Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

We went to see this today. Last week I showed FDPG the trailer on Quick Time to see if she would get totally freaked out by it find it intriguing enough to want to see in the theatre, because I knew the boys and I would have a great time with all those swords and centaurs. But, as I've mentioned more than four million times once, FDPG is an impressionable little FDPG. She's been known to have the odd nightmare, although this thankfully seems to be a thing of the past (you're probably looking at the photo above and thinking "You idiot! You took her to see something with men dressed like THAT in it and you think her nightmares are a thing of the past? Feckless fool!" now, aren't you?) But lest you think me completely irresponsible, I did prep her a bit by showing her the first film - Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - on the weekend. And she loved it.

If you've read the book, you might find the plot has been changed slightly, not for the worse, although there were an awful lot of battle scenes. In fact, if I had to give the battles a percentage mark of their own, I'd say they took up at least 90% of the action, but in the opinions of Max and Dominic, this was clearly a Good Thing. The fantastical characters were again created by those masterminds at WETA, and were, for the most part, pretty decent-looking, although I thought the centaurs were a bit clunky this time compared to the first film. I was also slightly distracted by my kids whispering MR. TUMNUS! rather loudly every time they saw a satyr, but I digress.

The story opens with Prince Caspian a lovely bit of eye candy a young Prince about to have his throne (and life) usurped by his Evil Uncle (above photo, in some rather fetching battle gear even if it does look as though he's just stepped in from a Shakespeare play), being spirited out of a castle by a Sympathetic Tutor. Caspian is sent off with the usual blessings for safe travel, the inevitable "Wish I could have told you more about your past" fare-thee-well, and a mysterious package (which turns out to be the horn of Narnia, although how his tutor came to have it is never dealt with in the film). What with one thing and another, Caspian lands in the laps of some Narnians and blows the horn which summons back the Pevensie children. You might have seen this scene in trailers - we had - but we were all thrilled to see the walls of the Tube in London fly away like roof tiles, while the train racketed by and the Pevensies gaped in delighted disbelief. One of them (Susan?) even said "I can feel magic!" and I didn't groan a bit, so there you go. Almost complete suspension of belief.

It's been only a year London time since the Pevensies were last in Narnia, but more than 13oo years Narnian time, and time hasn't passed pleasantly in either place. The older Pevensies, Peter and Susan, are obviously struggling with having gained and lost both crown and stature, while things in Narnia are even more grim. The Evil Uncle rules the Telmarine, a sort of medieval conquistador people, who seem to do little more than squabble about power in poorly lit rooms. I thought the changes in Narnia were initially dealt with rather heavy-handedly: "If you're treated as an animal you start acting like an animal" (in reference to a menacing bear) was one phrase that had me squirming, but the Telmarines were fun. They were mostly tall, dark, and handsome, and clanked around impressively in their armour, rolling their eyes and their R's with equal dramatic flair. A little clichéed, perhaps, but fun.

Anyhow, once the children are spirited back to Narnia, they start exploring the ruined castle they'd once lived in, their memories gradually returning. Without too much messing about, they don their Narnian clothing and set off, where they run into a helpful but awkwardly surly dwarf, and, eventually, Prince Caspian, who has convinced the Narnians to join forces with him to defeat Evil Uncle. We see satyrs and centaurs, dwarves and talking badgers, and comic relief comes in the form of a talking squirrel with a sword. The head centaur pledges allegiance, Peter and Caspian spar a bit, Lucy agonizes over Aslan, and Susan reprises her exasperated eye-rolling from the previous film. If I sound a tad ho-hum about it all it's because I was, but my kids loved every bit of it, even FDPG. She particularly loved the talking squirrel. I was too busy being shocked by the changes in Lucy and Edmund. Both of them looked as though they'd grown a foot since the last film. Gone was the heartbreaking little girl who'd made me cry so much in the first film, but this Edmund was much improved from the Edmund of old. He was self-assured, shouted useful things in all the right places, and had more than a few good lines.

The film looks as though most of the money and effort was spent on the battle scenes, and they are pretty impressive, but I wish they'd put more time and attention into the battle-free bits. This film didn't tug at my heart the way the first one did. And my oh my but I also wish I'd known about the Hag and the Werewolf, even if we did get a taste of the incomparable Tilda Swinton (who makes me want to say "Oh Ludwig!" every time I see her). I had just enough time to cover FDPG's eyes, but only just. Ug-ah-LEE! as Dominic said. Indeed. There is also one rather distressing scene where a lot of Narnians are left to be slaughtered, but that's all I'll say. For the most part it's typical C. S. Lewis: a blend of mythological themes, bittersweet adult regret, and childish wishes, with the usual Hollywood mania for Big Action, and we all quite liked it.


Kate said...

Glad to see you post again. I rely on your blog to assure myself that all is well in your world, and almost resorted to a telephone call to check that all was well.

My Mom took my boys to Prince Caspian, and they noted not only some plot changes, but also, horror of horrors, the hint of romance between the Prince and Susan. They were completely unimpressed by that!

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

We saw this movie, too - and we rather liked it.

The special effects were truly amazing.

This post is very well done!

patrick said...

haven't seen Prince Caspian yet but definitely looking forward to it... i'll have to look over the book one more time just to remind myself how the original story goes

sheila said...

I'm still here, Kate. The garden has me in its thrall and it's hard to come inside to blog like I used to. Tell Z that one day we'll be the Gagging Ones. I'll be willing to bet him $50. One day (Sheila says, rubbing her hands together)

LMM: thank you for the comments. I think I may have skimped on my enthusiasm for this film, because I definitely felt some here and there. The cast was really quite impressive, wasn't it.

Patrick: I have to say, I didn't feel the same degree of anxiety that I felt when I saw the LOTR films. And any changes seemed quite in keeping with the movie itself. The movies can certainly stand on their own - and although I liked the LOTR films, I don't know that I would ever say that about THEM, iykwim.