Publicist Ernie Malik is quoted as calling it a “swashbuckling tale.” The story is based upon marauding pirates. A young woman becomes rather infatuated with a young man of pirate descent. Has Disney made a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Well, not exactly.
In the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, the Pevensies are sent back beyond “the world’s end” to help deliver Narnia from pirates—well, descendants of pirates, anyway.
It has been a year since the Pevensie children have returned from Narnia through the Wardrobe and found that time in this world had not clicked a moment. The kings and queens of Narnia had to go back to their old lives as ordinary school children. While C. S. Lewis doesn’t seem to reflect on what this must have meant for the children, the movie’s creators did. And many of the “changes” between the book and the film are the result of this reflection.
Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s step-son and co-producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films, has called Prince Caspian “A Poorer Story, but a Better Movie.” When I first saw that, I bristled a little. I have also been reading through Two Roads through Narnia, a book published by Hollywood Jesus Books in 2005, around the time of the release of the first movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (The book is edited by Greg Wright from articles which appeared on HollywoodJesus.com.) In the chapter on Prince Caspian, George Rosok’s literary analysis of the book is titled “Short of the Standard.” But in the past six months I have re-read Prince Caspian three times, and it has become one of my favorite of the Chronicles.
Yet I must agree there are some literary shortcomings, which I will not get into here. (You can, of course, follow the links provided above if you are interested.) This literary weakness is one reason that I am far from upset that the movie’s creators did not follow the storyline exactly. That would be virtually an impossible task for any book, but much more so for Caspian. As I wrote in a review of the book, writing Prince Caspian was very personal for Lewis. This is beneficial in that many concepts important to the Christian life are discussed—such as following Christ regardless of what others may do, the difference between self-reliance and arrogance, etc. But perhaps the personal nature of the book gave Lewis a case of myopia, and he couldn’t see that all the pieces don’t quite fit.
I mention all this to suggest that the “purists” out there should be grateful for a creative team that has done such a wonderful job retaining the essence of what Lewis was trying to convey, while actually improving the structure (and perhaps some of the details) of the story. And don’t worry, the “romance” is very innocent (no rendezvouses in the woods, etc.).
So… the Pevensies have been away from Narnia for a year. As they are waiting for their train to take them off to boarding school, they are suddenly whisked away to another world. Eventually they realize they are back in Narnia, but have arrived 1300 years later than when they left. The Telmarines, descendants of pirates, have taken over Narnia and have driven out the Old Narnians—Dwarves and talking animals—and the land has lost its enchantment. Prince Caspian (the rightful heir) has fled his uncle Miraz, who is intent on usurping the throne.
The children are here to help put Caspian on the throne. Along the way they have lessons to learn about humility and growing up. They must overcome the arrogance that is often associated with adolescence. And, most of all, they must learn to trust in Aslan even when they cannot see him and don’t understand what he is doing.
Prince Caspian is intended as a “family movie,” and I can strongly recommend that you take your children to see it. But I think the movie will also have a wider appeal to other audiences, too. An excellent children’s movie will always have something in it that adults will appreciate—and this is an excellent children’s film. The swashbuckling should appeal to those who like sword fighting. William Moseley and Skandar Keynes, who play Peter and Edmund Pevensie, and Ben Barnes, who plays Caspian, have obviously worked on their swordplay, and all four children have been working on their acting. Not only is the acting better, and the action more exciting, but the special effects and costuming are, once again, top notch. And, although this is a darker film overall, there is also some great humor in it—something the first film seriously lacked.
With all the sequels coming this summer, there is no Pirates of the Caribbean 4. But, if you are looking for a great adventure movie with fabulous effects, some great humor, and maybe a slight hint of romance, there is Narnia 2.