“They used to dance”
After three years, Andrew Adamson returns the world of Narnia to film fans everywhere with Prince Caspian. Shot out of order from the stories themselves, this is the obvious second choice cinematically. With the ever-looming challenge of young actors aging at such a fast pace, he needs to get all the tales concerning these kings and queens done before they become way too old. As it is, both Edmund and Lucy appear much older than the previous work, but it never detracts from the proceedings. This is because Adamson has done something here that few have the guts to do. He decided not to treat the novel as scripture, but instead as a blueprint. While the backbone and important story points stay precise, the connections and interwoven threads reaching each checkstop have been liberated from the printed word. The filmmakers have definitely taken a somewhat slight book, (only 100 pages in the edition I own), and have crafted an epic of war, survival, and faith. A true movie that dares to stand apart from its source, Adamson and company have improved upon the series, bettering their debut effort and creating their own Two Towers type narrative.
C.S. Lewis’ novel has a story structure that makes it difficult for viewing. We learn about the titular prince through a long tale of his exploits from a dwarf to the Pevensie children. In movie form, this would be pretty boring stuff while we await the action to finally begin. As a result, the film jumbles things around in order to keep the fight fresh, slowly revealing the prince’s past and origins while the children search to join him. Characters crop up in different ways; Aslan is pushed to the background much more than the book, (something I think improves the tale greatly), and events change to add more emotional and dramatic weight. While the novel shares the same progression, it does so in a much more matter-of-fact way, whereas this work allows us as viewers to dive right in and see higher stakes and a greater toll when it comes to the battles—even adding a battle that does not exist in the book at all. Relationships are more fleshed out and rather than be a bridge piece inside an epic history of Narnia, this film becomes a more complete tale, raising the level in all facets.
The major difference, I feel, is the lack of blind faith in a Telmarine prince by the forgotten fantastical Narnian creatures. This prince, the rightful heir to the throne who has been compromised by his uncle finally bearing a son, means well, but comes from a line of brutal men that have all but wiped out the mystical powers of the land. Due to this fact, it would be rather silly for those being wiped out to take this boy at his word and join him to overthrow his own uncle, the self proclaimed king. We now, instead, get a more skeptical group of creatures not so quick to give their lives over to Caspian. The dwarf Trumpkin, who never bats an eye in the book to join his cause, is changed into a being that is unsure of everything going on. The fact that he is captured much earlier here then in the novel, (this ruins nothing for you), helps keep these feelings longer and makes him more realistic as he slowly converts into a believer. Even the centaurs and woodland creatures need some persuading before they enlist, something they don’t even ask for, but instead throw a huge party, in the text.
As stated before, this entry has many similarities to the adaptation of Tolkien’s Two Towers. A battle between good and evil is on display and the fight is tense and well orchestrated. Due to the duel aspect of the final battle, the writers decided to add a more straightforward siege to compensate for the mono y mono warfare at the conclusion. The scene adds some nice weight and action, allowing the plot to progress a tad faster and be more interesting than without. By utilizing it as a chance to show the fallibilities of both Caspian and Peter, it lends more credibility to the idea of resurrecting a former evil to “help” in the fight against the tyrant Miraz. Also, it gives the supporting roles a bit more to do, especially Edmund and Susan who are more or less tertiary characters in the novel, (although extending their screentime added in a romantic bent for Susan that is not only glaringly unnecessary, but the one Hollywood cliché taking you out of the story ever so slightly).
Fighting to save Narnia from extinction and to put a deserving man in the throne brings out the edge in these kids. The four Pevensies show some nice evolution from their roles in the first film, especially William Moseley who takes the duty of High King seriously. Anna Popplewell and Georgie Henley do their roles justice and Skandar Keynes adds some well-placed humor throughout as Edmund, the one who was the butt of most jokes previously. Ben Barnes, as Caspian, is kind of hit and miss. When he is on and natural, he succeeds very well, however, when he is given too much to do, Barnes shows some chinks in the armor. The accent the least of his problems, some moments just show his inexperience, but nothing too major to take away from the film overall. The real gems, though, are Warwick Davis as Nikabrik and Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin. While it’s great to see Willow return to a meaty role in the fantasy realm, it is Dinklage’s first foray into the genre that stands out. His acting is superb, his skill exact in both moments of candor and graveness.
Succeeding across the board; improving upon the novel, not in substance, but in cinematic scope; and besting the original to be a bigger and better sequel, Prince Caspian definitely impresses. We see a side of Narnia that was missing in the first film as it set-up the rules and fantasy. With all that out of the way, we are treated to the inhabitants and lore of the land, the sincere need to keep their civilization thriving despite the usurpers who have taken control. Even the comedic side finds some elevation with my favorite role in the book translating brilliantly to screen. Tiny Reepicheep the mouse, wonderfully voiced by Eddie Izzard, steals the show and exudes the pride in one’s country that you can see behind the eyes of every warrior ready to give their lives for it.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 8/10 | ★ ★ ★