Monday, April 7, 2008

Prince Caspian: Anticipation is keeping me ... speculating

Four weeks from this coming Friday, I am scheduled to take flight (in an airplane--although I expect to be flying high emotionally, too) to New York to see a pre-screening of the new Chronicles of Narnia film, Prince Caspian. I plan to write a preview article the early part of May, and then a more complete review the weekend the movie is released across the U.S. (Prince Caspian hits theaters May 16.)

In light of rumors about the film (some apparently well-substantiated), I thought a preview before the preview was in order. The movie is not going to be exactly like the book, to say the least. This is unsettling to many Narnia fans, but apparently necessary. I reported in Hollywood Jesus' Narnia News Blog in February that had posted an exclusive interview with Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’s step-son and co-producer of the Chronicles of Narnia movies. Here are his comments about the changes:

Well we did have a bit of a problem with making Prince Caspian the book into
Prince Caspian the movie. You see, its largely a book of walking and talking.
The kids arrive in Narnia and then Trumpkin arrives and they all sit down and he
tells them the story of Prince Caspian. So if we had stuck to the book half the
movie would be four kids and a dwarf sitting round a camp fire talking. And then
they all get up and go for a nice long walk in the woods, arrive at the other
end and there’s a battle. Now this all works very well in the book, but it would
make a very poor movie. What we needed to do was to find a way of making the
story of Prince Caspian integral to that of the four Pevensies and carry both
through the whole movie. The raid is a part of that process. Its never as easy
as you think.
The "Night Raid" was one of the first "changes" to the book that hit the Internet rumor mills. This is as good a place to start as any.
Warning: The balance of this article will contain spoilers and speculations about the movie.

The Night Raid
In a recent Disney Insider, director/producer/co-writer Andrew Adamson gave some insights into the ideas he incorporated into the movie. “I thought it would be interesting if mythological creatures like the Narnians invaded Miraz’s medieval castle. It’s an image I’ve never seen before.” This is apparently the Night Raid that has been talked about on the Internet since at least last September. It is hard to imagine how this is going to fit, as it happens (according to Rpin Suwannath, previsualization supervisor for the movie) "only halfway through the story." I hope that this sequence is not all about the Narnian creatures taking revenge on the Telemarines. I am concerned by what Quint from Ain't It Cool News said in his report about the 45-minute preview he saw: "...these young teens and CG creatures [were] wantonly killing hundreds of soldiers." How this reconciles with Andrew Adamson's statement to MSM that the movie is "more intense, but it’s not bloody or gory," I'm not sure. Anyway, accoring to Quint, the "Raid" does not go well, and humbles Peter, who planned the attack.

Conflict between Caspian and Peter
The impression I get from the reports I've seen over the past several months is that Prince Caspian meets up with the Pevensies much earlier in the film (perhaps at Cair Paravel) than in the book. This gives more time to develop the tense relationship between Caspian and Peter. In the Disney Insider interview, Adamson remarks that "at one point Caspian’s consumed with vengeance, further escalating the conflict between him and Peter." I think this could be a good thing. Caspian has gone though the crucible, and it will be good to see the inevitable emotions worked through and resolved.

Reepicheep's Size
This might seem a very minor point, but it was important enough to C S Lewis that he described Reepicheep's size more than once, and Lewis is not big on details. From the small amount of footage (in trailers and commercials) I have seen, it looks that Reepicheep might appear on screen as a regular-size mouse. He is almost two feet in the book. I can't find it right now, but Lewis says somewhere in the books that the smaller talking animals are bigger than "normal," and the bigger ones are smaller than their non-speaking counterparts.

The White Witch
Narnia fans have been perplexed about the appearance of The White Witch in Prince Caspian. Isn't she dead? I think what the film creators are trying to do is to reproduce in a visual way the intensity of the scene in Chapter 12, "Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance." Talking about conjuring up her ghost works for the book. Visualizing her "in ice" might just work better on film.

The Relationship Between Caspian and Susan
Adamson has said that one of the prevailing themes in the movie is "the passage into adulthood." Part of growing up is learning to relate to the opposite sex. It has been reported that in the movie, Caspian and Susan flirt with each other. The reaction by fans of the book seems to be overwhelmingly negative to these reports. "This can't be; it doesn't line up with what happens in the other books." I happen to disagree. Although there is no hint of flirting in the book, I think this might be a good thing. Let me try to explain.
As I've indicated before, Lewis does not provide much detail, so it seems appropriate to "read between the lines." I think this is a good read. Here is an exiled prince (at the hight of puberty) with no human companionship except the four Pevensies. Among them is an attractive girl about his age who is obviously cultured and refined. It only seems natural to me that there would be some kind of "spark" between them. Of course, this cannot become serious (especially if Walden and Disney are indeed serious about completing the series), but I see no problem with a bit of flirting.
We do know that Susan is left behind in this world in The Last Battle, but we do not know her final fate. She has put her social life (lipstick and nylons and invitations) above her belief in Narnia, but what affect will the death of her siblings have on her? Will she be restored much as Narnia is restored in Prince Caspian? I suspect we will still be left hanging when the movie series is completed--unless they decide to read between the lines...

This post also appears as an article at Hollywood Jesus.

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