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.
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.