Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disappointed in Prince Caspian

I'm a big believer in the "don't mess with a good thing" philosophy. And I am especially critical of books turned into movies. The best movies deviate very little from the written masterpieces. After all, isn't the movie created because the book was such a hit? Which brings me to my disappointment in Prince Caspian.

On the surface the movie was quite enjoyable. The costumes and makeup were rich in detail, the outdoor locations were gorgeous. The film technique was interesting with varied shots and angles - and it caught the lighting so well in the woods. An even bigger bonus - the young actors did a great job. I really enjoyed the "artsy" outer layer of the film. But the plot ruined it for me.

The plot barely hung onto the fringes of the written story and left out the deep character development that gives Prince Caspian it's substance. It wasn't just that the director added romantic tension between Susan and Prince Caspian (which pulled us away from Susan's real focus in the book - her relationship to Aslan), but he eradicated almost all of the Christian allegory.

There were two bits of dialogue that left me with an uncomfortable feeling, like something just wasn't right. After the movie I talked with Ryan about it and he was able to clarify what the movie said versus what C.S. Lewis originally wrote.

Scene 1: Lucy has just found Aslan in the forest, after she has ridden from battle in search of help. She asks Aslan if the events in Narnia would have been different if she had sought him earlier. The movie version has Aslan tell her that we can never know the what would have happened while in the book version Aslan actually says that no one is ever told what would have happened if she had acted differently. The difference is subtle but so important! C.S. Lewis wants us to know that Aslan has the power to see the end result of all choices Lucy is offered, just has God can see the different outcomes to the choices we are offered. In the movie Aslan seems just as clueless as the little girl he guides. There is no sense that an all-powerful Aslan (God) knows the different outcomes of Lucy's choices.

Scene 2: Aslan is sending the children back to England after their adventure in Narnia. Aslan's explanation to the children why Susan and Peter will not return to Narnia in the movie is very different from the explanation in the book. In the movie Aslan tells the children that Peter and Susan have learned what they can from Narnia and now must learn what they can from their own home. In the book Aslan tells them that Peter and Susan have learned to love him as best they can in Narnia and now must learn to love him by his name in their own world. Aslan is a Christ-figure. He's telling the children in the book to go back home and grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. The movie takes out all reference to God, Christ, and the real nature of the children's relationship to Aslan.

When you look the two versions of Prince Caspian side by side the movie pales in comparison to the book. The director obviously thought his audience couldn't handle a film with deep character development, as the children struggle primarily with their relationship to Aslan (God) - and therefore took out all reference to God, replacing it with a fluffy romantic anti-relationship between Susan and Caspian and extra battle scenes that don't exist in the book version.

I am quite disappointed to find the work of C.S. Lewis severed from it's original content and meaning. And I'm just not sure if I want to waste my time on any other new movie versions of The Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe I'll just stick to the old BBC versions from my childhood, even if they don't look as cool on the surface.

1 comment:

Louise said...

This is a really good analysis! Those same 2 bits of dialogue disturbed me too. Amazing how tinkering with words can completely strip a movie of its Christian allegory and water it down to another "fluffy." If I had seen the movie without reading the book, I would have been completely befuddled as to what the point was.