

Over all, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a worthy successor to The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is also a worthy adaptation of Lewis's classic novel.

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