Sunday, July 06, 2008

Prince Caspian: The Verdict

This post full of spoilers, although I doubt it matters.

I finally got round to watching Caspian last night. I've previously written on the Caspian film and the mixed reaction to it. Knowing that the film had taken plenty of liberties with the story turned out to be a good thing, as it meant that I went in with appropriate expectations and took the movie on its own terms. And I did enjoy it, although my friend, who did not know about the changes beforehand, was pretty disappointed. So, updates on my previous thoughts:
  • When I first saw Georgie Henley in the first film, I thought she was too young to be Lucy; she turned out to be just about the best thing in LWW. It's the same here, it's a great delight to know that such a winning character is being portrayed so well (even if she still looks a little too young!)
  • Fear of mischaracterisation #1: Reepicheep. Verdict: Relieved. I was so afraid that Reepicheep had been turned into the rodent version of Shrek's Donkey, but actually I think they got him largely right. Perhaps there should be a touch more chivalry in his speech mannerisms, but that's a minor quibble.
  • I liked that they fleshed out Miraz's lords more. At first, I thought that they were perhaps even planting seeds for Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in that book, we discover that Miraz has been up to shenanigans concerning some of the Narnian lords), but even though they didn't go down that direction, I think that was a good eg. of how additions in a film adaptation can help the story.
  • Trufflehunter and Nikabrik were also portrayed correctly, although they aren't hard to cast; the former being the calm voice of reason, the latter impatient and devious.
  • Fear of mischaracterisation #2: Trumpkin. Verdict: Disappointed, although it wasn't as bad as feared. Trumpkin is a skeptic. He's naturally pessimistic. He's gruff. But underneath all that, you know he's loyal and he's good. I think he's the most complicated character of the trio (the other two being the above) but still... The fault lay in how they changed the way he's introduced. He's not skeptical that old Narnia existed, just bitter in the belief that his Narnian forbearers abandoned them. It's a big disappointment that we don't get to see the ironic scene where Trumpkin fails to recognise that he has found the very help he's sought! They correct his character somewhat in the 2nd half of the film, for instance where he supports Lucy as they cross the river. But it's too little too late. When Susan and Lucy call him their "DLF", unlike in the book, it was not believable. The ending scene where Trumpkin bows before Aslan is impotent because unlike in the book, we get no sense that Trumpkin was previously doubtful of Aslan, his majesty and his power.
  • Another change - Susan's horn in the book is meant only to be able to call for help, but it doesn't specify what kind of help would arrive. In the film, it's specifically meant to be able to call the Penvensies back. It's a subtle change, but I think it does change the texture of the story somewhat: the form of help received comes predetermined, whereas in the book, the "New" Narnians just wasn't sure what to expect.
  • I liked the interchange between the Penvensies, it really felt like they were siblings.
  • Arguably the biggest disapppointment of the night: the pivotal scene where Lucy believes she sees Aslan where the others don't is given short shrift here. In the book, the rest begin to see Aslan one by one, and Peter humbles himself before Aslan, telling him: "Oh Aslan, I've been leading them all wrong."
  • They played up the tension between Peter and Caspian in the book more. It's there in the book as well, but doesn't feature so much, probably because of the penitential scene that I just mentioned above. As I've also mentioned before, I don't actually mind that they did this, but it's a shame that it meant that they cut the scene above. In playing this up, though, I do feel it had a significant effect on the contours of the film's narrative, eg. the cutting of the scene above and setting the stage for the entirely uncanonical storming of the castle.
  • It also involved changing the scene where Nikabrik conjures up the White Witch, but although on one level I would have preferred the original, I did like the way they did this scene, with Edmund destroying the source of temptation, and Peter's formerly obscured view of Aslan coming starkly into view.
  • The romance between Caspian and Susan wasn't too bad either - it was kept to a minimum and seemed to be there purely on the grounds of pleasing some higher-ups who deem that a romance angle is necessary to please the audience.
  • I've been talking about disappointing scenes; well, I was really pleased with the one-to-one fight between Miraz and Peter. That's exactly how I pictured it.
  • Caspian, I think, also suffered a little from the Trumpkin treatment. Because we don't get to see his sessions with Professor Cornelius, we fail to get a better-rounded picture of him. Apart from being the wronged heir, do we really get a sense of what makes him tick?
  • Aslan doesn't get too much airtime, but most of his lines do at least survive intact. I thought I wouldn't like the dream sequence, but now I'm more agnostic about it - it dosn't detract as much from the story as the Lucy seeing Aslan scene.
  • Ultimately, I think the film does suffer a bit from what I shall call the LOTR Syndrome. In its haste to get to the big climatic battle scenes, they sacrificed bits of characterization and story. Now the book does have a big climatic battle at the end (more so, I thought, than LWW), so I don't mind that payoff. But Narnia is not LOTR. Do we really need that castle-storming scene?
  • But I did enjoy the movie. And I'm a bit of a sucker for hopeful, uplifting songs that manipulatetug at your emotions when it's time for the happy ending. I've been unable to get Regina Spektor's 'The Call' out of my head today. Isn't this song begging for that crescendo, complete with backing orchestra? :-p

P/S I reread Steven Greydanus's review after watching the film and it's still the best thing out there.

PP/S I wrote all of the above things without having the benefit of the book near me so am recalling entirely from memory. Tell me if I've got something wrong!

PPP/S Maybe I'll bump into Anna Popplewell (Susan) when I'm in Oxford! (She's currently studying Eng Lit at Magdalen, coincidentally, C.S Lewis' old college).

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