Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prince Caspian

We all four went to see Prince Caspian on Saturday. I didn't like the previous treatment of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Except for Lucy's luminous performance, the kids in the first movie were all pretty stiff. The filmmakers seemed determined to make a LOTR Jr., so they took the slender book and epicized it, blowing up the battle scene and clumsily tacking on extra material. I particularly disliked the White Queen's wolves, who are given American accents and lots of unclever movie villain dialogue, when it would have been more appropriate to give them either sinister upper-class British or central European accents, since they are supposed to be the White Queen's secret police. I was particularly offended by the heavy, plodding film treatment since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has really zippy pacing. When my husband and I read it to C (after seeing the film), she had us reading several chapters at a sitting and we got through it really quickly.

The book Prince Caspian is structurally a mess, as I discovered when we read it to C after doing so well with reading the first book. It has some very good material, but the Pevensies spend so much of the book blundering around the woods that Prince Caspian doesn't have any narrative momentum. We were just as lost reading the book as the Pevensies were in the woods, and it took us much longer to get out. And what about the movie? The filmmakers did very well to streamline the lost-in-the-woods section (although all that luscious scenery helps a lot). The LOTR Jr. treatment suits Prince Caspain very well and the movie is better than the book. The added material works really well, particularly the attack on Miraz's castle. Reepicheep and his brave mice are also very well handled. I mainly regret the stuff from the beginning and the end that got left out of the movie: Caspian's lessons with his tutor and the awakening of the trees and bacchanalia that follows. I also liked the scene from the book of Aslan, Susan, and Lucy liberating Telmarine school children--there's never a good school in the Chronicles of Narnia. The close of the film is very good, too, and left me very excited that we have all these sequels to look forward to.

The very sensitive handling of Prince Caspian gives me hope that they'll do well with subsequent books. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is great, but highly episodic, so it's going to be very challenging to give it a unifying narrative arc. One option is to focus on Eustace Scrubb (one of my very favorite characters) and his development during the sea voyage. I love the description of the Scrubbs at the beginning of the book, and I hope that the filmmakers will do a good job showing Eustace's home life.

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