>Whenever major movie companies make the effort to produce classic literature, especially literature based on a Christian worldview, believers ought to support those efforts with their box office dollars. That’s why I encourage readers to see Prince Caspian, the latest Chronicles of Narnia production by Disney and Walden Media.
But if older children have not yet read the book or parents have not yet read the book to younger children, I urge: Read the book first!
In this way, both the book and the movie can be received and appreciated on their own. Children can discover the enchantment of Narnia as the people and events unfold in their imagination. Families can enjoy an exciting movie together. Parents and children can then discuss points where the movie departs from the book and how those departures may change meaning.
Parents should be aware that the movie contains some intense moments (one sad and one frightening) that may disturb very young children. Although the film takes great poetic license with the book’s plot, families can enjoy this exciting film of the triumph of good over evil in the land of Narnia.
Since over a fourth of the pages in Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis consist of Trumpkin’s narrative about Caspian to the Pevensie children, I was fully prepared for radical reorganization. And since movie makers generally focus on action, I expected additional action scenes. Reorganization comes from portraying events of the story in chronological order, switching between Caspian’s story and that of the Pevensies; a technique that seems natural and effective. Additional action comes in an attack on Miraz’s castle and Susan’s prominent role in fighting scenes, neither of which exist in the book and both of which seem contrived and unnecessary.
The rationale behind this additional action may be related to marketing efforts. Watching the movie, I could envision warrior Susan action figures being plucked off toy store shelves. And I was sure a video game was in the works since sections of the single combat scene between Peter and Miraz looked like computer-generated clips from a fighting game. Checking online, I find that Disney is, indeed, marketing a fighting Susan figure as well as a Prince Caspian video game.
Since movie makers are always looking for scenes with visual impact and humorous dialogue, it is puzzling why one priceless section of the book was not fully incorporated: when the Pevensies prove their worth to Trumpkin (who thinks children are of no help). The children’s progressive demonstrations of skill and the dwarf’s reactions are hilarious. Both dialogue and action would have transferred marvelously to the big screen. But the movie reduces the scene down to merely swordplay between the dwarf and Edmund. This is one spot where accurate action could easily have been added. But movie makers chose instead to add other action elements.
While I anticipated some plot embellishments, I was disappointed in plot engineering that changes important aspects of meaning.
Pre-release hype was full of commentary about how the Prince Caspian movie may have more departures from the original story than The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe movie, but how producers worked hard to retain the spirit of the book.
They may have attempted to retain the spirit of the book, but what they’ve depicted is far more the spirit of the age.
Movie producers seemed more concerned about exploring character psychology than remaining faithful to the story. It’s as if a bunch of Generation Xers brainstormed together and assigned their own angst to these WWII era characters.
The movie focuses on a modern psychology of adjustment that not only doesn’t occur in the book, but also is completely opposed to what is portrayed in the books.
An important part of the Chronicles of Narnia stories, as written by Lewis, is that the children learn how to live more righteously and nobly while in Narnia and this positively affects the way they live after their return to England.
The movie is characterized by the completely inaccurate adjustment complexes of Peter and Susan. The beginning scenes in England portray Susan as a lonely and maladjusted recluse while Peter has turned into a bully and brawler who’s “tired of being treated like a kid” and thinks he shouldn’t have to put up with insolence from anyone. This theme continues in Peter vying for power with Caspian, which creates a definite strain on their relationship. Relationships are further complicated by Peter’s bad battle decisions and a budding romance between Caspian and Susan. The adjustment theme carries through to the end, when Aslan is about return the children to England and says that Peter and Susan must learn to live in their own world.
These “adjustment complexes” are significant departures from the original. Peter behaves nobly in the book, calling Caspian by his proper title, “King Caspian.” On meeting Caspian, Peter says, “I haven’t come to take your place, you know, but to put you into it.” Hardly the words of someone vying for power! Peter isn’t perfect in the book, but his battle decisions are a far cry from those depicted in the movie. There is no hint of romance between Caspian and Susan in the book. And Susan is hardly a shrinking violet recluse in England. In fact, the reader of all seven Narnia books will eventually learn that Susan’s problems in England are quite the opposite.
Not only are these departures almost opposite the original, but they also demonstrate the radical difference between the perspective of movie producers and that of C.S. Lewis. Lewis wrote from a Christian worldview that assumed improved sanctification as the natural result of more intimate contact with Christ (represented in Narnia by the Christ-like figure of Aslan). In direct opposition, movie producers have injected personal deterioration as a consequence of visiting Narnia.
The difference in worldview is particularly apparent when considering the allegorical elements of Prince Caspian. Although allegorical elements are not as obvious in Prince Caspian as in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, they have disappeared almost completely from the movie.
A meaningful part of the book is the section in which Lucy is the only one who can see Aslan and must convince the others to follow him, or else follow him alone. It is a trial of faith for her, and the others are able to see Aslan only as their faith becomes stronger. A bit of this allegorical sense comes across in the movie, but a great deal of the significance is lost.
The primary theme of the book is acutely absent from the movie. The fact that the tales about Aslan and Old Narnia are no longer believed by most inhabitants of Narnia represents a country that has lost its Christian moorings. Lewis himself identified the theme of Prince Caspian as “restoration of the true religion after a corruption.”
The real story of Prince Caspian isn’t primarily about restoring the rightful king, but about restoring the right faith. The movie, Prince Caspian, focuses on restoration of the temporal and completely misses restoration of the eternal.