The second Chronicles of Narnia film, based upon the second of C. S. Lewis’ famous Chronicles of Narnia children’s books in the series, opened this weekend in theaters across America. It opened as the number one attraction, replacing Iron Man, a fabulous action film that I much enjoyed. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a truly wonderful film. I loved it from start to finish. The actors are good, though the story is not nearly as faithful to Lewis’ original as was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In taking liberties with Lewis’ book director Andrew Ferguson is making the story into an epic fantasy battle. I agree with Christianity Today’s Peter T. Chattaway that this makes this film “more consistent, and consistently entertaining” than Wardrobe was. Films are never consistently true to novels but in this case some of the book’s most basic spiritual themes are missing. The storyline remains in tact but re-arranged. And the battles and action scenes are top-notch. Aslan makes his appropriate appearance and reminds us again of the mystery of God and his love joined with power.

It has been one year in human time since the four children entered the land of Narnia from the famous wardrobe but in Narnia a 1,000 years have passed. When the children enter back into Narnia, in a way not exactly like the scene in Lewis’ book, they discover that things are not as they once were. The animals no longer talk and the magical Narnian creatures have been driven so deeply into the woods that it is as if they no longer exist. Here the movie makes Lucy’s troubled response to the trees that do not dance and Susan’s realization that now there are bears that do not talk seem so powerful.

Many do not know that C. S. Lewis wrote the Narnia series to help pagan, pre-Christian moderns grasp spiritual truths that would make it easier to convert. This will be the disappointment for readers of the book since crucial scenes are mission from the movie. For this reason Aslan has much less to do in the film version.Princecaspian4
Yet Lucy reminds Peter, who thinks he can handle Narnia on his own, that they should seek Aslan’s help since they have already seen what he can do and they know so much about him.

In the film Aslan tells Lucy, Every year you grow, so shall I.” In the book, Aslan says, “Every year you grow you will find me bigger.” For me this is a significant change. I was quite stunned when I saw it. Other less obvious changes remove some of the power and divinity of Aslan. Some critics have picked up on this and praised it. Christians will rightly be disappointed. (We can hope many will pick up the books!)

The supporting characters are superb in this movie. The dwarf Trumpkin is a bit too pessimistic, but so interesting. He draws you into his role while the truly lethal warrior is a mouse, Reepicheep. Reepicheep has an encounter with a person who says, “I can’t believe I am about to be killed by a mouse.” Reepicheep says, “You people have no imagination!” I laughed out loud!

Rated PG for violence and action, I would not recommend this film for children under 7 or 8 years of age because of the intensity of the scenes. Death scenes are not presented in a gory or grotesque manner but the structure and complexity of the film are a bit much for young children. I have a six-year old granddaughter. I also have a ten-year old granddaughter. I think the ten-year old could handle it but not the six-year old.

Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’ stepson was interviewed by Christianity Today about this long awaited movie. He summed up his feelings by saying, “I’m very, very pleased. It’s a film that portrays probably even more strongly than the book the essential message of Prince Caspian, which is a return to truth and faith and honor and justice after a millennium of corruption in Narnia. I almost hate to say it, but I think it’s a better move than The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Prince Caspian started with a poorer story than Lion/Witch, but has worked out probably to be a better movie.”

A very good preview of the film can be seen online at the Narnia site.

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  1. Helen May 20, 2008 at 7:14 am

    John I’m glad you liked it.
    I liked it too. My comments are on my blog
    I thought it brought out the inexplicable absence of Aslan (God) when he seems most needed very well – which is a very real issue faced by Christians.
    That change in the words of Aslan from “so shall I” to “I grow bigger too” didn’t bother me – the two seemed equivalent to me. I’m curious: how are they different to you? What is missing/misconstrued in the movie version?
    I thought it was better than the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
    I really liked how Susan was better than in the book – that the movie combined the natural interests of an adolescent with good qualities instead of making that an either/or. I liked how she was as involved in battle as her brothers – undoing the sexism of the book.
    I didn’t like that battle was ‘the answer’ – which is actually the same as in the book.
    I thought it was interesting that when Aslan did actually show up he didn’t get involved in the battle himself. What he did was ‘rally troops’ (as it were) that made the Narnians stronger than the Telmarines.

  2. c May 20, 2008 at 7:46 am

    I agree wholeheartedly in this review of the film! I loved this movie and was reminded of Lord of the Rings and Gladiator (the hand on hand combat scene). However, I was a little disappointed in some of the lines by Aslan (He says something like, “We can never really know…” to Lucy’s question.)
    It was still a fantastic film. I took my 10-year old daughter to see it, although she had to close her eyes during the occult-like scene with the hag and the werewolf. The recurring theme of the children not able to see Aslan or feeling abandoned or forgotten by him was a good theme on faith. It will surely be watched by our youth group!

  3. Darren May 21, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I saw this over the weekend, and I loved it. In fact, I liked it more than the first film, even though it’s less faithful to the actual book. I really didn’t expect very much, being that “Prince Caspian” is my least favorite of the Narnia chronicles. So I was pleasantly surprised, and even enjoyed some of the creative liberty the director took in making this movie.
    At first, I wasn’t real excited when I saw that the Chronicles were being made into films. My first thought was that this was another book-to-film franchise (like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) geared towards making lots of money (after all, there’s seven books which is seven potential movies). But this movie has made me rethink all that.
    In truth, because “Prince Caspian” is one of the weaker stories in the series, it was good that the director made the changes he did, so that people will maintain their interest in this, guaranteeing that the next films will be made. Now I’m actually very excited to see what he does with the next books, after all, the stories get progressively better and better.
    On a spiritual note, one thing that came out very strongly in the film was the idea of how age and time can erode belief. This can be seen in how Narnian culture changed over 1300 years to the point that people had nearly forgotten about Aslan and the old tales. It can also be seen in the children themselves, especially the older ones who never see Aslan’s appearances. We could draw parallels to our own culture and how we have forgotten our Christian heritage and become rationalists who don’t need God.
    Overall, the movie is very good. Even without the spiritual lessons of the first story, it helps restore my confidence in the film industry’s ability to make quality action-adventure films without a bunch of smut thrown in. And as Christians, it reminds us once again of God’s ever-present involvement in our world, even in places like Hollywood.

  4. Tim May 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    John, Thank you for a nice review.
    I certainly enjoyed this movie myself.
    I must agree that the line of Aslan, “Every year you grow, so shall I.” Was a poor choice. It seems to make Aslan reflect a God of process theology. That a God who doesn’t know or have sovereignty over the created order is just hoping things turn out right. The book’s line, “Every year you grow you will find me bigger,” has Aslan reflect the God C.S. Lewis believed in. One who is larger than we could ever grasp, which through our own personal process enables us to see more of Him. In the original (book) Aslan is presented as sovereign and unchanging, and that matters.

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