I suppose it’s not unusual for a fan of a book to be disappointed by the movie. But after the movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, my expectations were high, and so the disappointment with the Prince Caspian movie was more palpable.
Of course we must allow the scriptwriters some flexibility. And some deviations from the book I can accept. So the movie begins on a London station rather than a country station, albeit with an invented fight that is an early pointer to the overworked movie narrative. Caspian blows Susan’s horn much earlier than in the book. Speaking of Caspian, who would have guessed that Telmarines had gone to the Rafael Nadal school of English-speaking?
Other deviations – borne from a seemingly endless quest to add narrative tension – are difficult to accept. The scriptwriters imagine Caspian tempted to call up the Witch from the dead. But the book shows Caspian utterly opposed to Nikabrik’s plan. The movie manufactures a power struggle between Peter and Caspian. How different to the book, when at their first meeting, Peter tells Caspian, ‘I haven’t come to take your place but to put you into it’. The scriptwriters present Peter as a desperate leader who recklessly attacks Miraz’s castle. The book presents Peter, having then already met Aslan, as the assured High King (and with no attack on Miraz’s castle).
The effect of these additions is an unnecessarily long movie. They also muddy what should be central. Aslan is obscured and his role is greatly diminished. The scriptwriters don’t seem to know what to do with the great Lion. That Lucy is sent to find Aslan to ask for his help presents him as distant, even unaware of the battle. The book shows Aslan thoroughly involved in delivering Old Narnia from the tyrant. His ancient gift is the means for calling the children to Narnia, his guiding presence ensures they reach Caspian in time, and his breath empowers the boys for battle. The Lion’s roar awakens the trees, who complete the victory. In the book, Aslan is the Great King.
The additions also obscure C.S. Lewis’ concern with faith, compromise his good models of faith including Caspian, and show none of the joy – so abundant in the book – that Aslan’s coming brings to those who have longed for his appearing. For me the highlight of the book is the scene where Aslan meets Caspian’s dying, faith-filled nurse, restores her life, and turns the water from her well into wine. What follows is leaping, dancing, singing, music and laughter!
The movie offers none of this, displacing the central issue of people’s faith in Aslan by its extended battle scenes and plethora of cheap ‘human-interest’ stories including a romantic interest between Caspian and Susan (which could never have amounted to anything, given the events of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader!).
If the movie gains a new audience for the book, it will have been of some value. As they read, people will encounter the real Aslan, beautiful King Aslan. Of course, in our world Aslan has a different name, but the challenge to trust him is the same.
Author: Stephen Yeo
syeo128 (at) gmail (dot) com
* King For A Day is a weekly post by a guest blogger.