Prince Caspian Movie: my thoughts

Well, I knew they’d have to modernize it, and pick up the pace and some loose-ends (I think many of my favorite books would never be published if they were written this century), but still I was disappointed.

Just a little, maybe, like when you take a bite out of something and find it’s hollow.  It doesn’t taste bad, it really is fine for what it is, but it’s less substantial than I’d expected.

Jay’s concise evaluation:

There were so many thumbs-up and thumbs-down it kind-of came out as neutral.

Only fair to say *Spoiler Warning* and break here, but I hope you come back when you’ve seen the movie and tell me what you thought.

My opinion on some of the changes:

The plusses and neutrals:

  • Loved the way they introduced Ed’s torch.  I always loved the anachronism of the flashlight in Narnia.
  • Adding substance and different motivation to each of the two “henchmen” was brilliant.  As a storyteller/writer I’d often felt the only reason for two plotters was it gave the reader something to eavesdrop on.  This was an improvement.
  • Considering the age of the actors the sweetness between Su and Caspian was probably unavoidable, so I thought it was managed well enough. Considering the way the two actors talked about the roles I was thankful it wasn’t weird.
  • The higher female involvement was also inevitable, if a little, hmm, trying-too-hard at times.  They showed that female centaur a lot.  I appreciated the youngster; that was a nice element.
  • The way they scripted the single-combat was perfect (though I thought cameras were a bit weird) including the pseudo-surprise ending.  A change from the book, but an improvement in my opinion. (Not so much the bit with Caspian, though that was okay, but the bit with Sopespian.  Genius).
  • I like that Miraz’s wife and son don’t disappear as soon as they move the plot forward.
  • The king’s-face helmets were a nice cultural touch and a new/unique way of depersonalizing the enemy army for the big battle-scene we all knew was coming.
  • The handling of the White Witch’s possible return.  I got a whole other “message” out of this version than the one in the book.  It worked for me, but doubtless won’t for others.
  • Peter’s issues/anger: being back in a boy’s body, powerless, in a state of limbo about when he could return to the world he missed.  An angle I’d never considered and seemed very legitimate.

The negatives:

  • From Jay, and not exactly a change, more the plague of the genre: automatic cross-bows and  ridiculous siege engines;  instant death from wounds that, face it, have to bleed-out before they’re fatal.
  • The fabricated conflict between Peter and Caspian (One thing that always impressed me in the book was their relationship of mutual respect).  It was a nice way for them to meet, sure, but it dragged out too long and either spawned or was the result of another poor choice:
  • The invasion of the castle.  Pointless and angstie.  Didn’t effectively move the story at all, just a filler fight-scene (all the info from there was available elsewhere).
  • Lack of Aslan.   He’s already doing less than in the first book, and they minimized even some things they could have kept in their new take on the story.
  • Caspian trying to justify himself to the Narnians.  This was a nice try, but with the Narnians pushing the argument in the first place, they let it go way too easily.
  • The children’s– all of them– ability to jump immediately into killing other human beings.  Yes, I recognize need-of-the-now is everything, but these are “normal” kids, and showed a reluctance already in this film of killing a bear they thought might be a talking bear.  To move from a traumatized observing to a calculated participation– that was a little unnerving for me.
  • About that bear: the message of what makes a creature stop being a talking beast *totally* changed.  Here in the movie it was “When you’ve been treated like an animal long enough,” whereas in the book it was if they stopped behaving like talking beasts.  You can imagine I don’t like the former as much, being so much into personal autonomy and responsibility…


In the next movie, this movie’s ending—

Lucy: I’m sure I’ll understand when I’m older
Edmund: I’m older and I don’t think I want to understand—

will pay-off with some parallel set of observations from the older pair no longer returning.  Probably related to the Star’s daughter Caspian ends up with.

This movie is a good example of how most stories cannot support many major characters.  The characters felt more shallow this time around, I think because the writers were conscientiously trying to make everybody contribute something equally significant.  Everybody has to have a story-point epiphany.

Jay says we’ll still buy it, because he likes having full sets.  “But I don’t think I’ll watch it much,” he added mournfully.

I had to laugh.  We don’t watch anything much.  I think the reason I’ve gotten so in to shows like Bones (Life, House M.D., Chuck…) is they’re storytelling in a hurry.  And someone like me always needs a fix.

I need the solid ending and the Mmm, that was good. that goes with a well-written and a well-played story.  This was more like pretzels when I was expecting a Chili’s dinner.

I’ll get over it.  I’m trying to talk Jay into watching something more with me.  I feel a need to get a good story in before bed.

10 thoughts on “Prince Caspian Movie: my thoughts

  1. The movie was different. A lot different than the BBC version. It definitely didn’t track the book. One thing I thought they got right was the age of Caspian. The BBC made him too young. The book actually puts him the same age as Peter.

    Its funny you reviewed the movie because I just reviewed the book. I did this whole analysis as to why Caspian had to have Bern 16 or 17. Ok and Ben Barnes is hot. He’s less than two years younger than me. **sigh**

  2. Glad to read your thoughts on this. I haven’t seen it yet but we plan to.

    I want to love these movies adapted from books, I really do. But they always lack something (sometimes important things!) that made me love the book. And messing with / updating / making “relevant” Lewis, or Austen, or Tolkien is like messing with the Bible for me (OK, not quite that bad but almost…). ;)

  3. I’m taking my son on Friday. He’ll love it no matter what, but I’m curious to see how I will react.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dedee– as long as he’s at least 8 or so. The movie is pretty intense, and I found the previews unnerving. “Approved for all audiences” my foot.

    Karen– As a storyteller I’ve noticed some glaring faults and inconsistencies in the Chronicles, so I’m happy to see those cleaned up (I mentioned a couple of those above), but I understand your sentiments.

    When we’re familiar with a work it becomes part of who we are, much like a friend or spouse. If we were offered a new something that looked like our special people, minus all their faults, we’d be pretty creeped-out.

    In a similar way I think we mis-trust any variation on a work we have come to know and love, even though it may be improved in some ways.

  5. Blue– that’s too bad. The implication is that you can’t be mentored to maturity and independence, you have to start with it all.

    Disguised hubris. But then hubris is a cinema virtue. It saves so much writing and casting time if you can have just one person to do it all…

  6. A lot of good thoughts have been put out in this post and comment thread. I especially appreciate the specific enumeration at the OP of changes, pro and con.

    My take on all book-became-movies are admittedly ego-centric: if the movie producers adapt well the elements in the books that I loved, then the movie is good. If they do not, no amount of epic battle, culturally relevant script writing or expensively produced lion’s roar will save it.

    At this point, many film aficionados will cry “movies are supposed to be different from books!” And that is an argument that has some merit, but if a film is going to take the title, character names and general plot of a well-known literary work, some accountability should be expected.

    And “not saved,” I’m afraid, where Prince Caspian leaves me. Being a believer in Christ, as was Lewis, I loved what the Chronicles (in general) and Caspian (in specific) revealed about the character of God, and how we interact with Him and other people. Following my viewing of the movie, I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Caspian and re-read it, and in so doing, found a number of changes, both subtle and obvious, to the lessons on Faith.


    The call on Lucy for faith in Him, even at the expense of the others, leading to a gradual re-awakening of the faith of everyone involved was trimmed down to a barely-recognizable snippet. Literary Peter was an example of gracious kingliness, without any self-serving interests. When he met Caspian, Peter informed him that he wasn’t there to “take your place… but put you into it.” Literary Caspian, in turn, deferred to Peter’s experience in matters of war and diplomacy. Film Peter and Caspian did neither. Additionally (and this is a subtle change), in the film, Aslan answers Lucy’s hypothetical question with an inclusive “we can’t know what would have been,” whereas the book retains Aslan’s deity with a “nobody is told what would have been.” Inconsequential to some, but not me. Aslan wasn’t just “one of the guys,” albeit furry, strong, and able to command trees and river-gods. He was the loving God of Narnia – able to solve the problems they face (though not always in the way they would have liked). The book even made it clear that the duel with Miraz was somewhat of a stall tactic until Aslan and the girls would come.

    “Aslan and the girls are somewhere close. We don’t know when he’ll act. In his time, no doubt, not ours. In the meantime he would like us to do what we can on our own.”

    I hope I have made the gist of my feelings clear in this matter. I did have some fun in the movie, and many non-literary nerd friends of mine loved it as well. Ahh, the burden of the need to constantly read :-).


  7. Thanks for visiting Marc.

    It is interesting to think how much more the “spiritual” messages of this book are missing, but in my experience I’ve not heard this one touted nearly as much as LWW for its spiritual properties, so the writers were probably less-careful.

    I think lessons can still be taken away, as from most good fantasy, about the nature of the war between good and evil.

    There are also some good moments of letting men be men, and I’ll probably reference this film (with discussion) when my son reaches the age for this.

    (I did a post about my search for these things: Let Them be Warriors)

    Yes, the destroyed relationship between the two young kings was one of the saddest things for me. I might have swallowed everything else with much less complaint if we could have seen a strong male relationship building through it.

    There was such a lost opportunity here.

    I commented on someone else’s post about PC that good (as in, interesting) conflict is simply easier to write than good/interesting cooperation, so I shouldn’t be surprised that’s the way the writer’s took the story.

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