Friday, May 16, 2008

Prince Caspian (Movie Review)

Andrew Adamson returns to direct this second adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic fantasy series, with pretty good results. I've read and enjoyed all of the books, but it's been about 15 years. Since then, however, I've listened through most of the series in audio drama format in the series produced by Focus Radio Theatre. (I can recommend this series both for its production quality and faithfulness to the original books.) After seeing "Prince Caspian", I flipped back through my copy of the book to check my memory and verified that some pretty significant changes were made.

I'll admit that I saw the changes coming. First, there were several action sequences added to the the first movie and second, the "Prince Caspian" story, like many of the books in this series, is not "action packed". It's driven by the exploration of events and ideas. It's not a thickly spread allegory, but is still undeniably an allegory. The original story also doesn't have the four main characters interacting with Prince Caspian until near the end of the book, when he is King Caspian. About half of the book is a flashback as a dwarf catches the children up on events that have taken place in their absence.

Disney may have thought that the four children are the centerpiece for these stories, and so didn't want to stray from them too far. This would explain the tremendous amount of plot juggling done to keep the kids active in the story from start to finish. Purist fans of the books will likely be bummed that much of the allegory is lost, replaced by standard movie plot elements. As one who enjoyed the symbolism found in the first film, I missed its absence in this one.

Although there were significantly fewer moments of Biblical symbolism, there were one or two that still proved very meaningful.

Lucy had been spotting Aslan throughout their journey, but the other kids couldn't see him, and didn't believe her when she told them he was out there in the forest. Eventually, Lucy finds Aslan and complains that she had a difficult time with the other kids not believing her. Aslan then asked her, "Why did that keep you from following me?" To which Lucy replied "I was afraid to follow you alone." A true reflection of what it means to be a genuine Christian. Following Jesus, especially when our friends and family do not, can take us far outside of our comfort zone. People can think we're crazy or stupid. But the challenge to press on remains.

The material added, although not wonderful, isn't bad. Some battle sequences and witty banter here and there round out the script nicely.

In terms of straight up film quality, this movie is pretty good. Not amazing, but definitely enjoyable. It continues in the visual style of the first film, giving a serious "adult" tone to the film despite its PG rating. Colors are muted and dark. Violence is present, but without any gore. Several cuts and shooting angles are designed to represent violent moments, but without showing anything that will "upset the kiddies". The sound effects do a great job of implying violence, making it gripping for adults, but visually, this movie is pretty kid friendly. Adamson continues to take cinematic inspiration from Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The battle scenes, while not as intense, certainly have some of the epic scale of the Rings flicks. If this trend continues, I'd imagine these movies will become a great "LOTR junior" for kids that aren't ready for Jackson's movies yet.

The performances are all sufficient, but no one's getting any trophies for this one. A favor the director could do for everyone would be to recognize that "ideas", not drama, are the strengths of these stories. You absolutely need the drama, but give us a little more to think about, too. Additionally, there were some action sequences and other moments that didn't serve the characters or move the story forward, resulting in a slow pace just once or twice.

Special effects and scoring were great. No big steps forward from the first film, but that's okay. Things looked and sounded great in the first film, too!

To sum up, I'd say that the absence of potentially richer symbolism combined with the "kid friendly" action make this one weighted a little more for kids this time around, and so not as interesting to me. That said, it's still a very good movie and one I will use someday to prepare my kids for "daddy's even better movies".

Rated PG for epic battle action and violence

Quality: 8.0/10


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