Friday, June 20, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

It's been ages since I've read the Narnia books so when I went to watch "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian", it was like stepping into the story fresh. That, I think, was a good thing. Rather than viewing this as an adaptation of the book, I thought to look at it as a sequel to the first film. Now, this being both an adaptation of a book and a sequel, what's the difference? It's really one of expectations.

"Caspian" comes some two years after "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", but with the same set of actors portraying the Pevensies. The kids have grown somewhat, none more so than Georgie Henley whose turn as Lucy was both joyful and authentic in the first film. They get to see more intense action, and they get to act a little more grown-up, which is whole point of the film.

On the surface, "Caspian" is all about action. The plot takes us through three major battles: the assault on the Telmarine castle, the one-on-one between Peter and Miraz, and the last stand at Aslan's How. Each battle is done masterfully -- even though you know how each fight is going to turn out, it's still going to keep you at the edge of your seat. The human element is also very much apparent, none more so than in Peter's face as he comes to grips with the consequences of his decision. "Caspian" is well worth a repeat viewing just for the battle scenes alone.

But underneath it, "Caspian" is also about steadfast Faith and Hope and the Christian message is not lost in the movie. The Pevensies -- Lucy excepted -- Prince Caspian, and the Narnians go through the cycle of daring and despair, thinking to achieve all by sheer power of their cunning and their strength. They almost succeed, but each time only up to a point. Things go so badly that they even fall prey to an unthinkable temptation. It is when all seems hopeless that help finally comes.

Two minor touches worth mentioning: first, Susan's attachments and her doubts begin to manifest themselves, hinting at the fate which will befall her later on; and second, it is Edward, fallen and redeemed, who shakes them out of their folly.

After the film, I flipped through my old copy of "Prince Caspian" to see where the adaptation deviated. Quite a bit, it turns out. Because of the emphasis on the action, there was a drastic shift in the timescale of the plot. While this may offend the purists, I think it was ultimately for the best: the book is the book, and the movie is the movie, after all; and it was by deviating from the letter that the movie remained true to the spirit.

Rating: 5 Fighting Mice!