Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prınce Caspian--My How You Have Grown


I must first confess that the Chronicles of Narnia were stories I read to my children at bedtime. I am predisposed to like or try to like these movies. The novellete Prince Caspian was not the strongest in the series by any means but it was servicable to advance the story line. In fact ıf memory serves it is the one that gave Tolkien pause about the whole series when it was read to the Inklings.
In this 2 hour and 24 minute film we have both more and less than what was ın the original story. Added is the tension between the Prince and Peter as they try to retake Narnia for the Narnians. Subtracted is more contact wıth Aslan (still voiced by Liam Neeson) and my favorite talking mouse Reepıcheep. Mores the pity in regard to the latter as he ıs a delight and as much of a scene stealer as Lucy.
Lets say at the outset that the opening scenes are quite effective-- the train transfer to Narnia of 1300 years later and the beautiful scene on the beach in New Zealand (the movie seems to have been primarily filmed there and in London). Lucy remains the pivotal character who remains a true believer ın Aslan and doesn't make the mistake of Peter in assuming that Aslan wants them to try and solve all their ills wıthout him. His quasi-adult remarks ring all too true when compared to the attitude of some adults about Christianity. The stuff of saga ıs assumed to be the stuff of fairy tales and children.
I must say that thıs movie has better flow and motıon and actıon than ıts predecessor. The CG ıs less obvious and noticeable and the battle scenes whılst largely bloodless are more effective. As for the acting Prince Caspian is certainly prince charming despite the faux Spanish accent (think of a bad Ricardo Montelban imitation) and seems at the end to begin to win the heart of yon faire maiden from the U.K. I agree wıth the reviewers who say we could have certainly used more of the White Witch in this film for dark coloring and heightened tension.
It ıs always a dilemma for film makers as to how strickly to hew to the original story lıne and this film certainly takes more lıberties than its predecessor for sure sacrıficing a literal renderings or reproduction for better action and flow.
I actually don't much mind this since the original story needed a bit of help but it would certainly have been more helpful to keep in some of the more Christian philosophy of Lewis (quoting the line 'Things never happen the same way twice' is insufficient to explain things). Lewis was perhaps the most influential non-Calvinist apologete of the 20th century and these films have an opportunity to explore that and so explore a world where all things are not predetermined by the active or passive will of God. The opportunity is missed to pursue this line of thought more effectively.
On the whole this film deserves a thumbs up and a urging to keep going. Maybe when we get to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader the children will be better actors and the plot will need less massaging. Let us hope so.

10 comments:

normajean said...

Thanks, Ben! This film hit me hard (brought a few tears) as it captured the struggle we face in this life. Aslan knows that his people want intercession, but rather than running to an immediate rescue, he waits then bring wrongs to right.

Marc Axelrod said...

Good Review! I enjoyed this film, also. It's actually inspiring me to read the Narnia novels for myself.

Even with the changes, I could still see the danger of trying to move ahead with the battle without the guidance and support of Aslan. I also liked how as we grow in our understanding of Aslan, He grows in our perspective of him. Cool!

Dan Morehead said...

Thanks for this...just passing through...

Ben Witherington said...

I understand Norma Jean. God does enogh to give us a sure hope but not so much that we do not have to live by faith and live an ethically responsible life.

BW3

kim said...

Greetings all from New Zealand, the preferred location for fantasy landscapes!

Professor Witherington, I enjoy reading your film reviews and appreciate how you compare and contrast themes with the Christian worldview.

If I may, I would like to point readers to another illuminating review by Amy Hall over at Stand to Reason who focuses on the film's interpretation of Aslan. She argues that the film makers have made Aslan "a character rather than the character" and in doing so have weakened his centrality in the story. Worth a read.

Kim Gribbon

Patrick Roberts said...

the makers of Prince Caspian kept to the original story surprisingly well, all things considered... i heard they were going to make it into a silly pure-action flick, but thankfully this was not the case

Singing Owl said...

I agree with your review! Enjoyed the film, wanted more from it...

Ben Kendrew said...

Good post. Thanks for having a voice and blog for others to read. Keep fighting the good fight.

Chris said...

I have a question Ben, you said that Lewis is possibly the best "non-calvinist" apologete of the 20th century, is this saying the best apologete was calvinist? If so who was this person, I would love to know who you're thinking of.

Ben Witherington said...

I was thinking of course of Francis Shaeffer, the great Reformed apologete.

Bw3