So I finally dragged my arse to see “Prince Caspian” today. Having just refreshed myself with the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Leaving the theater I wasn’t sure what to think! If you haven’t read the book and enjoyed the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one for sure. If you read the book, but it’s been years, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you are like me, just having went back to read it before seeing the movie, you might end up not knowing what to think.
If you plan on seeing the movie and haven’t yet, I’d stop reading here. What follows are my thoughts on the movie as well as the major changes made from the book. If you’ve read the book and remember it well enough, this will only spoil the changes made in the movie really. If you’ve seen the movie but not read the book, you might find it interesting to learn what was changed.
Honestly one of the biggest challenges I’m sure they faced in making this movie is the fact that the book material itself is not the most compelling of the books. When the BBC made movie/TV versions of the first four books, “Caspian” was basically a 30 minute preface to “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and it’s easy to understand why the BBC did it that way if you’ve read the book. The fact of the matter is, it’s more like reading someone telling you a story for most of the book. A good third of the book involves Trumpkin explaining to the foursome what has been going on in Narnia since they’ve been gone.
Let’s tackle the biggest problem, the fact that the book really has a boring villain in King Miraz. He’s a usurper to the throne and a coward. He’s not magical or fantastical in any way like the White Witch was. In the book he doesn’t even have that big of a role to be honest, he’s talked about more than he’s present, and clearly they had to change that for the movie.
The second major problem is the book was filled with chapters which were, well boring. At least to make them into a movie would have been boring. Thankfully these were omitted from the movie. I mean there is no need to watch 10-20 minutes of the kids playing on the beach, fishing, and discussing how and what in fact they should do for food. The same goes for the chapter in which Edmund realizes thousands of years have passed in Narnia and explains it all to the others. Likewise there is no need for 10-20 minutes of Badger, Trumpkin and Nickerbrack dragging Caspian all over the woods and introducing him to the bears, the squirrels, the centaurs and every bloody Narnian who was hiding out in the woods in order to recruit them into the arm. All that stuff from the book is gone gone gone.
Of course this leads to problem three, they cut out probably half of the book, so naturally they had to add in. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with some of these changes, and I wasn’t thrilled with a few things actually omitted or glossed over from the book.
The biggest change was with Miraz, who does not start off as King as in the book but as one of the many lords controlling the kingdom while Caspian comes of age. Through the movie he basically frames Caspian as a Narnian co-conspirator and eventually appoints himself King. In the book he was already King in place of Caspian, until he came of age, and he most certainly didn’t believe in Narnians or any magical creatures. This wasn’t a complete 180 with his character, but it worked and served to make him more of a villain than he was in the book.
The second biggest character change was in Peter, and this was NOT welcomed. They made Peter into a jerk in this movie with a huge chip on his shoulder. He was sour that it took so long to go back to Narnia. He was sour that he was considered a boy by all when in fact he had been a man. He didn’t want to listen to anyone, he was the High King and he saw himself better (or more experienced) than Caspian, who he had a lot of conflict with. This was a huge deviation from the book, where Peter from the start knew and assured Caspian that they were here to help him take the throne and put Narnia back to right, not to take over the kingdom again. Ironically Susan is likable in this movie, in the books she’s the frump and the sourpuss.
Aslan is not a large part of this movie at all. While he wasn’t a large part of the book either, he returned in the book so much earlier than he did in the movie, which is basically near the very end.
The way Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were brought into Narnia was also changed time wise, but this was probably done to facilitate the story and I can see why. In the book Capsian blew the horn during the midst of the first battle with Miraz’ men during which they got walloped. In the movie he blew it when he first saw Nickerbrack, Trumpkin and badger. Again the reason being the book jumped around a lot with chapters going back and forth in time. It wouldn’t have worked in the movie to have all the jumping about and scenes like “meanwhile as this was happening . . . over here . . . ”
Trumpkin’s character was changed a bit and this was another big disappointment for me. He actually met and spent time with Caspian in the book (along with Nickerbrack and Badger) before he was captured by Miraz’ men and then rescued by the foursome. He fled during the first big battle where the horn was blown, being sent to try and find help for Caspian. Through all this we learn that Trumpkin doesn’t believe in the old stories or in Aslan. This is shown as a blurb at the end of the movie when Aslan insists on meeting the DLF, and Trumpkin seems ashamed to be in front of Aslan. It didn’t come off in the movie the way it was explained in the book. Additionally in the movie Trumpkin almost immediately accepts the kids for who they are, instead of being extremely skeptical as in the book. Of course by biggest issue was with the DLF (Dear Little Friend) bit. The kids name him this and continuously call him it over and over in the book, while in the movie it’s said all but twice I believe and they just sort of name him it in one scene with no explanation as to why.
Completely thrown into the movie, nowhere to be found in the book, is a major attack scene on Miraz’ castle. This seemed to take the place of the first battle between Caspian and Miraz’ men at Aslan’s How (the big mountain built over the stone table, also not really explained in the movie). This made up battle also serves to facilitate the tension between Peter and Caspian for the movie, as well as some faux and not entirely developed love story between Susan and Caspian. Again, they cut so much out of the book that they had to add some stuff in!
Another over-site is the explanation of the Telemarines and just who the heck they actually are. In the book we are told they are not native to Narnia, but came from a distant country known as TelMar. They invaded Narnia and took over, with Caspian the X being descended from the original Caspian who was the Telemarine conquerer. They were a race of apparent humans, not native to Narnia, and seemed to be more at peace on the water and were petrified of the woods. Tales were told among them that the woods were haunted and the trees were alive, thus they feared them. This back story was omitted from the movie, you just have to accept that for some reason the Telemarine soldiers were afraid of the woods and never told why really. Fortunately they do keep Aslan’s explanation at the end of the movie as to where they really came from and how they arrived in Narnia.
Also left out was the fact that many of the old Narnians had interbred with the Telemarines and were in hiding throughout the land as humans, but welcomed Aslan back at the end. Many others had completely forgotten that Narnia was in fact a magical land full of talking creatures and what not. In the movie it was just as if everyone in the kingdom suddenly accepted Aslan and all these “monsters” who came out of nowhere! They give you a slight hint of this in the movie with Caspian’s professor explaining he was a half-dwarf and had waited a long time for Caspian to arrive and return Narnia to what it should have been (which is correct from the book, but the professor also had a much larger role in the book).
In the end, it was a good movie, but like any book to movie, it’s hard not to fault it for the translation. In the case of “Caspian” the book wasn’t the best material from which to turn into a movie, so I understand why they deviated so much as they did in this one. I do wonder how they will tackle the rest of the movies?
Also sadly, there are murmurings that Disney is planning to make the next book/movie the last one. I’m not sure I want to even know how they will pull that one off! The only reason I see them cutting it off there is the next book is the last one for Lucy and Edmund. Their annoying cousin Eustace takes over from there.