Friday, May 23, 2008

Prince Caspian

The onward march of the film-izations of the C.S. Lewis Narnia series proceeds, somewhat sluggishly, with the second film Prince Caspian, released this month.

I confess that I found the books enjoyable, but somewhat forgettable. They lack the intricacy of Tolkien but also the density. Unlike a 1,500 page single novel (as Lord of the Rings is), the Narnia books are episodic, and they're all resolved (more or less) through a deus ex machina.

Not to say they're bad, mind you. They're very straightforward, though.

The movie follows the book pretty faithfully, from what I recall, except for a brief appearance from the White Witch. (I don't reccall that from the book.) And, thankfully, the kids are a lot less whiny in this one. (Susan, in particular was sort of a scold in the first movie, whereas in the first book, she was more responsible and conservative without being shrewish.)

The Pevensies are transported back to Narnia to help Prince Caspian, whose uncle is trying to have him killed. Caspian and his uncle, King Miraz are Telmarines, whose ancestors have wiped out the Narnians in the 1300 year absence of the Pevensies. (The Pevensies, as you'll recall, grew to adulthood in Narnia but apparently left behind no heirs, and regressed to childhood at the end of the first story.)

Caspian's been trained by Dr. Cornelius, who has kept the story of the Narnians alive, so that when Caspian encounters them, he sees it as his job to rally them, both to defeat his uncle and to restore Narnia.

There's your story right there, with Aslan floating around on the edges. (If there's a theme in the second book, only partly captured by the movie, it's that one should cleave to the truth, even if no one else believes it.)

And it's pretty solid. Not boring. A lot has been made of the violence, which is conspicuously non-bloody, but humans and other creatures die, sometimes tragically so. The Flower wasn't too concerned but she knew it would turn out okay. (Some of the previews were rather dark, though.)

The acting is top-flight, as could be expected. In particular, Peter Dinklage steals the show as Trumpkin, the recalcitrant dwarf. There's a brief scene with Tilda Swinton that she pwns, too.

The kids are good, thankfully, though the three years have resulted in some serious...blossoming...for Anna Popplewell. It's pretty well hidden, thankfully, and they do their best to make her look young, but at times it's clear she's closer to 20 than 15.

Special effects-wise, this movie is better than the last. The centaurs are noticably improved. The only really awful effect is a Bear. Oh, and a lot of the shooting was clearly outdoors, and very beautiful, which has the effect of making the CGI very obviously CGI-ish. (Directors need to learn that: Using real locations really throws the fakes into contrast. Be-vare!

I'd say if you liked the first one, you'd like this one. You might even like this one better.

UPDATE: The Boy was not pleased. He liked that the children weren't so whiny but he highly disapproved of the battle scenes. Listening to him, I tend to agree there was some loose stuff, but I tend to turn off the brain during this sort of movie anyway.


  1. This is going to be another multi-million dollar super hit because it doesn't waste our time bashing America or the Military or the Bush Administration. It is a story, and what can be better than that.

  2. It didn't open that strong but it wouldn't surprise me if it didn't have some legs on it. It will do well overseas and on DVD as well. I don't see a problem with them making the third one.

    No swearing, nudity or gore, violence but good vs. evil violence, strong messages about pride (the vanity kind), betrayal and hope. Yeah, something you can take the kids or grandma to.

  3. Ack! What a shame I cannot really read this review, but I am happy to have gleaned you liked it, Blake.

    (Explanation: I like to enter a film with a totally clean slate of opinions -- forming my own later)

    Thanks to you, I'll watch that and Indy this weekend. :)


  4. Ah, Victoria, I understand that.

    What I try to when reading is read-between-the-lines to see what sort of movie is there; I'm not really concerned about what the reviewer thought, I just want my expectations to match what I'm going to see, even if it's just to expect something out of the ordinary.

    For example, I might've enjoyed Before The Rains more if I had known it was Merchant-Ivory. I was expecting more suspense and action than I got.

    I find I can't really shut out the criticism, so I try to get what's useful out of it.

    This is important also because my tastes run odd. I love black comedy, where most people seem to find it tasteless or disturbing.

    Similarly, when I write a review, I try to write between the lines. I assume people are less interested in a synopsis and a breakdown point-by-point of what I liked and didn't like, and more concerned about what the experience is like, and whether they'll like it.


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