It was May 18, 2008 and I was excited. My best friend was taking me to see Disney / Walden Media’s latest release, Prince Caspian. We had watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the night before and were anxiously awaiting the moment Prince Caspian appeared on the silver screen. To my surprise and dismay, the story was far more different than I’d anticipated. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I was able to point out all the undesirable parts as we walked out of the theatre. Since Prince Caspian is one of my favourites in the Narnia series, I was naturally disappointed with the film. Rather than lay out the entire script and indicate each discrepancy, I’ll just point out the most obvious differences between the book by C.S. Lewis and the movie by Andrew Adamson.
Over time, I was able to pinpoint the greatest problem in the movie: Peter’s arrogance. Most of what went wrong in the film was a
result of this character change. C.S. Lewis’ Peter was mature, humble, a good leader, more than willing to ensure Caspian’s kingship. The Peter of the book tells Caspian, “I haven’t come to take your place, you know, but to put you into it.” Caspian was tongue-tied with respectful awe when discussing plans with Peter. Andrew Adamson’s Peter, on the other hand, was a teenaged boy who was struggling with being a kid again after having been a great king once; thus was born his discontent and arrogance. Makes sense; what teen wouldn’t feel that way? William Moseley, who portrayed Peter in the film, put it this way: “Peter’s got his own issues to deal with, and Caspian’s got his own…, and when neither is willing to compromise, there’s bound to be friction. … I think they both have to learn a certain humility. And that’s really what a great King needs is to be humble, to listen to his people, to be willing to compromise. [They] start off as these sort of angry teenagers, and become kings at the
end….”* Adamson’s reason for this change is understandable, but did it really have to affect the rest of the story? The Peter of the movie strives to regain his position as the magnificent High King. His attitude in the movie brings about disaster: he gets into a fight with fellow schoolboys, Caspian gives him resistance rather than respect, the unnecessary Night Raid was a show of his “I can still do this” mentality, and his high-and-mighty snobbishness prevented him from taking advice. Not to mention that the audience likes him that much less.
Another problem created was the Susan-Caspian “romance”. First, C.S. Lewis’ characters were younger than they are portrayed in the movies; second, the girls hardly get to know Caspian as they were separated from their brothers prior to meeting Caspian. But these aren’t the only problems to the movie’s pseudo-romance, for C.S. Lewis introduces us to Caspian’s future wife in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and she is again mentioned in The Silver Chair. The Prince Caspian moviemakers dug themselves into a hole, which those involved with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had to deal with when they introduced Caspian to his future wife. The “romance” not only complicates matters, but it is also pointless. Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand that it is possible to have an amazing story without a kiss.
The Prince Caspian movie is much darker than its predecessor, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Both were more violent than the books. While I very much appreciated the battle from the first movie, there seemed to be too much of it going on in Prince Caspian: everything the characters did would lead to multiple deaths – or threats of death – that should never have happened in whatever manner. The Night Raid – which is non-existent in the book – is the largest factor of this.
My greatest disappointment in the movie lay in Aslan’s general inaction. The most crucial scene in the book is the one in which Aslan leads the Pevensies to Caspian’s camp, being visible to them only according to their measure of faith. Peter and Edmund thus made it to Caspian’s camp in time to stop the hag and werewolf from trying to call back the White Witch. The film alludes to the rendezvous between Aslan and Lucy before the faith-based follow-the-leader, but it turns out only to be a dream. The great lion only truly appears partway through the final battle suddenly to save the day. The spiritual aspect of faith found in the book is not there.
Despite all the movie’s negatives, there is one thing that redeemed it from a worse disaster. Ironically, it happened only because of the two worst mistakes: Aslan’s absence and Peter’s arrogance. Where the book merely threatened to call back the White Witch, the movie almost succeeded in bringing her back – which in itself interested me as I always wanted to know what would happen if the process was started. In the film, the magical procedure is started because Aslan
hadn’t shown up and the Pevensie option appeared to be a dud. The procedure is interrupted; the hag, werewolf, and the traitorous dwarf are killed; and Peter shoves Caspian out of the enchanting circle drawn in the dust. The White Witch turns her attention to enticing Peter himself to bring her back, telling him truthfully enough, “You know you can’t do this alone.” Just as Peter looks ready to give in, Edmund skewers the icy apparition and leaves Peter to gaze upon the carving of Aslan on the wall, framed by two pillars of ice. That very shot is the most important and most poignant of the entire movie, especially for the Christian: we can’t do it alone and we don’t – as Peter put it – “have it sorted”, but there is one Source of help we should always resort to.
I am quick to take the purist view on the matter – especially concerning the spiritual allegories – and, for the most part, I hold to the idea that Andrew Adamson’s Prince Caspian is inferior to that of C.S. Lewis. At the same time, I am also quick to point out that despite the changes I detest, the moviemakers did exchange one great spiritual truth for another that is just as important. Regardless of this one great redeeming factor, I add it all together and find that the film adaption falls short of the book’s high standard.
(* William Moseley. “NarniaWeb Set Report #5” (interview). October 18, 2007. http://www.narniaweb.com/2007/10/narniaweb-set-report-5-peter-edmund/)
The above was a paper I wrote in my second semester of college, so apologies for any mistakes or any moments in which I lacked clarity. I could probably communicate my thoughts better now, but posting this old paper is much easier. 🙂
The following was a movie-verse fanfiction I wrote more than half a year after that. This fic allowed me to do two things: 1) rant and rave about what I hated about the movie and 2) reconcile myself to the fact that the changes regarding Peter really do make sense.
The high king has returned to Narnia, but he’s going to learn some lessons the hard way. Once he’s humbled, he learns another lesson: grace. A collection of Peter’s thoughts during Prince Caspian, movie-verse.
Click here to read it!