Saturday, 17 May 2008

Prince Caspian - a movie review

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movieIn a word: meh. Warning: spoilers follow.

This is a fairly mindless action flick, I'm afraid. A mediocre one, liberally sprinkled with charming moments. The real point of the book, which is the conflict between belief and disbelief, between faith and unbelief, is almost completely buried and allowed to surface only briefly here and there to keep the lovers of the original happy. Trumpkin's personal journey from cheerful skeptic to sturdy believer is so glossed over it loses all its resonance and power to move. (I also missed the cheerfulness of the book's Trumpkin. The movie version is too melancholy to smile, although thankfully still with enough spirit to deliver a zinger or two.) Having removed the psychological motor of the story, the screenwriters tried to replace it with cheap tricks: an improperly developed power struggle between Peter and Caspian (oh please, if you're going to introduce new elements, at least do it right), a spark of romantic interest between Caspian and Susan (which they both relinquish far too easily) and Peter's anguish at having to sacrifice soldiers in the unsuccessful attack on Miraz's castle (yes, you're right, that wasn't in the book). This last one illustrates everything that was wrong with the movie. In an attempt to reintroduce depth, cheap tricks are used half-heartedly. Peter's anguish comes from nowhere and leads to nowhere. It's a throw-away moment and develops nothing. Both Caspian and Peter play with the idea of calling in the White Witch and are rescued from themselves by others. Again, it came from nowhere and led nowhere, is explained nowhere and explains nothing itself. Cheap, cheap, cheap. When Caspian proposes a duel with Miraz, it falls to Peter with no explanation whatsoever of why that should be. Again, cheap and poorly thought out.

The charming moments were almost entirely lifted from the original text of the book although Reepicheep and Trumpkin both get a couple of good original lines. The fate of the cat in Miraz's castle provided one of the good laughs. (I'm not going to spoil everything here.)

Visually, the movie is a treat and the special effects work very well.

One had to wonder at the decision to cast the Telmarines as Spaniards, both in their style of dress and armour, and in their accents. All the more amusing, since so many of them were played by Italians. It was an unexpected, but defensible decision.

Still, I can't help but mourn C.S. Lewis's spirited attack on modernity, perhaps best exemplified by the trashing of the schools as centres of indoctrination. Needless to say, this didn't make it into the movie. The central theme of the book was completely excised from the movie. What was left was moderately entertaining on a superficial level, but breaks down rather quickly on examination.

I'll probably watch the movie one more time when it comes out on DVD, just to catch the lines I missed (especially the one that everybody else laughed at). I doubt I will have any desire to see it again after that.

ETA: You can find a somewhat less snarky review here, which manages to find some good things to say (which I happen to agree with) even while pointing out even more problems.

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9 comments:

Sra. Scherzophrenic said...

I was afraid that this would be the case. I saw your profile at Sippican's Cottage and surprise, surprise, surprise, your blog has the same name as my daughter's somewhat derelict blog! How's that for co-inky-dinks? Here's her blog:
http://juliaatkins.blog.com/

Janet said...

Ah. Does this mean it is because of your daughter that I had to put hyphens in my URL? ;o)

Sra Scherzophrenic said...

I don't know if that is the case about the hyphenation, but I do agree with your review about Prince Caspian. I also left you a reply at my blog explaining haramfest.
My other daughter also noticed that Peter was unnecessarily angry. She read the book five times. She wasn't too happy about her beloved William being so angry all the time since he wasn't in the book.
Julia, on the other hand, kept quoting from the Princess Bride:
"My name is Emilio Montoya, and you killed my father. Prepare to die!" everytime Caspian drew his sword. The letters in the word verification spell plavgua. We should come up with some sort of aquatic definition for it.

Janet said...

LOL! I had precisely the same reaction. I wanted to quote Inigo myself, but I was there with my hubby, who is not a Princess Bride fan and might not have got the reference. As it was, I got a good private giggle out of it, but not one the moviemakers intended, I'm sure.

It is always very dangerous to go see a movie when you have loved the book. I became a Narnia fan as soon as I could read, and have read the series more times than I can remember over the years. While I'm prepared to allow a certain amount of leeway to a producer in remaking a story (it's a different medium, changes have to be made), gutting the central theme is going too far. Taking important characters and twisting them into something very different is also hard to handle.

If they had made an incredible masterpiece, I might have forgiven them anyway. But they didn't. They made a so-so movie. It's not a terrible movie, but it doesn't hold a candle to Lewis' vision.

May Vanderbilt said...

Oh no! I can't read this post. I just bought the entire omnibus and am plowing through it on my 11 hour plane ride to France.

Can you believe I've never read them?

Janet said...

You had a deprived childhood. What can I say?

I was lending them out at the age of seven as my absolute favourite books.

gary said...

How come you deleted mine? Sniff, sniff... it wasn't raucous or anything.

Janet said...

??? Deleted your what, gary? I didn't delete anything from you.

gary said...

Hmm... my computer glitches must be rampant and ubiquitous: I originally left a comment on this one, too. I guess it didn't take. How odd... My cyber woes apparently continue (for the most part I said I have no desire to see this one at all, even on video, and am hoping your post will deter any backsliding I'm prone to on my convictions)!

 

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