Movie Review: Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) (May-Jun 2008)

By Matt Dabbs

by Greg Taylor
May – June, 2008

Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keyne, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes
Running time: 144 minutes
Rating: PG (battle scenes, frightening moments)

The sequel to the 2005 hit movie Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, should not disappoint young or old, though Prince Caspian is more battle than the character development and storytelling of the first movie. It’s quite a thrill to watch an action epic fantasy film from the front row, but the theater was full and that’s all we could get on opening night. Front-row-neck-crick aside, my wife and I, our children and friends gasped, laughed, and grabbed arms at surprise scenes in this two hour and 24 minute sequel, and we enjoyed a good story . . . which is, after all, what a movie is best at helping us do.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—the Pevensies—find themselves back in Narnia when Prince Caspian, the rightful heir of Narnia is in danger and blows a horn, calling the four from a London subway station. Returning, they realize this is not the same Narnia they knew from entering through their uncle’s wardrobe. It is hundreds of years later, and the Telmarines have attacked Narnians and have driven them into the forest to hide away.

The Pevensie children ponder a sword they have found.Caspian’s uncle—King Miraz—does everything he can to wear the crown of Narnia, including trying to kill Prince Caspian, who literally “runs into” the forest and meets Narnians for the first time. Meanwhile, the Pevensies are trying to discover what has happened to the beautiful Narnia they knew, why their castle is in ruins.

It’s up to the Narnians, the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian to defend Narnia from Caspian’s evil uncle (Sergio Castellitto). Tilda Swinton’s chillingly cruel portrayal of the White Witch is hard to beat for a villain, but she makes a cameo appearance in a scene where Caspian is nearly pulled to the dark side (oh, wrong epic story).

Catapults let loose with their volleys on the field of battle.Intense sword fights, two major battle scenes, and several other battle sequences are cause for considering the maturity and appropriateness of very young children seeing the movie.

Christians often look to C.S. Lewis stories for allegory and spiritual meaning, and certainly one can find all kinds of faith and Christian parallels in stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia, but it’s never been clear whether Lewis truly intended as much allegory as some would like to think. One downside of a story “going Disney” is that the raw edges are smoothed down and good fairy tales are often changed to a Disney version (see some of Grimm’s tales in their original form and you’ll be surprised how Disney has changed those stories). I would be happy to be proven wrong with some examples a reader may bring, but the company as a whole does not portray, or even attempt to include, religious themes well.

The special effects were fantastic. My favorite scenes involved the response of the elements to Aslan’s roar: the walking battling trees and the water person who sent the Talmarind army downstream.

But my children were not overwhelmed for some reason. Sometimes you can see children coming out of the theater buzzing, eyes wide, mouth agape. I didn’t sense that in the crowd. My children said they liked it all right, but their reactions were a bit muted, and they said the ending was sad. Not that a sad ending is out of the question, but I think the ending scene has something to do with the buzz as the audience walks out.

Prince Caspian prepares to lead the battle.For Narnia purists, a subplot love story in the movie may raise eyebrows but it’s done in fairy tale style and nothing that would have caused the PG rating. The rating is for intense battles scenes and a frightening moments.

James McAvoy’s Mr. Tumnus does not appear, but two new characters who are not in the first film do: a crusty old dwarf named Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and a Reepicheep, a favorite wise guy-rodent from the book. He provides comic relief and battle savvy–and he’s not bad with a sword either.

After seeing the second movie, the full theater, hearing the strong script and ongoing clever interplay between characters—both Narnians and sons and daughters of Adam—this book series-turned-movie series is sure to continue. In fact, Disney has announced plans for a 2010 release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Author’s note: After reading Narnia books to my children, seeing the first two movies, C.S. Lewis’s story doesn’t always make sense to me, but I suppose that’s the nature of fantasy. To show you my preferences for story, I think Harry Potter is one of the best-written of the recent epics. I think Star Wars is the best movie series. Lord of the Rings is probably one of the best other-worlds and best book-movie combination. Star Wars books are all over the place and written by lots of different people, lots of spin offs and confusing to me. I’ll never forget standing in line at Wal-Mart at 12:11 and seeing all the people cracking open the seventh Harry Potter book, waiting to give the Wal-Mart price (but would pay more). I thought, oh to write such a tale and hold the world’s attention like a Hogwarts spell! There’s always room for another!

If you care at all about any one or more of these four epics–Narnia, Star Wars, Potter, Fellowship–you’ll certainly disagree with me at some point about what I said above. Write me and let me know your opinion about these stories, how they prepare us for quests of our own, how they help us understand the “hero’s journey,” the everyman searching for truth, justice, goodness, God in the universe. Email Greg Taylor

New Wineskins

 

Greg TaylorGreg Taylor is senior editor of New Wineskins. He is also associate minister for the Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His newest book, co-authored with Anne-Geri’ Fann, How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missions, was released by Thomas Nelson in May 2006. His novel is titled High Places (Leafwood, 2004). He co-authored with John Mark Hicks, Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work. Greg and his wife, Jill, have three children: Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Before moving to Tulsa in 2005, the Taylors lived in Nashville, Tennessee four years, and they lived in Uganda seven years, where they worked with a church planting team. His blog is [http://gregtaylor.cc].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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