Sunday, May 18, 2008

Prince Caspian

I posted this at the Lead earlier today, but thought it would be of interest to readers here as well:

The film adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, part of the Narnia series of children's books, was released to somewhat mixed but largely positive reviews. Here is Christianity Today's take:

Lewis wanted to give his readers—including Christians who had unthinkingly bought into modernity—a taste of the spiritual realm that animates our physical world. And since he believed that the pagan, pre-Christian man had a greater aptitude for the spiritual realm, and was thus easier to convert, than the secular, post-Christian man, Lewis wrote the Narnia books to introduce his readers to a "baptized" form of paganism. Nowhere is this more explicit than in the original book version of Prince Caspian, in which the Christ-figure Aslan literally dances with the Greco-Roman god Bacchus.

But Adamson and his co-writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, show no interest in that particular theme. Gone from this film are any and all references to Bacchus, Silenus or the Maenads—figures as important to this story as Father Christmas was to Wardrobe—and gone too are the scenes in which Aslan and his followers trash the schools that teach Narnian children not to believe in myths and fairy tales. And because those scenes are missing, the divine lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) has very little to do. Indeed, Aslan is almost entirely written out of the movie altogether. His first appearance—an actual encounter with Lucy in the book—is here heavily abbreviated, and quickly revealed to be a dream. It is only in the film's final reels that Aslan indisputably steps onto the stage and takes action.



Read it all here.

Slate was disappointed:

Andrew Adamson's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is a much more elaborate, ambitious picture than the 2005 "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and it adds up to far less. The earlier picture, based on the first book in C.S. Lewis' well-loved Narnia series (although some Lewis fans insist the series begins with a later book, "The Magician's Nephew"), was graceful and sturdy, and Adamson didn't seem to feel the need to wring a sense of wonder out of us. Most of the effects -- including the image of the talking lion, Aslan, with his lush, wind-rippled mane -- dazzled quietly. As beautiful as the movie was to look at, it also felt a little rough around the edges, giving the sense, at least, of an object that had been hand-made with care. And it presented us with a haunting villain in Tilda Swinton's White Witch, whose bluish-pale skin looked like nothing that could possibly be found in the human world.

But in this latest Narnia installment Adamson has lost his way. "Prince Caspian," which is based on Lewis' "Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia," published in 1951, features a few inspired touches, and the four principal child and young-adult actors of the earlier picture -- just a little older now -- reprise their roles here. Yet the human characters come off as afterthoughts, figures that are moved around clumsily in the thicket of the movie's sprawling narrative. They barely exist in the context of the movie's battle sequences, which are designed to be elaborate and dazzling but instead feel simply overworked. There's very little real magic in "Prince Caspian," unless you're talking about the desperate kind of wizardry that chiefly involves waving around a checkbook.


Read it all here. Jim West calls the movie "theologically profound" on his blog. The New York Times Review is here. Terry Mattingly explores the theological underpinnings of the story here.

Having just finished the entire Narnia series for the first time this month (I am in my 40's), I plan on seeing the movie. If you have seen the movie, let us know what you thought.

2 comments:

Jim said...

Hey Chuck, are you aware that your title spells his name 'Cas-pain' instead of 'Cas-pian'.

Freudian slip?

;-)

Chuck Blanchard said...

Thanks for the note, Jim. It is now corrected. As you can see from the previous post, I am thinking quite a bit about the problem of suffering and pain. May well be a Freudian slip. Grin