The second book of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, like many sequels, does not deliver the magic of the first. The movie version, however, is every bit as good, if not better than the first, perhaps because the filmmakers took a certain measure of creative license in order to make Lewis’ good book better.
Prince Caspian is a strong movie with relatively few flaws. I will list some of the film’s strengths and then speak to some of its weaknesses.
- The actors playing the four Pevensie children have aged gracefully over the past three years and it is good to see the cast back in fine fettle.
- The new characters are well-done, especially Reepicheep, whom I was glad to see portrayed as valiant and not merely “cute.”
- Trumpkin the dwarf provided some needed comic relief.
- The filmmakers were smart to begin the story with Caspian’s flight into the woods (an idea I was hesitant about at first).
- When Lucy first glimpses Aslan, the filmmakers choose not to reveal him, increasing our sympathy with the older Pevensie children’s unbelief. Good move.
- The castle attack in which a minotaur, while being shot with arrows, holds up the gate so the Narnians can escape is terrific – providing another powerful example of self-sacrifice.
- Keeping Aslan off screen until the latter part of the movie was another smart move. When he reappears, he is more majestic and mighty than in the first movie.
Even a good movie has its weaknesses. Here are a few.
- The budding romance between Susan and Caspian was completely unnecessary.
- Peter and Caspian almost succumb to the temptation of the White Witch, and yet neither character exhibits repentance for this treasonous action.
- I have no problem with the filmmakers making Peter a flawed hero whose first decision leads to destruction. Yet it would have been nice to see Peter demonstrate repentance for his pride and not merely remorse for the consequences of his actions.
- The filmmakers substituted character development (especially Trufflehunter and Trumpkin) for elongated battle scenes.
- As I worried, the terrific celebration scenes from the first book are all but absent here. In the novel, the celebrations keep Caspian from being all about battle. More importantly, the Narnian joy provides the motivation for the battles. Without the celebratory dances and songs, the moviegoer is left wondering why the battle is necessary. So the Telmarines are bad and the Narnians are good. But why is Narnia worth fighting for? Lewis wisely incorporated scenes that were filled with mirth and happiness and freedom. The filmmakers left them out.
Minor quibbles aside, Prince Caspian deserves to do well at the box office. It is true that this series is becoming a junior version of Lord of the Rings, but the movie is still immensely satisfying on many levels. I am looking forward to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010.