Prince Caspian (2008) Part 8: You’re Supposed to Be at the Gatehouse!

We get a nice aerial view of the Telmarine castle at night. The music in this bit is subtle but very effective. A gryphon swoops down carrying Edmund and hides on the roof of a tower. The sentry there hears something but can’t see them. Suddenly, the gryphon’s claws snatch him away and Edmund drops down in his place. Cautiously, he looks over the edge of the tower, then sends a signal with his electric torch. I love the use of Edmund’s torch in this way. It’s one of the cleverest ideas in any Narnia adaptation that’s not from the books.[1]C. S. Lewis was a big fan of the medieval aesthetic and might have considered using a flashlight in medieval style battle to be “soiling it.” But I don’t watch movies because C. S. … Continue reading

More gryphons fly down towards the castle. The subtle music becomes more pronounced and distinctly suspenseful. From faraway, the rest of the Narnian army sees the signals and emerges from the wood. Well, not quite all the rest of the army. Inside the courtyard, Reepicheep and two more mice pop up from what appears to be a sewer vent. We see the gryphons are carrying Peter, Susan and Caspian as they fly over the ramparts, the two kings and the queen kill more sentries.

I suppose I have to note something here. I’m reluctant to do so since it requires getting into some inflammatory subjects, but I feel like it’s necessary to do a comprehensive analysis of this adaptation. Susan in this scene and throughout the film kills enemies just as efficiently as the other main characters whereas in the book, she hated killing even a nontalking bear. Now Susan isn’t my favorite character from the book, though I do like her, so I’m not too bothered by this, and I can admire her cinematic counterpart’s fighting skills in the book just as I do Edmund’s or Caspian’s. I am a bit cynical about the reasoning behind the change to the character though. From what I remember of the interviews with the director[2]Which I am too lazy to look up now., there was a fear that portraying Susan as being stereotypically feminine and refraining from warfare would send the message that girls can’t be warriors. This logic would lead to the movie’s Susan needing to be a master chef, a mechanical genius, a budding poet, and who knows what else lest impressionable viewers get the idea that girls can’t be those things either. Everyone assumes these days that if a generally male dominated story has one female character or for that matter, if a generally female dominated story has one male character, then they must be the representative of their entire sex. Doesn’t it occur to anyone that sometimes in real life, there will be a solitary woman in a group of men or vice versa and the stories are simply reflecting that?[3]Of course, in some cases, the token girl or token guy is supposed to represent their entire sex. If the storytellers want gender to be a theme, I interpret them that way, but that doesn’t seem … Continue reading

And what’s really annoying from a book fan’s perspective is that Susan is not the only heroine in the story! There’s also Lucy whose personality is much more that of an action heroine and whom in another Narnia book, The Horse and his Boy, goes to battle while Susan stays home though she only serves as an archer. She’s not called Queen Lucy the Valiant for nothing after all.[4]Critics who condemn the Narnia books as misogynistic tend to focus, maybe a little obsessively, on Susan. That’s reasonable enough since she’s very stereotypically feminine both in her … Continue reading But in this adaptation, Susan takes part in all the action scenes and her sister only takes part in one in which she ends up needing to be a rescued by one of the male characters. Way to add female empowerment to the story, enlightened ones. Still, I guess that makes sense with the situation. The movie has set it up that this attack on the castle is against Aslan’s will and Lucy is the only one really trying to follow his wishes. Also, Georgie Henley’s age and stature at the time of filming would have made it hard to believe in her as action heroine. Oh well.

A Telmarine soldier sees a minotaur and draws his sword, but Nikabrik knocks him out from behind. Meanwhile Reepicheep and his band scurry up the ropes of the drawbridge and into the gatehouse. I love the comical theme that plays for them on the soundtrack. I also love that the first obstacle they encounter there is a sleeping housecat.

Caspian, Peter, Susan and Trumpkin climb down the walls of the castle via rope and Caspian breaks into the window of Dr. Cornelius’s study, wanting to get the man to safety before the raid commences. Caspian finds his spectacles lying on the table and his hourglass tipped over. Apparently, Cornelius would never leave the room that way unless he had no choice.

Caspian: We have to find him.
Peter: You don’t have time. You need to get the gate open.
Caspian: You wouldn’t even be here without him, and neither would I.
Susan (to Peter): You and I can deal with Miraz.
Caspian: And I can still get to the gate in time.

Caspian runs off to look for Cornelius to Peter’s disapproval. Trumpkin heads in a different direction. Back at the gatehouse, a Telmarine soldier enters to find, in a hilarious sight gag, the cat bound and gagged. While he’s still trying to process this, he hears a sword being drawn and turns around to see Reepicheep dangling in front of his face. “Yes, I’m a mouse,” says Reepicheep and (it’s implied) slits the man’s throat. Despite this Narnia movie focusing on violence more than the last one, we still don’t see any blood gushing from the throat. Some viewers may find that a distraction but, honestly, I don’t think I could enjoy this action scene with realistic wounds. And I really do enjoy this scene, far more than I enjoy the climactic battle or the melting waterfall scene from the previous film. I’ll give a reason why shortly. The mice run to the door, killing another soldier in their path, and climb on each other’s backs to open it. Trumpkin enters in lieu of Caspian just in time to shoot a third solider entering from the far end of the room.

Reepicheep: Ah, we were expecting someone…you know, taller.
Trumpkin: You’re one to talk.
Reepicheep: Was that supposed to be irony?

OK, I know I said I find this movie’s humor more consistently funny that the last one’s, but that bit is pretty weak.[5]To be fair, the worst line is the last one which Eddie Izzard, if I remember the audio commentary correctly, improvised. The movie didn’t have to keep it though. But this is a good example of what I love about the raid scene, the first part of it anyway. Not only does it incorporate Edmund’s torch, but it also makes the various creatures’ strengths and weaknesses an integral part of the action. The mice’s small size and agility enables them to infiltrate the gatehouse, but their relative lack of strength means they need help opening the gate and lowering the drawbridge. Caspian’s delay in assisting them adds to the suspense.

We cut to Cornelius lying asleep in the dungeon. Caspian awakens him just as the professor awoke him in the first scene of the movie. (Well, not exactly. He’s considerate enough not to put a hand over his mouth.) “Five more minutes?” Caspian says with a grin. “What are you doing here?” Cornelius demands as Caspian unchains him. “I didn’t help you escape just so you could break back in! You have to get out before Miraz learns you’re here.” Caspian hands him the key. “He will find soon enough,” he says, “We are giving him your cell.” Caspian turns to leave but Cornelius grabs him by the shoulder. “Don’t underestimate Miraz as your father did,” he warns. Caspian’s eyes widen and he seems to be having trouble breathing. “What are you talking about?” he says. Dr. Cornelius lowers his head. “I’m sorry,” he says. Caspian throws his hands off and runs out of the dungeon like he’s terrified. I don’t like where this scene is going but Ben Barnes does a good job of conveying his character’s horror at realizing Cornelius’s implication.

Peter and Susan sneak through the castle’s corridors. We cut to Miraz and Prunaprismia asleep in their bed. A sword pokes Miraz’s throat. He opens his eyes only to laugh condescendingly upon identifying the intruder. “Thank goodness,” he says, “You’re safe.” That’s right. It’s not Peter or Susan who is holding the sword. It’s Caspian. “Get up,” he snaps. Despite his casual, utterly unintimated attitude, Miraz must take Caspian seriously as a threat on some level because he obeys. His wife awakens.

Prunaprismia: Caspian?
Caspian: Stay where you are.
Prunaprismia: What are you doing?
Miraz: I should think it’s obvious, dear. You know, some families might consider this inappropriate behavior.
Caspian: That doesn’t seem to have stopped you!
Miraz: But you are not like me, are you?

Caspian doesn’t drop his sword or anything, but he draws back, a little uncertain of himself. “It’s sad,” says his uncle, “the first time you’ve shown any backbone and it’s such a waste.” Prunaprismia meanwhile grabs a crossbow from behind her bed, loads it and points it at her nephew. “Put the sword down, Caspian. I don’t want to do this,” she says. “We don’t want you to either!” says Susan as she enters the chamber, her own bow drawn, with Peter. This creates a Mexican standoff situation with Susan aiming an arrow at Prunaprismia who is aiming one at Caspian who is pointing a sword at Miraz who snarks “This used to be a private room.”

Again, I generally enjoy this movie’s banter, but I’m not sure if Miraz’s snarkiness really benefits the scene. It dilutes the suspense, making it obvious the scene is meant to be fun and nobody we like is really going to die.[6]From what I understand, humor in recent Marvel movies has been criticized for much the same reason. The idea, I guess, is to make Miraz intimidating by having him be really fearless but I don’t think it works that well. Maybe the movie agrees with me on some level because in the following exchange, Caspian manages to back his uncle against the wall through sheer intensity though the man’s expression doesn’t betray any fear.

Peter (to Caspian): What are you doing?! You’re supposed to be at the gatehouse!
Caspian: No! (to Miraz) Tonight for once I want the truth! Did you kill my father?
Miraz: Now we get to it.
Prunaprismia: You said that your brother died in his sleep.
Miraz: That was more or less true.
Susan: Caspian, this won’t make things any better.
Miraz: We Telmarines would have nothing had we not taken it. Your father knew that as well as anyone.
Prunaprismia: How could you?
Miraz: For the same reason, you will pull that trigger. For our son!
Prunaprismia (to Caspian): Stop!
Susan (to Prunaprismia): Stay right there!
Miraz: You need to make a choice, dear. Do you want our child to be king? Or do you want him to be like Caspian here? Fatherless?!

I remember the first time I watched the movie. I’d been enjoying it so much up to this point and I distinctly remember being annoying at this scene for taking me out of it. What are my problems? First of all, I can’t empathize with Caspian demanding to know if Miraz murdered his father because…well, of course, he did! It’s traditional in stories like this. And it isn’t as if Caspian had believed his uncle was a wonderful human being before now. He wasn’t surprised at all that the man was out to kill him. I can still buy that he would be stunned by the idea that Miraz killed his father. (The book describes Caspian as “feeling very queer” when Cornelius reveals the information to him though not a big deal is made of it afterwards.) But why jeopardize the whole siege by immediately running to Miraz and demanding an answer instead of doing his job at the gatehouse? He knew the plan was to capture Miraz anyway. Why not wait and interrogate him later? I guess I buy that Caspian was so shocked by the idea of his father being a murder victim that he panicked and lost all confidence that the Narnians would succeed in taking Miraz and the castle. But, again, should the idea have really been that much of a shock? While Peter is generally the less likeable of the two characters in the movie, I can’t blame him for being exasperated with Caspian here.

No shade thrown at Ben Barnes who makes the scene work as well as possible.

Then there’s what they’re doing with Prunaprismia. In the book, we don’t know anything about her except that she has red hair and dislikes Caspian. The former thing was once was seen as very unattractive, though happily for redheads this is no longer so, and while the latter doesn’t necessarily make her an evil person, realistically speaking, the book doesn’t want us to think that realistically. I’m not a fan of adaptations taking (implied) villains and making them more sympathetic but, to be fair, doing so for Prunaprismia will allow this movie to keep a memorable moment from the book’s last chapter that would probably have otherwise been cut for being too random. However, this feels like such a strange time to suddenly delve into her character! She’s only appeared in two scenes prior to this one and had no dialogue unless you count screaming while giving birth. I had no problem with this on a first view, assuming that, as in the source material, she wasn’t going to be important. And now in a scene that really should be focused on Caspian, she’s given this highly dramatic situation. It’s so awkward and jarring. It doesn’t help that while Alicia Borrachero’s performance is generally great, her line readings in this scene make her character seem less shocked by these revelations about her beloved husband than she should be. If I remember the audio commentary correctly, the idea was that she had suspected that he wasn’t the greatest guy for a while but there’s not much about the dialogue to suggest this.

Anyway, the prospect of her son growing up without a father makes Prunaprismia pull the trigger, wounding her nephew in the shoulder. Miraz takes advantage of this distraction to get away, evading Peter. His wife throws herself on the bed, weeping. (Again, Borrachero is generally great in this movie, the casting of which is generally superb.) We cut to Edmund on the tower, fumbling with his torch and dropping it on the parapet below. When I first saw the movie, I thought this was because he was startled by Prunaprismia’s scream. On reflection, I think that’s just a coincidence since if she were really that loud, every soldier in the area would have reacted to her. Part of me likes the idea though as it would make Caspian’s dumb decision even more integral to the scene. A Telmarine finds the torch. Hilariously, while trying to figure out what it is, he shines it in his own face and waves it around, confusing Nikabrik, Glenstorm and the other Narnians outside who wonder what crazy signals these are supposed to be. Edmund jumps onto the man’s back.

Throughout this, the clamor of bells is heard. Miraz has sounded the alarm. We see Telmarine soldiers jumping out of bed and grabbing their armor and weapons. Instead of beating a hasty retreat, Peter, followed by Susan and Caspian, runs down to open the gates and let in his forces. “Now, Ed, now! Signal the troops!” he calls as he races across the courtyard. “I’m a bit busy, Pete,” calls Edmund who’s fighting the Telmarine who found his torch.[7]Fun facts: Peter is never called Pete in the books and Susan is never called Su in the movies. Edmund and Lucy are called Ed and Lu in both. Well, I think those facts are fun. It turns out Peter also has to battle some opponents before he reaches the gates. Thankfully, both brothers win those fights and Edmund retrieves the torch, but he has some trouble getting it to work. Peter meanwhile desperately turns the crank for raising the castle gate’s portcullis despite Susan’s protests that it’s too late and they must call off the attack while they have the option. “No, I can still do this!” insists Peter. “Help me!” Seeing that they don’t have time to change his mind and more Telmarine troops are coming, Caspian and Susan obey. Meanwhile, Trumpkin and the mice work the machinery to lower the drawbridge as well as they can unassisted. “Exactly who are you doing this for, Peter?” Susan demands. He doesn’t reply, either because he’s using all his strength and energy on the gate or because he doesn’t have a good answer.

Finally, Edmund gets his torch to work. He signals the Narnian troops who charge through the town, across the bridge and into the courtyard. Not a moment too soon for their leaders since that courtyard is filling with Telmarine enemies. As he, Susan and Caspian enter the fray, Peter yells, “For Narnia!” Now in the last movie, his battle cry was “For Narnia and for Aslan!” I’d like to think the omission of that last part here is to reflect his attitude toward the Lion but in the next Narnia film, the Narnians battle cry will still just be “For Narnia,” so that’s probably reading too much into it.

I don’t have much to say about the ensuing battle. I don’t find it as fun as the first part of this scene but, to be fair, it’s not supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be intense and depressing. There is a really silly moment when Susan kills an opponent, not by shooting him or stabbing him, but throwing an arrow at him. And there’s a cool moment for Edmund when he has to slide away from a bunch of enemy archers and kicks a door shut behind him. It’s full of the arrows the next moment. He runs down a hall and out onto another parapet, using his torch to bar the door behind him. I’d like to take this moment to say that though is one of the only major characters in the movie not to have an arc of some sort, he’s a fun, likeable presence.

Back to the scene. Miraz sends troops to the gatehouse. Trumpkin puts up a good fight but gets pushed out a window. It’s not a short fall and the landing looks like it hurts. A minotaur sees the portcullis being lowered and runs under it, holding it up with great effort. Peter finally decides the situation is hopeless and orders his army to retreat. Now the Narnia books describe a good king as being the first in every charge and the last in every retreat, so you could say that this goes against their philosophy. Honestly though, I can’t really blame the movie for disagreeing with that philosophy. Realistically speaking, you’ve got to retreat sometimes, and a king being killed or captured because he was the last to go means a terrible inconvenience for his side since he then has to be replaced. Anyway, to help get Susan to safety with all possible speed, Glenstorm pulls her onto his back. In the Narnia books, riding a centaur is a great honor that hardly anyone receives. I can buy that Glenstorm would casually bestow that honor on Susan since this is a desperate situation but as a book fan, I wish the movie would treat it as a big deal and not a matter of course.

As Glenstorm gallops off, Susan calls for Caspian who has disappeared. “I’ll find him,” says Peter. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on right now, so forgive me if this description is choppy. Various Narnians are escaping through the gates, but the minotaur is having a hard time keeping the portcullis up. Edmund’s pursuers break down the door he barred behind him, but he evades them by dropping off the parapet onto a gryphon’s back. Caspian emerges from the castle on his horse-ah, yes, I neglected to mention Glozelle brought back Caspian’s lost horse when he captured Trumpkin-along with Dr. Cornelius on another one and a third horse for Peter. Miraz sees this from his balcony view. “Give the order,” he tells Glozelle. “My men are still down there,” Glozelle protests but Miraz grabs his crossbow from him and shoots the minotaur, yelling, “Now!” Apparently, that order was for the Telmarine archers to rain arrows down into the courtyard indiscriminately. The minotaur manages to hold up under the onslaught long enough for more of his allies, including Peter, Susan and Caspian, to escape. For a moment, he even manages to defiantly raise the portcullis higher than he had it before. But eventually it’s too much and he collapses. I’m afraid this didn’t have the intended sad effect on me since I never liked the idea of heroic Narnian minotaurs and was happy to see one less.

Amusingly, the gap his body makes under the portcullis is still big enough to let Reepicheep and the other mice escape. But, alas, far more Narnians are now trapped like rats.

Peter, Susan and Glenstorm pause in their flight to look back at them. We see a faun try to climb up the gate, only to be shot down. For all the problems I have with William Moseley’s performance as Peter in this movie, he shines here with some really heartbreaking facial expressions.

He’s not the only one. There’s a nice moment where one of Glenstorm’s sons gives a stoic nod to his father from behind the gate and turns to face the enemy. Caspian calls to Peter that the drawbridge is being raised and now is his last chance to escape. Peter doesn’t like leaving his troops behind, but he forces himself to do so. The scene ends with Edmund and the gryphon flying over the courtyard, staring down in horror. While we don’t get a close look, the place is clearly filled with dead and dying Narnians.

I’m somewhat bewildered whenever fans bring this scene up as an example of the Narnia movies adding pointless action scenes. Unlike the melting waterfall from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), it’s integral to the plot and can’t really be removed from it.[8]Though in the melting waterfall’s defense, that scene did serve to build up to Peter slaying Maugrim. I’d also argue it’s not so much an added scene as something from the book that’s been changed a good deal. Remember in the source material, Caspian didn’t blow the horn and summon the Pevensies until he and the Narnians had been fighting for a while.

It was after they had taken up their quarters in and around the How that fortune began to turn against them. King Miraz’s scouts soon found their new lair, and he and his army arrived on the edge of the woods. And as so often happens, the enemy turned out stronger than they had reckoned. Caspian’s heart sank as he saw company after company arriving. And though Miraz’s men may have been afraid of going into the wood, they were even more afraid of Miraz, and with him in command they carried battle deeply into it and sometimes almost to the How itself. Caspian and other captains of course made many sorties into the open country. Thus, there was fighting on most days and sometimes by night as well; but Caspian’s party had on the whole the worst of it.

At last there came a night when everything had gone as badly as possible, and the rain which had been falling heavily all day had ceased at nightfall only to give place to raw cold. That morning Caspian had arranged what was his biggest battle yet, and all had hung their hopes on it. He, with most of the Dwarfs, was to have fallen on the King’s right wing at daybreak, and then, when they were heavily engaged, Giant Wimbleweather, with the Centaurs and some of the fiercest beasts, was to have broken out from another place and endeavoured to cut the King’s right off from the rest of the army. But it had all failed. No one had warned Caspian (because no one in these later days of Narnia remembered) that Giants are not at all clever. Poor Wimbleweather, though as brave as a lion, was a true Giant in that respect. He had broken out at the wrong time and from the wrong place, and both his party and Caspian’s had suffered badly and done the enemy little harm. The best of the Bears had been hurt, a Centaur terribly wounded, and there were few in Caspian’s party who had not lost blood. It was gloomy company that huddled under the dripping trees to eat their scanty supper.

This leads to Caspian finally blowing the horn and the attack on the castle in the movie leads to Peter finally sending Lucy to look for Aslan. (As I mentioned before, the script really should have given him a better reason to specifically do that, but I digress.) If the adaptation had literally followed the book, there would have been several costly battles rather than just one. Technically, this is cutting action scenes. Is the problem changing the location? Personally, I think that’s an improvement. Having the battle take place at the castle is much more visually interesting that in “the open country.”[9]Maybe the issue is that in the book, at the very first war council, the overzealous mice “proposed storming Miraz in his own castle that very night.” Thus, an idea that was presented as … Continue reading Is the problem that the scene is too depressing? The equivalent in the book is more humorous with an emphasis on Wimbleweather’s bumbling.[10]It’s even more comical in the book where it’s followed by a scene of him weeping over his mistake and drenching the mice, much to their annoyance. I can understand that criticism, I guess. It is sort of untrue to the book’s spirit. But in a movie, unless it’s a farce which is untrue of either version of Prince Caspian, I’m not sure how you could play an army suffering so without being tacky. Honestly, C. S. Lewis only gets away with it in literary form by skimming over the battle scene itself. The only way to be perfectly true to the book’s spirit at this point would be to show a series of unsuccessful battles in a montage and, I’m sorry, I like the scene in the movie better than that idea. Is the problem just that this scene makes Peter too unlikeable? I guess I can’t argue with that. I’ve written before in this series, why his character assassination doesn’t rankle me as much as some fans and I’ll probably write more about the topic later. For now, I’ll just close by saying that, on the whole, I personally enjoy this scene in the movie a lot.

Next Week: Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance AKA The Film’s Weirdest Scene

References

References
1 C. S. Lewis was a big fan of the medieval aesthetic and might have considered using a flashlight in medieval style battle to be “soiling it.” But I don’t watch movies because C. S. Lewis would have liked them. I watch them because I like them.
2 Which I am too lazy to look up now.
3 Of course, in some cases, the token girl or token guy is supposed to represent their entire sex. If the storytellers want gender to be a theme, I interpret them that way, but that doesn’t seem to be the goal of either the literary or the cinematic Prince Caspian.
4 Critics who condemn the Narnia books as misogynistic tend to focus, maybe a little obsessively, on Susan. That’s reasonable enough since she’s very stereotypically feminine both in her good traits (motherly, doesn’t like to see anyone get hurt) and her bad ones (not a lot of stamina, overly concerned with makeup and appearances in the last book.) However, it ignores the fact that there are four other leading ladies in the series and the others don’t fit as neatly into gender stereotypes. Why should one of five be considered the normative one?
5 To be fair, the worst line is the last one which Eddie Izzard, if I remember the audio commentary correctly, improvised. The movie didn’t have to keep it though.
6 From what I understand, humor in recent Marvel movies has been criticized for much the same reason.
7 Fun facts: Peter is never called Pete in the books and Susan is never called Su in the movies. Edmund and Lucy are called Ed and Lu in both. Well, I think those facts are fun.
8 Though in the melting waterfall’s defense, that scene did serve to build up to Peter slaying Maugrim.
9 Maybe the issue is that in the book, at the very first war council, the overzealous mice “proposed storming Miraz in his own castle that very night.” Thus, an idea that was presented as ridiculous in the book is taken seriously in the movie. But remember the context. When the mice made this proposal in the book, they had no reason to think the castle’s defenses would be down.
10 It’s even more comical in the book where it’s followed by a scene of him weeping over his mistake and drenching the mice, much to their annoyance.
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Animation Station: How Charles Dickens Went Inside Out

I’m filing this post under Animation Station because it’s about an animated movie that’s not an adaptation of anything-two movies like that actually. But I will be writing about themes and messages they have in common with the works of Charles Dickens, adaptations of whose books I cover on this blog semi-regularly. It’s a weird post, I grant you, but no one else is going to blog about the thematic links between Pixar’s Inside Out films and Charles Dickens if I don’t do it.

To properly do so though, I’m going to have to get into major spoilers for the original Inside Out, its sequel, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, a novella Dickens wrote in the style of A Christmas Carol in Prose, and the longer and more famous novel Great Expectations. I won’t give away every detail of the plots, but I am going to get into climaxes and endings so consider yourselves warned.

For those of you not in the know, Inside Out takes viewers inside the mind of young Riley Andersen (voiced by Kaitlyn Diaz in the first movie, Kensington Tallman in the second) where the embodiments of five primal emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader first movie, Tony Hale second), Disgust (Mindy Kaling first Liza Lapira second) and Anger (Lewis Black in both films) see what she sees, hear what she hears and drive her (sort of) through a console. They also collect memories each day, represented by glowing orbs the color of whichever emotion is associated with them. Special core memories power Riley’s Islands of Personality such as Goofball Island, Hockey Island and Family Island. Most of her early memories are happy. But when she’s eleven years old, Riley’s family moves from Minnesota where she’s lived all her life to San Francisco and the unpopular Emotion Sadness starts to touch Riley’s happy memories of her old home, turning them blue. Worse, she creates a sad core memory by making Riley break down crying in front of her new classmates. Joy tries to keep Riley’s personality from being changed by getting rid of the sad core memory. She accidentally ends up removing herself, Sadness and all of the core memories from Headquarters. The result is that Riley feels neither happy nor sad and can no longer enjoy any of the things that usually give her pleasure.

At first glance, the protagonist of The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, Mr. Redlaw the melancholy chemist, has nothing in common with Joy. But at even a cursory second glance, he too seeks to remove unpleasant memories. He is a haunted man in two senses.[1]All five of Dickens’s Christmas novellas actually are about men who are haunted by something or other. He’s haunted in one sense by the fact that he was unloved by his parents, unlucky in love, betrayed by a close friend who also broke the heart of his beloved sister, a sister who died tragically-Phew! Clearly, few of his core memories are happy. He’s haunted in another sense by a grim phantom who appears to Redlaw in his own shape on Christmas Eve. The ghost offers him the ability to forget his sorrows, wrongs and troubles with the side effect that he will make anyone with whom he comes into contact forget theirs too. Tempting as this sounds, Redlaw feels a strong foreboding that it’s wrong but accepts the bargain anyway. “Who would not forget their sorrows and their wrongs?” he reasons. But the results prove disastrous. When Redlaw causes the many members of the struggling Tetterby family to forget their past struggles that bound them together, they resent their present struggles and, what’s more, resent the inconvenience of each other.[2]The Tetterbys make for interesting foils to the Cratchit family from Dickens’s most famous Christmas story. We never saw them fighting with each other and I don’t mean that as a criticism … Continue reading When Edmund Denham, an ill student of Redlaw’s, forgets his past sickness, he becomes cold and ungrateful to Milly Swidger, wife of Redlaw’s college’s caretaker, William Swidger[3]Sorry if it’s hard to keep all these characters and their relationships straight., who helped him through it. When William’s old father, Philip, forgets all the grief George, his more wayward son, caused him over the years, he counterintuitively feels disinclined to forgive him and when George forgets all the sorrow his sins have brought, he no longer feels repentant.

The idea that suffering strengthens the bonds between people, particularly family members, also turns out to play a big part in Inside Out. In one of the movie’s most powerful scenes[4]It may sound strange to describe a bouncy cartoon like this as emotionally powerful, but it earns the description., Joy accidentally rewinds a happy memory of Riley’s old hockey team cheering for her to its sorrowful beginning. The reason Riley’s parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane) and teammates came to lift her spirts was that they saw she was deeply discouraged by a critical mistake she made on the ice. Without that, the joyful memory would never have been made. This inspires Joy to regretfully hand the core memories of Riley’s old life in Minnesota to Sadness, turning them blue. Riley tearfully confesses her homesickness to her parents, and they tell her they miss their old home too. As the Andersens share a group hug, Sadness gently takes Joy’s hand and places it on the console. Riley sighs with relief and smiles through her tears. A new core memory is created, one both golden and blue, happy and sad. It creates a new Family Island, one even bigger and stronger than the old version.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain also ends with memories and relationships restored. On Christmas Day, Milly Swidger is also able to remove the ghost’s “gift” from everyone by her mere presence. Apparently, she’s just that goodhearted. Err, yeah, that ending is rather anticlimactic and ridiculously convenient and the main reason The Haunted Man is not as great as A Christmas Carol.[5]It’s also odd since Milly interacted with all of the “forgetters” except for Redlaw himself the night before and lacked this power then. Apparently, she gained it after Redlaw … Continue reading Still, there’s poignancy in Milly acting as a go-between between Redlaw and the friend who betrayed him, gently asking for forgiveness for the man and even more in the revelation about her own memories of sorrow. Long ago, she and her husband lost their only child in its infancy. “When I see a beautiful child in its fond mother’s arms,” she says, “I love it all the better, thinking that my child might have been like that and might have made my heart as proud and happy. All through life, it seems by me to tell me something. For poor neglected children, my little child pleads as if it were alive and had a voice I knew with which to speak to me. When I hear of youth in suffering or in shame, I think that my child might have come to that, and that God took it from me in His mercy. Even in age and grey hair, such as father’s is at present: saying that it too might have lived to be old…and to have needed the respect and love of younger people.”

Riley’s Sense of Self

In Inside Out 2, Joy remembers the lesson she learned about every Emotion serving a purpose, but she seems to have forgotten her lesson about unpleasant memories serving a purpose too as she banishes them to the (literal) back of Riley’s mind. By contrast, she plants the memories she likes beneath Headquarters. They grow into beliefs which make up Riley’s belief system which, in turn, make up her Sense of Self.[6]This raises all kinds of questions. How come the Emotions didn’t know about this in the first movie? Wouldn’t the memories that create beliefs be the core memories? If their buried, … Continue reading The Emotions pride themselves on thirteen-year-old Riley’s Sense of Self being a positive one. But the new Emotions, Anxiety (Maya Hawke) and Envy (Ayo Edebiri), threaten that.[7]I could also quibble with the idea that emotions like Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos) only arrive with puberty. Even in-universe, while such feelings … Continue reading Right before Riley and her best friends, Bree (Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green) and Grace (Grace Lu), attend a three-day hockey skills camp, she learns that they will be attending different high schools. Anxiety makes Riley’s main goal at camp be to get on her new school’s hockey team, the Fire Hawks. To do this, she suppresses the original five Emotions, sends Riley’s old Sense of Self to the Back of the Mind and creates a new one based on anxious memories and beliefs.

Pip, the protagonist of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, also suffers the loss of his positive sense of self in his youth. While he hadn’t had nearly as comfortable a childhood as Riley, he was once happy with his destiny of growing up to be apprenticed to his sister’s husband, Joe Gargery the blacksmith. But when he visits the beautiful, upper-class Estella and she snubs him, he becomes ashamed of his home. “I had believed in the best parlor as a most elegant saloon,” he laments in the book’s first-person narration, “I had believed in the front door as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year all that was changed. Now it was all coarse and common…” Happily, Riley doesn’t meet with the same kind of scorn that wounds Pip. Val Ortiz (Lilimar Hernandez), the star of the Fire Hawks with whom Anxiety drives Riley to spend most of camp schmoozing, is much more like genial, helpful Herbert Pocket, who shows Pip the ropes of being a gentleman when his wish to be one is unexpectedly granted, than like the cruel Estella.[8]Dani, another girl on the team (whose voice actress is unspecified in the credits for some reason) is harder on Riley but still not as bad as Estella or other snobby characters from Great … Continue reading But the same loss of innocence that Pip experiences when he plays cards with Estella, and she berates him for calling the knaves jacks can be seen in the scene of Riley realizing that her favorite band is seen as childish by the Fire Hawks. Just as Pip makes earning Estella’s approval the goal of his life, Riley makes hers earning the approval of the Fire Hawks. This leads her to pretend to disdain her aforementioned favorite band, eat energy bars that taste like cardboard and broccoli and even to shun Bree and Grace. (“Why are our best friends always trying to hang out with us?” Envy complains.) Pip likewise shuns Joe Gargery and Biddy, the lowly schoolteacher’s assistant who tutored him as a child, once he becomes a gentleman of expectations. When Joe pays him a visit, he confesses in the narration that “If I could have kept him away by paying money, I most certainly would have paid money.”

I recently wrote that I don’t understand why so many kids’ movies believe that the main thing children need to be warned against is self-doubt rather than pride. At first, Inside Out 2 seems to be one of those movies. Anxiety the antagonist takes away Riley’s sense that she’s a good person, replacing it with a sense of inadequacy, and the heroes’ goal is to restore the original sense of self. But the movie subverts this to a limited but surprisingly large extent. (Great Expectations with its guilt-ridden narrator doesn’t bother with it at all.) While the anxiety-fueled Sense of Self harms Riley, Joy finds that her earlier naive, arrogant sense of herself as a good person will no longer do either. Instead, Riley gains a third Sense of Self grown from the memories that formed the first two and the uncomfortable ones Joy initially sent to the Back of the Mind. Only then does she find peace. It turns out that Anxiety wasn’t entirely wrong when she said a more negative self-image could spur Riley to self-improvement. But instead of worrying about being a better hockey player or a member of the gentry, Riley and Pip realize they need to prioritize being better human beings. “I was such a jerk to you guys,” Riley says to Bree and Grace. “I’m so sorry! If you don’t want to be friends anymore, I get it. But I really hope that you can forgive me someday.” Pip says much the same thing to Joe and Biddy though he takes more words to say it. In both stories, the old friends forgive the protagonists and though their lives cannot return to exactly what they were before, the bonds between them remain strong. I’m reminded of a line from another animated movie. “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Of course, Charles Dickens was also aware that obsessing over painful memories can have terrible consequences. The main villain of Great Expectations, Miss Havisham[9]Actually, a character called Compeyson is probably the real main villain, but Miss Havisham is the most developed antagonist and the one everybody remembers., relives the most miserable day of her life every day, making it define her whole identity and dedicating her life to avenging it. If her inner life were dramatized, Inside Out style, we’d see her Emotions constantly replaying the fateful day and brooding over it. Cleary, that’s not healthy. But Pip’s story, like those of Redlaw and Riley, shows that “bad” memories can also lead to empathy and repentance. I can think of no better way to close than with this quote from The Haunted Man. “Lord keep my memory green.” I’m sure the characters in Inside Out would agree with that sentiment though they would maintain that memories should be multicolored.

Next Week: Back to Narnia

References

References
1 All five of Dickens’s Christmas novellas actually are about men who are haunted by something or other.
2 The Tetterbys make for interesting foils to the Cratchit family from Dickens’s most famous Christmas story. We never saw them fighting with each other and I don’t mean that as a criticism at all. One of the two scenes in which we saw them all together was a rare occasion when they could all take the day off and enjoy each other’s company. The other one had them grieving the death of one of their own. Showing them fighting wouldn’t have fit in. I’m sure Dickens still expected us to assume they fought amongst themselves now and then. With the Tetterbys we actually see them fighting amongst themselves and then apologizing and making up with each other. It’s a more complex look at a large and generally loving family struggling with a small income.
3 Sorry if it’s hard to keep all these characters and their relationships straight.
4 It may sound strange to describe a bouncy cartoon like this as emotionally powerful, but it earns the description.
5 It’s also odd since Milly interacted with all of the “forgetters” except for Redlaw himself the night before and lacked this power then. Apparently, she gained it after Redlaw listened to some Christmas music or something like that…Yeah, this book really isn’t as great as A Christmas Carol.
6 This raises all kinds of questions. How come the Emotions didn’t know about this in the first movie? Wouldn’t the memories that create beliefs be the core memories? If their buried, doesn’t that mean Riley can’t recall them? Oh well. Just don’t think about it much.
7 I could also quibble with the idea that emotions like Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos) only arrive with puberty. Even in-universe, while such feelings weren’t personified as characters, I got the impression Riley already experienced them. Anxiety was just Fear on a bad day. He and Disgust handled embarrassment between them. Since Inside Out connects Disgust with taste, she and Sadness were in charge of envy. And ennui was arguably conveyed by the absence of Sadness and Joy. If I were writing the sequel’s story, I would have had Fear undergo a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation into Anxiety. Then again, that would have cost us Fear’s part in the story as it is and Maya Hawk’s vocal performance as Anxiety, so I’m willing to accept the movie as it is.
8 Dani, another girl on the team (whose voice actress is unspecified in the credits for some reason) is harder on Riley but still not as bad as Estella or other snobby characters from Great Expectations.
9 Actually, a character called Compeyson is probably the real main villain, but Miss Havisham is the most developed antagonist and the one everybody remembers.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 7: I Think We’ve Waited for Aslan Long Enough

At the Telmarine camp, Glozelle tells Miraz that enough weapons and armor for two regiments have been stolen from them. (In the book, the armor the dwarfs made was better than anything the Telmarines had by the way.) He also shows him a message the thieves left carved into the supply wagon they raided. YOU WERE RIGHT TO FEAR THE WOODS X. Sopespian wonders what X could mean. “Caspian,” says Miraz, “the Tenth.”

Glozelle: I apologize, my lord. The blame is mine.
Miraz: I know. Tell me, General, how many men did you lose?
Glozelle: None, my lord.
Miraz: None?
Glozelle: They came like ghosts in the dead of night. We never saw them.
Miraz: Then how do you explain your injuries?

Glozelle looks bewildered. Sopespian gives him a knowing look, no doubt trying to remind of their is-any-of-us-safe conversation. Suddenly, Miraz violently strikes Glozelle’s face, drawing blood. “I asked,” he says without raising his voice, “how many men were killed during this bloody Narnian attack?” Handing him a sword, he adds, “Of which you were a fortunate survivor? General?” Glozelle realizes to his dismay that Miraz wants him to kill some of his troops so that he can blame it on the Narnians and drum up support for the war effort. (Also, probably to punish said troops for not stopping the thieves.)

After weighing his options, he accepts the sword and says “three.” Miraz and Sopespian head back to Miraz’s horse. “I apologize, Lord Sopespian,” says Miraz. “Caspian is not a victim of this savage uprising. He is the instigator. It seems Narnia is in need of a new king.” He rides off. Sopespian and Glozelle exchange glances again and the scene ends with Glozelle about to kill the unfortunate three.

This little scene is original to this adaptation and in my opinion, it works splendidly. As I’ve mentioned before, the book gave no buildup to Glozelle and Sopespian’s rising enmity towards Miraz, not even introducing them by name until right when they become vital to the plot in the third-to-last chapter. I think that can be defended. The book’s plot is a bit plodding as it is and slowing down to focus on characters who wouldn’t be relevant to the end might make that worse. But having the subplot come nearly out of nowhere had some obvious drawbacks too. Not only do scenes like this in the movie eliminate them but they also make Miraz creepier than he is in the book. (Sergio Castellitto’s performance continues to excel.) If I have a quibble, it’s that this makes Glozelle and Sopespian’s motivations for turning against Miraz much more sympathetic than they are in the source material. But if the adaptation had to make that alteration, at least it does so well.

Meanwhile, the good guys are trekking through the woods. Trufflehunter privately asks Trumpkin what the two kings and two queens of old are like.

Trumpkin: Malcontents. Complainers. Stubborn as mules in the morning.
Nikabrik: So, you like them then?
Pause
Trumpkin: Well enough.

Lucy overhears this and smiles. It’s a predictable bit of humor but it makes me smile too. Well, smirk anyway. As a fan of the book, I’d object that it makes Trumpkin less respectful and deferential to the Pevensies than he is at this point there, but I’ve already written about that.

Anyway, the Narnians emerge from the trees into a clearing where an ancient mound towers. There was a bit of dialogue cut from the movie in which Glenstorm explained that the mound has been abandoned for hundreds of years and that only the mice knew of its existence. This probably should have been kept in the final cut since it’s a bit odd to see the Narnians encamped at a major new location without a word of introduction to it. The bit about the mice was also a nice nod to a minor revelation from the book that the movie would cut. Still, there will be an explanation of sorts in a matter of moments, so it’s not too annoying if you’re patient.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy do a heroic walk into the entrance. Caspian hangs back in awe of them and maybe just a tad envious. There’s a funny moment where the youngest of the centaurs doing a military salute (Gomez Mussenden, son of costume designer Isis Mussenden) nearly decapitates Lucy.

In the torchlit tunnels that riddle the mound, we see Narnians hard at work forging weapons. “It may not be what you are used to, but it is defensible,” Caspian tells Peter. Susan directs Peter’s attention to a less busy tunnel where she shows him images from the last movie, of her and Lucy riding on Aslan’s back, of all four Pevensies standing by their thrones on the day of their coronation, carved into the stone walls. The kings and queens of old stare at these memorials of themselves. The melancholy music that plays over this is nicely haunting. “What is this place?” Lucy asks Caspian. (I told you we’d get an explanation of sorts soon!) “You don’t know?” Caspian asks, surprised. He takes a torch from the wall and leads them around a bend. The camera lingers on a carving of Tumnus by the lamppost. When I first saw the movie, I was irritated by this since I had clearly seen the iconic image behind the characters, and I didn’t need the movie to stop and point it out to me. But, on repeat viewings, I’ve come to appreciate that we hear the musical theme of his lullaby on the soundtrack at this moment.

Caspian leads the Pevensies into a dark room. He sticks his torch in a vat of lamp oil (or something) that runs along the wall, setting off a chain reaction of fire. This illuminates stone carvings of various Narnian creatures on the walls. By far the biggest is the one of Aslan on the far wall facing the Pevensies.

But that’s not the big reveal. The big reveal is the remains of the Stone Table in the center of the room.

Lucy slowly and gravely walks toward the sacred artifact with her siblings following behind her. She sets her hand on the stone, turns to Susan and says, “He must know what he’s doing.” This is a callback to what Susan said to her in the last movie when Aslan had let the White Witch and her soldiers kill him. (I wrote about the line at some length.) This movie is trying to explore the classic objection to Christianity:[1]It applies to other worldviews that believe in a benevolent deity too but for purposes of simplicity, I’ll just refer to Christianity. I sincerely hope my readers who practice other religions … Continue reading How could a good God allow evil? The thing is the movie doesn’t really have much of an answer to this objection. To be fair, neither does the book but in the book, the question is implicit rather than explicit-if it’s there at all. This moment is the closest we get with Lucy being reminded of a time when it really seemed that Aslan had dropped the ball, only for it to turn out that he had a great plan all along. Granted, it might be harder to justify why he would let Narnia be conquered, many of its citizens be killed and those that remained be forced to live as outlaws for generations, but this reminder gives her hope. And, for me, the moment works, largely thanks to Georgie Henley’s powerful performance. She conveys that Lucy’s doubts aren’t totally laid to rest, but she still feels she’s been given a good reason to hold onto her faith and she’s taking comfort in it. You could also infer that she’s saddened by the memory of the horrible pain Aslan went through but that she’s also encouraged by it to trust his goodness.

You know whose trust in Aslan hasn’t been bolstered by this? Peter. “I think it’s up to us now,” he says curtly, evidently not liking to be reminded of the lion.

We cut to another day or possibly the same day later. A faun sentry outside the mound, which is called Aslan’s How in the book by the way, spots a Telmarine scout watching from the thicket. Originally, this was part of a scene of Susan training the Narnian archers and winning an archery contest with a flirtatious Caspian. They would have been the ones to notice the scout at the end. Since I consider the idea of adding romance between these characters stupid, I approve of this cut. That being said, I also appreciated that the deleted scene had dialogue similar to an archery contest between Susan and Trumpkin in the book, a follow up to his fencing match with Edmund. And there’s a case to be made that if the movie had to include the romantic subplot, it would have been better to develop it. But, no, no, no! I did not type that. The less flirting between Susan and Caspian, the better.[2]I should take this opportunity to say that I’m sure Anna Popplewell and Ben Barnes could play a good couple. I just don’t think that couple should have been these characters.

Inside the How, the Narnians hold a meeting. “It’s only a matter of time,” says Peter. “Miraz’s men and war machines are on their way.” In the book, the Telmarines were never described as having war machines but, you know, Hollywood. Actually, you know what? I agree with Hollywood on this one. If you’re going to do a war movie about heroic underdogs, why not give the bad guys war machines they don’t have? It makes sense. Back to the scene. “That means those same men aren’t protecting his castle,” Peter continues. “What do you propose we do, your Majesty?” asks Reepicheep. Peter and Caspian both start to answer at the same time. Awkward silence ensues and Peter glares Caspian into silence. In the book, by the way, King Miraz objects to the idea of High King Peter and King Edmund on the grounds that “how could there be two kings at the same time?” It’s kind of depressing that the adapters share the same mindset as the original story’s villain. Oh well.

I feel like I should apologize to William Moseley for showcasing so many images of him looking like a jerk. It’s the movie’s fault, not mine.

Peter: Our only hope is to strike them before they strike us.
Caspian: But that’s crazy! No one has ever taken that castle!
Peter: There’s always a first time.
Trumpkin: We’ll have the element of surprise.
Caspian: But we have the advantage here!
Susan: If we dig in, we could probably hold them off indefinitely.

Peter looks mad at her for not siding with him. Caspian looks pleasantly surprised. See, I don’t just have a problem with the romance thing because it’s not in the book or because it’s a stereotypical Hollywood addition. We can’t tell here whether Susan is being reasonable in supporting Caspian or whether she’s just doing it because she’s attracted to him. It’s not impossible for her to have both motivations of course. Still, I feel like she’d be a more creditable leader if we knew she was genuinely approaching this from a neutral standpoint like the other characters.

Trufflehunter: I, for one, feel safer underground.
Peter (to Caspian): Look, I appreciate what you’ve done here. But this isn’t a fortress. It’s a tomb.
Edmund: Yes, and if they’re smart, the Telmarines will just wait and starve us out.
Pattertwig (cheerfully): We could collect nuts.
Reepicheep: Yes, and throw them at the Telmarines! Shut up!

I wrote before that I dislike the way this adaptation makes Reepicheep all sarcastic and quippy, but I actually think that line would work me if Izzard delivered it in a lordlier tone and if they cut the undignified “shut up” at the end. Anyway, Reepicheep tells Peter he’ll be happy to storm the castle. “If I get your troops in, can you handle the guards?” Peter asks Glenstorm. Glenstorm looks a little unsure. He exchanges glances with Caspian before replying but his reply is “Or die trying, my liege.” “That’s what I’m worried about,” says Lucy who is seated on the Stone Table. In the book, the characters would never dare sit on that, considering it disrespectful but I don’t mind giving the movie a pass since they’re clearly trying to imply visually that Lucy is the only one in the room thinking about Aslan right now.[3]Well, Trufflehunter might be too.

Peter: Sorry?
Lucy: You’re all acting like there’s only two options. Dying here or dying there.
Peter: I’m not sure you’ve really been listening, Lu.
Lucy: No! You’re not listening! Or have you forgotten who really defeated the White Witch, Peter?

Honestly, I don’t blame Peter for being confused. The movie doesn’t really do a good job of clarifying why Aslan, the one “who really defeated the White Witch,” would be against Peter’s proposal. Basically, what the adaptation is doing here is replacing Peter’s decision to follow the river rather than the invisible Aslan with this decision to attack the Telmarine castle rather than seek Aslan’s help. I’m good with that idea. While I may not be attracted to battle scenes per se, they’re probably more exciting than scenes of characters wandering in the woods. But in the book, Aslan specifically told Lucy (in the scene with the half-awake trees) to lead the others to him. He’s said no such thing in the movie’s version of the scene, so it’s not clear how the characters are defying him here. There are so many problems with this movie that could be easily fixed by a single, clarifying line of dialogue! It’s very frustrating. Anyway, the scene ends with Peter saying, “I think we’ve waited for Aslan long enough,” turning and striding out of the room. The camera shows the carved image of Aslan away from which he is walking. The script may not do a good job explaining how Peter’s plan equates to walking away from Aslan, but this is a great visual symbol of it. As I wrote before, this movie is good at keeping Aslan in viewers’ minds even as he’s physically absent.

Next Week: I Take a Break from Narnia and Bring Back the Animation Station Feature. It’ll Be a Weird One but Hopefully Interesting.

References

References
1 It applies to other worldviews that believe in a benevolent deity too but for purposes of simplicity, I’ll just refer to Christianity. I sincerely hope my readers who practice other religions won’t feel slighted.
2 I should take this opportunity to say that I’m sure Anna Popplewell and Ben Barnes could play a good couple. I just don’t think that couple should have been these characters.
3 Well, Trufflehunter might be too.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 6: Not Exactly What I Expected

We cut from Caspian saying the Telmarines will be there soon to a bunch of them cutting down trees and building a bridge across the ford of Beruna. (In the book, there had already been a town at Beruna for quite some time.) Cutting down trees is a pretty generic way to visually symbolize invasion but, to be fair, the book pretty much handed it to the film.[1]Though in the literary Prince Caspian, the trees had already been cut down long before the story’s main events. Cliches sometimes become cliche for good reason and this scene basically works. I think it would work better though if the previous movie had established this location. Then it would feel more like the Telmarines were defiling an important historical Narnian landmark. Interestingly, a moment deleted from the movie would have shown a dryad reduced to a pile of leaves by her tree being felled.[2]The same thing happens in a different Narnia book, The Last Battle. This would have made what the Telmarines are doing more palpably evil, but it also wouldn’t have made sense since all the tree spirits are supposed to have been comatose for centuries at this point.[3]Maybe it would have worked if Trumpkin and the Pevensies had looked shocked to see the dryad before it died but if you check out the deleted scenes, you’ll see that’s not how the actors … Continue reading

Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy and Trumpkin peep over a pile of logs and see the vast number of Telmarine soldiers. They quickly duck down as they see Sopespian and Miraz arrive at the camp on horseback. “Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to come after all,” Susan whispers. Despite Anna Popplewell having great comedic timing, she doesn’t deliver that line in a snarky way, and I believe that was the right decision. In the corresponding scene in the book, the characters run into a Telmarine outpost and have to flee from enemy arrows. Here they sneak away unnoticed, a rare example of the movie removing an action scene from the original story rather than adding one. Fans of the book who dislike this adaptation tend to describe it as putting action above all else. I disagree for reasons I intend to delve into later.

Anyway, for lack of a better idea, our heroes return to the gorge. “So where exactly do you think you saw Aslan?” Peter asks Lucy. “I wish you’d all stop trying to sound like grownups,” she complains. “I didn’t think I saw him; I did see him!” In the book, her equivalent line, which is directed specifically at Susan, is “don’t talk like a grownup.” That strikes me as a lot funnier than “I wish you’d all stop trying to sound like grownups” but the altered line allows the movie its own highly funny moment as Trumpkin says to no one in particular, “I am a grownup.” Lucy walks right up to the edge of the cliff. “It was right over…” Suddenly, the ground gives way beneath her. The others, horrified, rush over to the hole to find that Lucy has landed on a little pathway just below the cliff, one which they can use to climb into the ravine. “Here,” she says happily, finishing her sentence.

Not sure why Susan couldn’t have noticed this hidden path by looking down and a little to her left.

This is similar to what happens in the book a little later. There Lucy found the pathway when she was being led by Aslan who is initially invisible to the others. The movie will give us a functional equivalent of that scene at the climax. For now, Trumpkin and the Pevensies carefully make their way down into the gorge and cross the river. At one point, a stone gives way beneath Lucy’s feet and Trumpkin keeps her from falling into the water, further establishing their friendship. I’m not sure how the characters climb up the other cliff but apparently, they do somehow. We cut to night when they’re all lying on the ground, seemingly asleep except for Lucy who stares up at the stars. According to the book, Lucy felt “a thrill of memory” at seeing “after all those years, the bright Narnian stars. She had once known them better than the stars of our own world, because as a Queen in Narnia she had gone to bed much later than as a child in England.” I love that the movie contains a visual reference to this though I’m not astronomically minded enough to say if the stars the movie shows are actually different from the stars in this world.

Did you notice how I said the others were seemingly asleep? Well, Susan rolls over and asks Lucy why she thinks she (Susan) didn’t see Aslan. “You believe me?” Lucy asks in surprise. “Well, we got across the gorge,” says Susan. This sort of corresponds to a scene in the book, after everyone, more or less, can see Aslan, when Susan tearfully confesses that she really believed Lucy when she said she saw Aslan but pretended, perhaps even to herself, that she didn’t because she was desperate to get out of the woods and following Trumpkin and Peter’s plan seemed easier than crawling down into the gorge. In the book, Susan is the Pevensie who ends up being an unpleasant jerk for most of the middle section whereas in the movie, it’s Peter. Not that I blame the literary Susan much. If I were hiking through thick woods for hours with nothing to eat but apples and bear meat and no chance of a good place to sleep, I’d be as cranky as she was or crankier. After thinking about her sister’s question, Lucy says she doesn’t know but suggests Susan maybe didn’t really want to see Aslan. That line reminds me of Till We Have Faces even more than the line I described as doing so in the last post! We see that Trumpkin is also awake and listening to this conversation, no doubt wondering if Lucy’s words apply to him.

Susan: You always knew we’d be coming back here, didn’t you?
Lucy: I hoped so.
Susan: I finally just got used to the idea of being in England!
Lucy: But you’re happy to be here, aren’t you?
Susan: While it lasts.

Like Susan’s dialogue at the train station, this little scene arguably foreshadows her rejecting her experiences in Narnia as “funny games” she played as a child in the final Narnia story. I like the idea of foreshadowing that in Prince Caspian[4]I’d argue the book version already does so with Lucy’s line about Susan “talking like a grownup” and her deluding herself into not believing that Lucy saw Aslan because … Continue reading but I’m not crazy about this way of doing it. We get the impression of Susan as a victim. If a hypothetical movie of The Last Battle set in this universe had been made, we’d likely get the impression she told herself Narnia was a fantasy because it hurt too much not being able to live there anymore. The book’s implication is more that Susan didn’t want to believe in Narnia because that wouldn’t have fit in with her desire to be one of the cool kids.[5]Critics tend to condemn this part of The Last Battle for vilifying adulthood. Jill, a younger girl who also had adventures in Narnia, says that Susan’s problem is that “she always was a … Continue reading I understand that many readers feel C. S. Lewis threw Susan’s character under a bus[6]Actually, he saved her from being hit by a train. Read the book to get that joke. and there’s something to be said for still keeping her sympathetic. But I think you could still imply that her motivation for denying Narnia is still pride or vanity while still having more empathy for her than C. S. Lewis showed.[7]I would not recommend an adaptation change the ending of Susan’s story and have her reembrace Narnia. Completely ignoring or reimagining controversial endings annoys me. I am open to nuancing … Continue reading Still, credit where credit is due, Anna Popplewell acts the scene beautifully, conveying that Susan is bitter while maintaining the character’s emotionally cool, prim personality and not making it over-the-top.

We transition to the same location in the morning. Now Lucy really is the only one awake. It seems that what is keeping her up is a golden light emanating from within the forest. After hesitating, she leaves the others and goes deeper into the trees. This scene’s equivalent in the book took place at night and I’m rather bummed they changed that as I believe moonlight was part of its mysterious and magical atmosphere. What Lucy discovers in the text is a group of trees that seem to be dancing in a circle.

The first tree she looked at seemed at first glance to be not a tree at all but a huge man with a shaggy beard and great bushes of hair. She was not frightened: she had seen such things before. But when she looked again, he was only a tree, though he was still moving. You couldn’t see whether he had feet or roots, of course, because when trees move, they don’t walk on the surface of the earth; they wade in it as we do in water. The same thing happened with every tree she looked at. At one moment they seemed to be the friendly, lovely giant and giantess forms which the tree-people put on when some good magic has called them into full life: next moment they all looked like trees again. But when they looked like trees, it was like strangely human trees, and when they looked like people, it was like strangely branchy and leafy people…

The movie doesn’t manage anything as memorable or magical as that. But it does convey the basic idea that the trees are “almost awake, not quite” to use Lucy’s words from the book. Cherry blossom petals blowing in the wind briefly turn into a laughing dryad. Silver birch trees pull apart, creating a clear path for Lucy.

This path eventually leads her to Aslan! Joyfully, she runs over and embraces him. The scene makes excellent use of music from the last one. Unfortunately, we’ve now come to a rather laughable blunder on the part of the script. Here’s a quote from this part of the book.

“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Here’s how that dialogue goes in the movie.

Lucy: I’ve missed you so much! You’ve grown!
Aslan: Every year you grow, so shall I.

Clearly, the screenwriters wanted to include those memorable lines but, in their haste, they completely missed the point and made them say the opposite of what they meant. Oy vey!

Lucy asks Aslan where he’s been and why he hasn’t come before to help. “Things never happen the same way twice, dear one,” Aslan says. Just then a twig is heard cracking and Lucy wakes up back at the camp. I’ve read some fans sharply criticize the movie for making that scene between her and Aslan a dream, but I’ve never gotten the impression it’s supposed to be only a dream. Another Narnia book, The Silver Chair, has Aslan send someone a dream and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader arguably has it too.[8]In that case, it’s ambiguous how much of the dreamlike scene is real but it has real effects. I just always interpreted this part of the Prince Caspian movie along those lines. I will say though the dream scene would work much better if it ended with Aslan telling Lucy to meet him somewhere or do something. I’m not just saying that because it’d be closer to the book. The story the movie itself wishes to tell would make more sense that way.

While I might wish the movie had kept the moonlit atmosphere of the scene with Aslan from the book, I have to admit the contrast between the bright golden light of Lucy’s vision and the dim, early morning light when she awakes is great.[9]For the record, that’s not to say the dim, early morning light isn’t beautiful. If anything, I might prefer it. She tries to wake Susan up. Here’s a quote from the corresponding part of the book.

She went to Peter first and shook him. “Peter,” she whispered in his ear, “wake up. Quick. Aslan is here. He says we’ve got to follow him at once.”
“Certainly, Lu. Whatever you like,” said Peter unexpectedly. This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn’t much use.

The movie keeps this hilarious moment but gives Peter’s part to Susan. As I wrote above, the adaptation arguably switches their roles in general. Lucy wanders off in the direction of the twig cracking sound. She sees the same birches she saw in her dream, now immobile, and places her hand on one, saying plaintively, “Wake up.” Of course, nothing happens, and she sadly moves on. This is based on a scene that actually takes place the night before Lucy sees Aslan in the book.

A great longing for the old days when the trees could talk in Narnia came over her. She knew
exactly how each of these trees would talk if only she could wake them, and what sort of human form it would put on. She looked at a silver birch: it would have a soft, showery voice and would look like a slender girl, with hair blown all about her face, and fond of dancing. She looked at the oak: he would be a wizened, but hearty old man with a frizzled beard and warts on his face and hands, and hair growing out of the warts. She looked at the beech under which she was standing. Ah! she would be the best of all. She would be a gracious goddess, smooth and stately, the lady of the wood.

“Oh, Trees, Trees, Trees,” said Lucy (though she had not been intending to speak at all). “Oh, Trees, wake, wake, wake. Don’t you remember it? Don’t you remember me? Dryads and Hamadryads, come out, come to me.”

Though there was not a breath of wind they all stirred about her. The rustling noise of the leaves was almost like words. The nightingale stopped singing as if to listen to it.
Lucy felt that at any moment she would begin to understand what the trees were trying to say. But the moment did not come. The rustling died away. The nightingale resumed its song. Even in the moonlight the wood looked more ordinary again. Yet Lucy had the feeling (as you sometimes have when you are trying to remember a name or a date and almost get it, but it vanishes before you really do) that she had just missed something: as if she had spoken to the trees a split second too soon or a split second too late, or used all the right words except one, or put in one word that was just wrong.

At first, the movie’s version may seem pale and even lame compared to the passage from the book. But I think, practically speaking, Lucy delivering a big speech to the trees, begging them to come to life would have come across as ridiculous, especially if she really seemed to believe it would work. As it is, I feel Georgie Henley’s performance makes the moment nicely sad.

Lucy tentatively starts to call for Aslan when someone clamps a hand over her mouth and pulls her down into the bushes. Fortunately, it’s Peter. He wordlessly points out an armed minotaur nearby. Leaving Lucy in hiding, Peter emerges and draws his sword. Before he can challenge the minotaur though, Caspian jumps in and starts fighting him. Peter disarms his opponent but Caspian ducks right before Peter can slice his head off and Peter’s sword gets stuck in a tree. Caspian kicks Peter aside and tries to pull the sword out. Peter picks up a rock when Lucy calls for him to stop. Peter sees the Narnians, including Nikabrik and Trufflehunter, rally around this Telmarine. “Prince Caspian?” he asks.

I think the movie’s plot would make more sense if Peter didn’t know Caspian had become the leader of the Narnians even if that would be another change from the book’s story. Trumpkin and everyone just assuming Caspian is their destined king because he blew the horn is never explained well, as I’ve written before, and it’s a bit odd that it would take Peter so long to guess his identity if he was expecting the Narnians’ leader to be a Telmarine youth. Back to the scene. “Yes, and who are you?” asks Caspian. “Peter!” yells a voice. Caspian turns to see Susan (the voice’s owner), Edmund and Trumpkin run up. He looks down at the now dislodged sword in his hand. “High King Peter?” he asks. “I believe you called,” says Peter, trying and failing to sound cool. “Well, yes,” Caspian says, “but…I thought you’d be older.” Caspian, unlike Trumpkin, never expresses surprise at the Pevensies’ ages in the book but I don’t mind the idea as long as he gets over it quickly. In fact, his reaction to seeing the larger-than-life heroes of his bedtime stories as people his own age could be really interesting though the movie, alas, hasn’t established him having enough respect for or interest in them for it to work. “Well, if you like, we can come back in a few years,” says Peter. I enjoy the joke, but I wish Peter delivered it in a jocular way instead of a snobby, offended tone of voice. It’s a line that could have been included in a Prince Caspian adaptation that stayed truer to C. S. Lewis’s Peter if only it weren’t for that tone. Caspian quickly apologizes. “You’re just…not exactly what I expected,” he says, turning an admiring glance at Susan who smiles, appreciative but a little embarrassed by the attention.

Sigh.

Yes, this adaptation has Caspian and Susan, two characters who barely interact in the book, be in love with each other. It’s such a stereotypically Hollywood thing to do, adding romance between characters who were not romantically involved at all in the source material just because. The best thing I can say is that at this point in the movie, the chemistry between Caspian and Susan is just a humorous little bit of subtext, so it isn’t too much of a nuisance for book fans. I can even enjoy it and laugh at it a bit. Later, the movie will try to make it this big dramatic part of their characters and it’s just dumb, but we’ll get to that in time. Speaking of time, I recommend my readers take a break from reading this and watch this short YouTube video from Narniaweb.com, a site that keeps fans of the books updated on news of adaptations. The video has a rather hilarious and horrifying story about the history of the 2008 Prince Caspian.

Hope that made you laugh. Anyway, in response to Caspian’s “not what I expected” line, Edmund says, “Neither are you,” looking suspiciously at the minotaur. “A common enemy unites even the oldest of foes,” says Trufflehunter. I hate to go straight from one thing about this adaptation that annoys me to another one but here we are. In the book, when it’s suggested that the Narnians should ally themselves with “an Ogre or two and a Hag,” both Caspian and Trufflehunter strongly object.

“We should not have Aslan for friend if we brought in that rabble,” said Trufflehunter…

“Oh, Aslan!” said Trumpkin, cheerily but contemptuously. “What matters much more is that you wouldn’t have me.”

By changing this dynamic, the movie loses the book’s theme of avoiding moral compromises. Well, it doesn’t entirely lose it since later it will have Nikabrik align himself with some other descendants of the White Witch’s followers with nearly disastrous consequences. But it doesn’t set it up nearly as well as the book does. Of course, you could argue that some of the creatures working for the White Witch, such as dwarfs and talking wolves, had good and evil members of their species and minotaurs could be one of those. But I doubt anyone reading the book would have guessed that.[10]And don’t tell me the book sends a bad message by portraying some creatures as inherently evil! They’re fantasy creatures. It’s not like the National Association for the Advancement … Continue reading It feels like the filmmakers just made minotaurs good creatures because they wanted an excuse to have them in every Narnia movie and… I don’t really see what’s so cool about them. They were hardly the most visually interesting of the White Witch’s soldiers. Then again, I suppose the fact that they weren’t grotesquely ugly is what made the filmmakers feel they could make heroes of them.

Enough of my complaining. We’ve now reached a fun part of the adaptation. Reepicheep steps forward and bows to Peter. “We have anxiously awaited your return, my liege,” he says, “Our hearts and swords are at your service.” It’s disappointing that Reepicheep is the only Narnian in this scene who seems really delighted to see the ancient kings and queens but like I said this is part of a fun moment. “Oh my gosh, he is so cute,” Lucy whispers to Susan. Reepicheep whips out his sword and spins around. “Who said that?!” he demands. Lucy apologizes and Reepicheep seeing who she is, sheathes his sword. “Oh! Your Majesty. With the greatest respect, I do believe courageous, courteous or chivalrous might more befit a knight of Narnia.” While these two characters don’t interact in the book version of Prince Caspian, according to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “Lucy longed…to take Reepicheep up in her arms and cuddle him. But this, as she well knew, was a pleasure she could never have: it would have offended him deeply.” So, this moment in the movie is both great fun for book fans while still making sense and being funny for viewers who haven’t read a word of the books.[11]I’m not sure English girls in the 1940s used the word, “cute,” that way but come on, lighten up! It’s a hilarious moment.

Peter: Well, at least we know some of you can handle a blade.
Reepicheep: Yes, indeed and I have recently put it to good use securing weapons for your army, Sire.
Peter: Good cause we’re going to need every sword we can get.
Caspian: Well then, you will probably be wanting yours back.

He hands Peter back the sword with an attempt at a friendly smile. Peter accepts it without any such attempt and just glares coldly at Caspian.

Yeah, this is a big problem for fans of the book and for some of them, the biggest problem with the adaptation. While Caspian and Peter don’t meet until the book is almost over, they’re relationship is perfectly friendly. When Peter sees that Caspian is overawed by his presence, he addresses him as “Your Majesty” and tells him “I haven’t come to take your place, you know, but to put you into it.” A page or two later, Caspian is described as liking Peter very much. In the movie…not so much. I can’t blame any fans for being upset by this character assassination, but I will defend it a bit. I get the impression from some fan complaints that they feel the movie is changing the themes and messages of the book here. But I feel like the basic message is the same. It’s not like the filmmakers read the book and were like, “Peter is a terrible role model for children! The way he peacefully passes on the mantle to Caspian and supports him is just sick! He should be rude and power hungry! That’s how someone should behave in this situation!” I’d say the movie and the book are sending the same message. It’s just that the book is using a positive example whereas the movie is using a negative one. Of course, if you grew up with High King Peter as your role model, I understand that there’s no way you can ever accept this change. (Personally, I grew up with Polly Plummer from The Magician’s Nephew as my Narnian role model because of her talent for telling the other characters exactly what’s wrong with them. Maybe it’s just as well this series of adaptations never got around to her story.) I’ll also reiterate that I think Peter’s reaction would work better if he hadn’t known that Caspian was the leader of the Narnians even though that would take the story even further from the source material. If Peter were expecting to resume his role as King of Narnia and then were surprised to learn that he was supposed to set this wet-behind-the-ears boy on the throne, especially if that boy were a member of the royal family that conquered Narnia, I think viewers would sympathize with his feelings more. At least Caspian is likeable in this scene as it is. How long will that last though?

Next Week: What Was That Reepicheep Said About Recently Securing Weapons?

References

References
1 Though in the literary Prince Caspian, the trees had already been cut down long before the story’s main events.
2 The same thing happens in a different Narnia book, The Last Battle.
3 Maybe it would have worked if Trumpkin and the Pevensies had looked shocked to see the dryad before it died but if you check out the deleted scenes, you’ll see that’s not how the actors played it.
4 I’d argue the book version already does so with Lucy’s line about Susan “talking like a grownup” and her deluding herself into not believing that Lucy saw Aslan because following him would be inconvenient. But many readers apparently find that insufficient to prepare for her later offstage trajectory.
5 Critics tend to condemn this part of The Last Battle for vilifying adulthood. Jill, a younger girl who also had adventures in Narnia, says that Susan’s problem is that “she always was a jolly sight too keen on being grownup.” What these critics never mention is that Polly, an older woman who’s had adventures in Narnia, disagrees, saying that Susan’s real problem is that she refuses to grow up. “Her whole idea of life is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.” Do detractors of The Last Battle just skip over that part when they read it?
6 Actually, he saved her from being hit by a train. Read the book to get that joke.
7 I would not recommend an adaptation change the ending of Susan’s story and have her reembrace Narnia. Completely ignoring or reimagining controversial endings annoys me. I am open to nuancing them though.
8 In that case, it’s ambiguous how much of the dreamlike scene is real but it has real effects.
9 For the record, that’s not to say the dim, early morning light isn’t beautiful. If anything, I might prefer it.
10 And don’t tell me the book sends a bad message by portraying some creatures as inherently evil! They’re fantasy creatures. It’s not like the National Association for the Advancement of Minotaurs was going to object to the movie.
11 I’m not sure English girls in the 1940s used the word, “cute,” that way but come on, lighten up! It’s a hilarious moment.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 5: He Wanted Us to Follow Him

Prince Caspian makes his way through the woods. He hears Trufflehunter and Nikabrik sneaking behind him. “I just think we should wait for the kings and queens,” Trufflehunter says. When Caspian doesn’t pay attention to this, he sarcastically calls after him to “see if the others will be as understanding.” This prospect inspires Nikabrik to say maybe he’ll go along with Caspian. “I want to see you explain things to minotaurs.” Caspian stops walking and looks behind him, not so much scared as intrigued.

Caspian: Minotaurs? They’re real?
Trufflehunter: And very bad tempered.
Nikabrik: Not to mention big.
Trufflehunter: Huge.
Caspian: What about centaurs? Do they still exist?
Trufflehunter: Well, the centaurs will probably fight on your side but there’s no telling what the others will do.

Caspian hesitates before asking another question, this one as if he’s scared of the answer. “What about Aslan?” Now while he’s never the protagonist and usually doesn’t show up until two thirds of the story are over, Aslan is the only character to appear in all seven Narnia books and is probably the most important one. A common fan criticism of these movie adaptations is that he doesn’t feel as important as he does in the books. I feel like Prince Caspian is the Narnia movie in which that is a problem the least, in part because of things like that pregnant pause before asking about Aslan.

Anyway, by this time, Trufflehunter and Nikabrik have overtaken Caspian. Now it’s their turn to stop walking and turn around, intrigued. “How do you know so much about us?” asks Nikabrik suspiciously. “Stories,” replies Caspian. “Your father told you stories about Narnia?” asks Trufflehunter. I’m really not sure why he would assume it was Caspian’s father who would tell him those Narnia. I guess the screenwriters just wanted to establish that his deceased paternal parent is a sore point for the character. Sure enough, he clams up. “No, my professor,” he says[1]As I wrote in my last post, in the book, it was also his nurse., “Listen, I am sorry. These are not the kind of questions you should be asking.” Just then Trufflehunter smells something dangerous. It’s a group of Telmarine soldiers with their bows pointed at the group who promptly run for it.[2]I was going to argue that it doesn’t make sense for Caspian to run here since he was heading back to the Telmarines anyway and, at this point, Miraz is pretending that the Narnians were the … Continue reading

This chase scene isn’t from the book, and I know some book fans would criticize Hollywood for adding action scenes for the sake of more action. I was able to do that, to an extent, with the added action scenes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But with this scene in this movie, honestly, I really enjoy that. There’s one cheesy shot that tracks an arrow but other than that, I really enjoy the chase for its own sake and feel no desire to make the movie closer to the book by removing it. Sue me.

At one point, an arrow pierces Trufflehunter and he falls to the ground. Both Nikabrik and Caspian turn to go back for him, and the latter tells the former not to bother. Even though he doesn’t trust Caspian, Nikabrik obeys. (I guess he just realizes that Caspian’s legs are longer?) Trufflehunter hands Caspian the horn. “Take it! Go! It’s more important than I am,” he says. As Caspian hastily bundles up the horn, he sees something strange. Something is sneaking under the forest undergrowth and apparently cutting off the feet of the Telmarine bowmen.[3]We don’t see any feet being cut off, of course. In fact, if you pause the movie, you can see them intact as some Telmarine fall on their backs. But that seems to be the implication. This scene … Continue reading Caspian manages to hoist Trufflehunter onto his shoulder and run away. Soldiers pursue him but more and more of them fall. It starts to feel less like they’re running after the prince and the badger and more like they’re running away from whatever is attacking them.

By the time, Caspian gets Trufflehunter to Nikabrik and tells him to get him out of there, there are only two soldiers left.

Make that one.

Caspian really should take this moment to run himself but as the remaining soldier hacks desperately at the underbrush with his sword, searching for his invisible opponent, he just stands there and stares, apparently overcome by curiosity. Fans of the book will have already guessed what’s happening here and I don’t mean that as a criticism. In fact, as a fan myself, I enjoyed the realization of what was coming-or rather who was coming. The Telmarine falls and its killer heads straight for Caspian, coming closer and closer until, rather than stabbing him in the foot, it (fortunately) leaps onto his chest knocking him backward. It turns out to be a foot-high mouse wearing a swordbelt and, around its head, a little gold circlet with a dashing red feather. It draws its sword and points it at Caspian’s throat, saying (in Eddie Izzard’s voice), “Choose your last words carefully, Telmarine.”

Caspian just stares at it in bewilderment. “You are a mouse,” he says. The mouse sighs. “I was hoping for something a little more original,” he says. This is Reepicheep, one of the most iconic and quotable characters in the Narnia books. He’s also surprisingly complex[4]Albeit not so much in Prince Caspian as in the next story, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. and I’m not sure any adaptation has gotten him entirely right. That doesn’t mean every adaptation has gotten him terribly wrong though! There’s a lot to appreciate about this version. Reepicheep’s personality here is almost exactly like it is in the book except for one nagging little detail. He’s too quippy and sarcastic. While C. S. Lewis’s Reepicheep was definitely intended to be funny, he was funny in spite of himself. All of his dialogue was elegant, courtly and fiercely dignified. I can definitely see the character being annoyed by his victims being surprised that a mouse was killing them but not him saying, “I was hoping for something a little more original.” If I were to rewrite the scene, I would have him give Caspian a death glare as he started to say “mouse” and have Caspian amend it to “mighty warrior.” That would still be funny while also being truer the book’s character. I’d also have Reepicheep be voiced by a “serious” actor rather than a comedian to send the message that he wasn’t trying to be funny.[5]Honestly, even granting that the cinematic Reepicheep is more sarcastic than his literary counterpart, the role still doesn’t play that much to Izzard’s strengths as a performer anyway.

Having said that, Reepicheep is easily the best comedic relief supporting character in any of the Narnia movies.[6]The only one funnier is Eustace Scrubb in the next movie and he’s more of a protagonist than a supporting character. Actually, Reepicheep himself becomes something of a protagonist in that … Continue reading He’s far funnier than the beavers were in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And to be fair, when the movie gives Reepicheep a serious line-which it does at least as often as it does a humorous one-Izzard delivers it well.

Reepicheep: Pick up your sword.
Caspian: Uh, no thanks.
Reepicheep: Pick it up! I will not fight an unarmed man.
Caspian: Which is why I might live longer if I choose not to cross blades with you, noble mouse.
Reepicheep: I said I would not fight you. I didn’t say I’d let you live!

Fortunately, Trufflehunter, propped up by Nikabrik, intervenes. (Apparently, his wound just winded him; it wasn’t that serious.) “I trust you have a very good reason for this untimely interruption,” says Reepicheep. “He doesn’t. Go ahead,” says Nikabrik. Ha ha! It’s not just Reepicheep actually. This Narnia movie in general makes me laugh louder and more consistently than the previous one did. I criticized The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe‘s screenplay for being written like a generic quippy action movie. That’s as true or truer of Prince Caspian but I find myself enjoying the generically Hollywood-esque banter in it a lot more. It may not be what I’d prefer for a Narnia adaptation but if they had to write it this way, at least they’re doing it well and much the same could be said for the action scenes. Trufflehunter tells Reepicheep that Caspian is the one that blew the horn and Reepicheep looks at him with more respect. “Then let him come forward,” says a voice. It belongs to Glenstorm (Cornell S. John), a centaur who is accompanied by three others, his sons (Ephraim Goldin, Yemi A. D. and Carlos DaSilva.) “This is the reason we have gathered.” C. S. Lewis depicted centaurs in the Narnia books as intimidatingly wise and solemn beings. (“No one ever laughed at a centaur,” says one character in the book Prince Caspian.) John projects that kind of presence perfectly, even with just his voice. He’s much more memorable than Patrick Kake’s centaur in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[7]C. S. Lewis almost certainly didn’t intend the centaurs to be dark skinned but, while 2008 was a politically contentious year for my country (America), people were less sensitive about color … Continue reading

It is weird to me that the Narnians assume Caspian must be good because he blew the horn. Very shortly in the movie, Nikabrik will say this just proves the Telmarines have stolen something else from them and… yeah, that attitude makes more sense. But I’ll get into that in the next scene with Caspian.

Elsewhere, Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy and Trumpkin are threading their way through trees and rocks. Susan isn’t sure they’re going the right direction. “That’s the problem with girls,” says Peter, “Can’t carry a map in your heads.” To which Lucy replies, “That’s because our heads have something in them.” That exchange was from the book though there it was between Edmund and Lucy. As I wrote in my last post, I feel like this Narnia movies includes more dialogue from its source material than the last one. Props to them for that, particularly in this case because it’s hilarious. Susan whispers to Lucy that she wishes Peter would listen to “the D. L. F.” “The D. L. F.?” asks Edmund. “Dear Little Friend,” explains Lucy. “Oh, that’s not at all patronizing, is it?” Trumpkin snarks. That nickname was also from the book. There it was actually bestowed on Trumpkin by Edmund as payback for him calling the Pevensies his “dear little friends”[8]“Little from you is really a bit too much!” Edmund says in the book. I’m surprised that line wasn’t in the movie. before observing their royal skills and pledging his fealty to them. The nickname would have made more sense in the film if that had been included but, as things are, it’s still very funny.

Peter stops and looks around him in confusion. “I’m not lost,” he insists, mainly to himself, it seems. “No, you’re just going the wrong way,” says Trumpkin. OK, I know I just wrote that I was enjoying the movie’s banter on its own terms even if it’s not what I’d prefer for a Narnia movie, but sometimes, even on those terms, it can be a little tiresome. Characters don’t need to respond to everything with a quip; it can get kind of annoying. To be fair though, the book does portray the characters as being wearied of wandering in the woods with minimal food and generally uncomfortable conditions and as being a bit short tempered as a result.[9]I actually imagine the exchange about maps and brains in the book as being snippier than it is in the film. I don’t think the movie is actually a huge stretch.

Peter: You last saw Caspian at the Shuddering Woods and the quickest way there is to cross at the river Rush.
Trumpkin: But unless I’m mistaken, there’s no crossing in these parts.
Peter: That explains it then. You’re mistaken.

I feel like the movie’s problem of Peter being unpleasant would be halved if William Moseley just delivered that last line as a cocky joke instead of an angry one. I mean, Peter would be an arrogant jerk either way, which he really isn’t in the book, but at least he could be a fun jerk and our satisfaction in seeing his comeuppance would be less grim. Then again, I kind of admire how seriously the movie takes the character’s flaw of arrogance. It’s pretty typical for Hollywood action heroes to be full of themselves. (Think Robin Hood or Han Solo.) I feel like treating the hero’s pride as a serious vice the way this movie does is somewhat unusual.[10]Though maybe I’m not giving Star Wars or The Adventures of Robin Hood enough credit.

Peter leads his followers to the Rush, but it doesn’t make him look very good since the river is now at the bottom of a deep gorge.

Susan: See, over time water erodes the earth’s soil, carving deeper-
Peter: Oh, shut up.

Did I mention this movie was really funny?

Edmund asks if there’s a way down. “Yeah, falling,” says Trumpkin. Peter still pathetically insists that he wasn’t lost even if he led everyone in a useless direction. In the book at this point, the characters were trying to find the Rush so they could follow it, not cross it and Trumpkin actually cheers a despondent Peter up by saying that even if the river is now at the bottom of a gorge, they can still follow it.[11]To be fair to the movie, Caspian hasn’t yet reached the location he’s at when the Pevensies and Trumpkin are searching for him in the book. Here he tells the Pevensies that their best bet is to head for the ford near Beruna. He starts to lead them away when Lucy, still looking across the river, says, “Aslan? It’s Aslan! It’s Aslan over there! Don’t you see? He’s right…” But as everyone turns to follow her pointing finger, Lucy’s face, which has lit up, falls. No Aslan can be seen across the gorge.

“Do you see him now?” Trumpkin asks, sounding a bit worried. “I’m not crazy,” insists Lucy. “He was there. He wanted us to follow him.” The others exchange unsure glances. There’s something subtle I love about this scene in the book. Lewis doesn’t write, “Suddenly, Lucy saw Aslan” or anything like that. Instead, he has her interrupt a conversation between the others with the news. The movie happily captures that by not showing us Aslan from her point of view. This puts us in the same position as her companions. I’d say it works even better dramatically in the book where Trumpkin has made a good argument for following the river and Aslan leading the characters a different direction is something of an inconvenience. Here, Trumpkin has made looking for Beruna seem like a necessary evil (“How do you feel about swimming?”), altering the dynamics of the scene. But it still works.

Peter: I’m sure there are any number of lions in this wood. Just like that bear.
Lucy: I think I know Aslan when I see him!
Trumpkin: Look, I’m not about to jump off a cliff after someone who doesn’t exist.
Edmund: The last time I didn’t believe Lucy, I ended up looking pretty stupid.

Props to the movie for keeping the book’s detail of Edmund being the only one to really advocate for trusting Lucy! That was definitely a memorable character moment. Peter pauses as if considering his brother’s point but isn’t quite convinced. “Why wouldn’t I have seen him?” he asks Lucy. Since I criticized Moseley’s performance earlier, I should say that I like the way he infuses that question with wistfulness, implying that Peter is wishing for comfort from Aslan and really wishes he had seen him. “Maybe you weren’t looking,” Lucy replies. That line could have been written for another book C. S. Lewis wrote, Till We Have Faces. Reminding me of Till We Have Faces is almost always a great thing. “I’m sorry, Lu,” says Peter and he leads Susan and Trumpkin away. Lucy stares sadly at the place she saw Aslan. Edmund gives her a sympathetic look, then they both follow the others. This is far from the flashiest scene in either the book or the movie, but it is a highly pivotal one and they do a great non-flashy job with it.

We cut to what I assume is Dancing Lawn at night. I assume that because it’s where this scene’s equivalent in the book takes place though no dancing takes place there in the movie. The Narnians or what the book calls “the people that lived in hiding” have gathered and are debating whether they should follow Caspian as their king or not. It’s not really clear why the question is on the table in the first place. A couple of marketing tie-in books give Trufflehunter a line about it being said that whoever sounded Queen Susan’s horn would bring back the Ancient Kings and Queens and lead the Narnians to freedom. No such prophecy was in the book but if that line of dialogue was originally in the screenplay, it really should have been kept because the way the Narnians talk about Caspian is confusing without it.[12]If the line wasn’t in the screenplay originally, I have to credit the people who wrote the marketing tie-in books with being better at exposition than the screenwriters!

Nikabrik: All this horn proves is that they’ve stolen yet another thing from us!
Caspian: I didn’t steal anything.
A Minotaur (voiced by Josh Campbell with Shane Rangi in the suit)
[13]Aren’t the minotaurs supposed to be bad guys? We’ll get to that later.: Didn’t steal anything?! Shall we list the things the Telmarines have taken?
Glenstorm’s Wife (Lejla Abbasova): Our home!
A Faun (Curtis Matthew): Our freedom!
Someone I Can’t Identify in the Crowd: Our lives!
Caspian: You Would hold me accountable for all the crimes of my people.
Nikabrik: Accountable and punishable.

As he speaks that last line, Nikabrik moves toward Caspian menacingly, but Reepicheep gets between them and draws his sword. “Ha!” he says. “That is rich coming from you, dwarf! Or have you forgotten that it was your people who fought alongside the White Witch?” When I first saw the movie, I hated that line because it struck me as way too petty for Reepicheep. But multiple viewings have led me to believe that the movie actually intended him to be making a good point. I just wish they could have had him say it in a tone that sounded less like he wanted to pick a fight and without that little “ha” at the beginning. Anyway, the way Nikabrik casually swats aside Reepicheep’s little blade is funny.

He says he’d gladly fight alongside the White Witch again if it would rid Narnia of “barbarians” like Caspian. “Then it is lucky that is not in your power to bring her back,” says Trufflehunter in the voice of a parent ending an argument between their children. “Or are you suggesting that we ask this boy to go against Aslan now?” This possibility draws a negative reaction from the gathered Narnians. “Some of you may have forgotten,” continues Trufflehunter, “but we badgers remember well Narnia was never right except when a Son of Adam was king.” Nikabrik scoffs at this. “He’s a Telmarine,” he says, “Why would we want him as our king?” Caspian assures him that he’ll make it worth their while. “Beyond these woods, I am a prince,” he says. “The Telmarine throne is rightfully mine. Help me claim it and I can bring peace between us.” Glenstorm speaks up. “It is true. The time is ripe. I watch the skies for it is mine to watch as it is yours to remember, Badger. Tarva, the Lord of Victory, and Alambil, the Lady of Peace, have come together in the high heavens and now here a Son of Adam has come forth to offer us back our freedom.” I doubt many viewers unfamiliar with the book will connect those lines with the planets we saw in the movie’s opening seconds but maybe some do. After all, they had to have been wondering why that seemingly random image was the first thing we saw. And in any case, Cornell S. John does a great job of giving the lines a mystical import.

I really should show an image of Glenstorm’s face here. But I really like this shot framed through his hooves and there’s nowhere else to put it in this post.

“Is this possible?” pipes up Pattertwig, a talking squirrel (voiced by soundtrack composer Harry Gregson-Williams.) “Do you really think there could be peace? Do you? I mean-I mean really?” Pattertwig is a minor character in both the book and the movie, but Gregson-Williams’s (intentionally) jittery vocal performance is endearing enough, especially considering he’s not a professional actor, that I kind of wish he could be in it more.

“Two days ago,” says Caspian, “I didn’t believe in the existence of talking animals or dwarfs or centaurs. Yet here you are in strength and numbers that we Telmarines could never have imagined. Whether this horn is magic or not, it brought us together and together we have a chance to take back what is ours.” Glenstorm draws his sword in salute. “If you will lead us,” he says, “then my sons and I offer you our swords.” Not only Glenstorm’s family but practically all the other Narnians follow suit with their weapons. “And we offer you our lives unreservedly,” says Reepicheep.

OK, there’s Glenstorm’s face for you.

Now this scene has a lot to commend about it. Much of the dialogue takes inspiration from the book, even if it doesn’t always follow the exact wording. But it also really exemplifies what I consider one of this adaptation’s biggest faults, one that arguably weakens the movie as a story in its own right too. In the book, Caspian has grown up longing for the stories about Old Narnia to be true. At one point in his childhood, “he dreamed of Dwarfs and Dryads every night and tried very hard to make the dogs and cats in the castle talk to him. But the dogs only wagged their tails and the cats only purred.” His only interest in becoming king seems to be that it might give him the power the bring Old Narnia back to life. There’s no question in the book of whether he’ll go back to the castle to accuse Miraz of attempted murder or stay with Trufflehunter and company. “I’ve been looking for people like you all my life,” he tells them. You really get the impression from the book that Caspian was born in the wrong world and that by becoming the leader of Narnians he’s finding his true destiny. This is a big part of the story’s poetic appeal. In the movie however, while Caspian briefly seems intrigued to hear that minotaurs and centaurs aren’t extinct and, credit where credit is due, even more intrigued by the possibility of Aslan being out there, he mostly seems like he’s helping the Narnians so that they’ll help put him on the throne. It’s only thanks to moments like him going back to save Trufflehunter and Ben Barnes’s likeable performance that he doesn’t come across as completely mercenary. The line “whether this horn is magic or not, it brought us together” is especially problematic. It makes this version of Caspian less like the literary one who had a deep faith in Aslan than like Nikabrik who just wants to use others belief in Aslan if it furthers his own ends. While the screenwriters clearly want to tell a story proclaiming the importance of faith, I feel that they tipped their hand with that line, making me think they don’t have much, err, faith in faith. Also, keep in mind, Caspian was always a bit of a bland lead in the book.[14]The book that bears his name anyway. He’s arguably a bit more charismatic in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and even in The Silver Chair in which he plays a minor but integral role. By taking away his dissatisfaction with the world into which he was born and his longing for something else, this Prince Caspian just made him that much blander! That is the main reason that while I can concede that the movie’s story improves on the book in several ways, I’m never going to agree that it’s an improvement on the whole.

It’s worth noting that the book also didn’t have a big scene where Caspian convinced all the Narnians to accept him as their king. Some of the dwarfs were described as being understandably suspicious at first but they were also described as quickly convinced. I understand why the movie felt like this was past the point of believability. It might be plausible enough that beasts like Trufflehunter would accept Caspian on the grounds that “Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King”[15]Some may find that rule itself to be ridiculously convenient but if you ask me, it corresponds enough to reality in our world to emotionally resonate. Of course, I know there are philosophers who … Continue reading but it’s a bit much to buy that the skeptical Trumpkin becomes as loyal and obedient to Caspian and the Pevensies as swiftly as he does. Even granting that this was a real storytelling problem in the source material though, this scene in the adaptation is very much a band-aid solution, one that arguably draws attention to the problem. All it took was that speech to get everyone on his side? Is that really better than them all agreeing right away?

“Miraz’s army will not be far behind us, Sire,” says Trufflehunter. “If we are to be ready for them,” says Caspian, “we’ll need to hurry to find soldiers and weapons. I’m sure they will be here soon.”

Next Week: Lucy Gets Another Glimpse of Aslan

References

References
1 As I wrote in my last post, in the book, it was also his nurse.
2 I was going to argue that it doesn’t make sense for Caspian to run here since he was heading back to the Telmarines anyway and, at this point, Miraz is pretending that the Narnians were the ones after his nephew. But, on reflection, while Miraz may have “officially” sent these soldiers to rescue Caspian, he probably ordered some of them privately to kill him, so he could blame it on the Narnians.
3 We don’t see any feet being cut off, of course. In fact, if you pause the movie, you can see them intact as some Telmarine fall on their backs. But that seems to be the implication. This scene takes inspiration from a battle scene in the book, but it made more sense there.
4 Albeit not so much in Prince Caspian as in the next story, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
5 Honestly, even granting that the cinematic Reepicheep is more sarcastic than his literary counterpart, the role still doesn’t play that much to Izzard’s strengths as a performer anyway.
6 The only one funnier is Eustace Scrubb in the next movie and he’s more of a protagonist than a supporting character. Actually, Reepicheep himself becomes something of a protagonist in that story.
7 C. S. Lewis almost certainly didn’t intend the centaurs to be dark skinned but, while 2008 was a politically contentious year for my country (America), people were less sensitive about color blind casting specifically, so it went largely without comment.
8 “Little from you is really a bit too much!” Edmund says in the book. I’m surprised that line wasn’t in the movie.
9 I actually imagine the exchange about maps and brains in the book as being snippier than it is in the film.
10 Though maybe I’m not giving Star Wars or The Adventures of Robin Hood enough credit.
11 To be fair to the movie, Caspian hasn’t yet reached the location he’s at when the Pevensies and Trumpkin are searching for him in the book.
12 If the line wasn’t in the screenplay originally, I have to credit the people who wrote the marketing tie-in books with being better at exposition than the screenwriters!
13 Aren’t the minotaurs supposed to be bad guys? We’ll get to that later.
14 The book that bears his name anyway. He’s arguably a bit more charismatic in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and even in The Silver Chair in which he plays a minor but integral role.
15 Some may find that rule itself to be ridiculously convenient but if you ask me, it corresponds enough to reality in our world to emotionally resonate. Of course, I know there are philosophers who believe that man is just another animal and so would beg to differ.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 4: A More Savage Place Than You Remember

Finally, we cut to our title character who was introduced in the opening. (That’s not a necessarily a complaint by the way. It’s not like I was desperately wondering about him or anything. Then again, that might have just been because I’d read the book before watching the movie and knew who he was. A newcomer to the story might really have gotten impatient to return to him.) Prince Caspian awakens to find himself lying in bed with his head bandaged. He’s in a room inside a tree. This is a great set, very much what I wish the beavers’ abode in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) had looked like.

Caspian overhears a conversation in the next room. He stealthily gets out of bed, sticking close to the wall, and peeks through the door. The conversers are Nikabrik, the black dwarf played by Warwick Davis in the first scene, and a talking badger called Trufflehunter (and voiced by Ken Stott.)

Nikabrik: This bread is so stale!
Trufflehunter: I’ll just get him some soup then. He should be coming around soon.
Nikabrik: Well, I don’t think I hit him hard enough.
Trufflehunter: Nikabrik, he’s just a boy!
Nikabrik: He’s a Telmarine, not some lost puppy! You said you were going to get rid of him.
Trufflehunter: No, I said I’d take care of him. We can’t kill him now. We just bandaged his head. It-it would be like murdering a guest.
Nikabrik: Oh, and how do you think his friends are treating their guest?
Trufflehunter: Trumpkin knew what he was doing. It’s not the boy’s fault.

Of the voice actors in this film, Ken Stott gives what is easily my favorite performance, perfectly capturing the warm, wise old character from the book. The way he sadly lowers when his when speaking of his friend, Trumpkin, whom he has every reason to believe has been executed for helping Caspian, is especially great.

Speaking of Caspian, he makes a bolt for the exit, inadvertently spilling Trufflehunter’s tray of nourishment in the process. Nikabrik blocks his way and draws a sword. Caspian counters by grabbing a fireplace poker. The two of them fight despite Trufflehunter’s protests.

Nikabrik: I told you we should have killed him when we had the chance!
Trufflehunter: You know why we can’t!
Caspian: If we’re taking a vote, I’m with him.
Nikabrik: We can’t let him go! He’s seen us!
Trufflehunter: That’s enough, Nikabrik! Or do I have to sit on your head again?

That last line originates in the book though there its equivalent was said by Trumpkin who hadn’t been captured yet in that version. The same is true of the line about killing Caspian after bandaging his head being like murdering a guest. In general, while this Narnia movie is written very much in the vein of a modern action movie, I believe it has more lines that correspond to ones from the book than the last adaptation had, and I appreciate that. Nikabrik’s reaction to the line about sitting on his head is subtle but funny.

Having subdued him, Trufflehunter turns to chiding Caspian about making him spill the soup. Seeing that his life isn’t in immediate danger for the moment, Caspian takes a moment to really take in his hosts. “What are you?” he asks. “You know, it’s funny you would ask that,” says Trufflehunter, “You’d think more people would know a badger when they saw one.” Caspian clarifies that his shock comes from the fact that Narnians are supposed to be extinct. “Sorry to disappoint you,” snipes Nikabrik. Trufflehunter brings out another bowl of soup. “Since when did we open a boarding house for Telmarine soldiers?” Nikabrik grumbles. “I’m not a soldier,” says Caspian. “I am Prince Caspian the Tenth.” At these words, we hear a wistful musical theme on the soundtrack.

Nikabrik: What are you doing here?
Caspian: Running away. My uncle has always wanted my throne. I suppose I have only lived this long because he did not have an heir of his own.
Trufflehunter: That changes things.
Nikabrik: Yeah, it means we don’t have to kill you ourselves.
Caspian: You are right.

This scene contains the first really long lines from Caspian so I should take a moment here to stop and say something about his “Telmarine” accent. Ben Barnes didn’t have as much time as might be wished to practice it and many viewers, including some who are fans of the film on the whole, find it cheesy. Me, I don’t mind it, but enough people do that I feel I should acknowledge their opinion. Anyway, Caspian put on his chainmail and prepares to leave. “Where are you going?” asks Trufflehunter. “My uncle won’t stop until I’m dead,” replies Caspian, apparently having decided to go back and confront Miraz and maybe get some support from some of the Telmarine nobles we saw a few scenes ago. We’ve now come to a change from the book’s story and protagonist that in this fan’s opinion, really hurt the movie. In the original version, Caspian has no wish to leave Trumpkin, Trufflehunter and Nikabrik once he meets them. He’s grown up hearing stories about what the book calls “Old Narnians” and is utterly delighted to have met some of them even though at least one of them wishes to kill him. Basically, Caspian is a big Narnia nerd/fanboy. That is the main thing that makes him interesting or endearing in the book. In this movie, while he’s not opposed to the Old Narnians the way his uncle is, we really don’t get that smitten fanboy vibe at all. Not only does this make him less distinctive of a character but it means lessening, even losing, the book’s theme of longing for something beyond the mundane world. But maybe it’s too early to lament that. I hope to write more about it in next week’s post. “You can’t leave,” Trufflehunter protests. “You’re meant to save us!” He holds up the horn Caspian blew. “Don’t you know what this is?”

Again, the movie cuts to another scene right when a character is going to explain about the horn! This really is frustrating by now but don’t worry. This next scene actually will explain everything or near enough.

Back at the Telmarine castle, Dr. Cornelius returns to his study[1]Another great set. to find that the door is ajar, which isn’t how he left it. He enters to find Miraz casually reading a book. “You have quite a library, doctor,” he says. “Is there anything particular you seek, my lord?” asks Cornelius. “I think I’ve already found what I’m looking for,” says Miraz, “in one my soldiers!” And he stabs a book with Susan’s arrow. To be more specific, he stabs it into an illustration of King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund and Queen Lucy. This is probably the craziest instance of the characters being able to identify the Pevensies’ Christmas gifts centuries later. Peter’s sword I can maybe buy. But are arrows with the feathers dyed red really that rare in this world? To be fair though, the fact that Trumpkin’s mysterious rescuers appeared near the ruins of Cair Paravel makes this a bit more plausible. It would have been less of a logical leap if they had established that the movie’s Telmarines feared ghosts in that area as the ones in the book do.

Anyway, as Cornelius looks at the illustration, we hear the musical theme associated with the Pevensies at their most heroic from the last movie.

Miraz: What do you know of Queen Susan’s horn?
Cornelius (carefully): It was said to be magic.
Miraz: Magic?
Cornelius: The Narnians believed it could summon their kings and queens of old. At least, such was the superstition.
Miraz: And what does Caspian know of this…superstition?
Cornelius: My lord, you forbade me from mentioning the old tales.
Miraz: So I did.

That last part is a reference to something from Caspian’s childhood in the book that tragically isn’t in the movie. Dr. Cornelius turns to see soldiers ready to arrest him and decides to go down defiantly. “I will say this,” he says, looking Miraz in the eye for what feels like the first time in the scene, “If Caspian does know of the deep magic, my lord would have good reason to be nervous.” In the book at this point, by the way, Dr. Cornelius, who is “a very minor magician,” makes himself scarce, “having no wish to be questioned… in Miraz’s torture chamber” and actually manages to escape and find Caspian. I mention that as an observation by the way, not a criticism.[2]Though, on reflection, I understand why some fans of the character might object to making him less competent. I also don’t mind taking away the character’s magician status. After all, the only magic he did in the book was drugging Caspian’s gentlemen-in-waiting so he could escape and later magically tracking him to Dancing Lawn.

In the hallway, Sopespian sees Dr. Cornelius being led away and takes the opportunity to try to win Glozelle to his side.

Sopespian: First our prince, now his tutor. If the members of Miraz’s own house are not safe, are any of us?
Miraz (offscreen): Lord Sopespian!
Glozelle: Those are dangerous words, Lord Sopespian.
Sopespian: But these are dangerous times, General. One should choose his words as carefully as he chooses his friends.

In the study, Miraz asks Sopespian how long until “the bridge” is finished. (We’ll see what he means before too long.) “Construction continues on schedule,” Sopespian replies. “That’s not good enough,” says Miraz. “I need my army across that river now!” Sopespian suggests Miraz contribute some of his own men. “I have only so many at my disposal,” he says. “A fact you’d be wise to remember,” Miraz snarls. He turns to Glozelle. “Go to Beruna. Take as many troops as you need. We must get to Caspian before they do.” Sopespian asks whom he means by “they.” “It’s time you learned your history,” says Miraz and storms out of the room. Left alone, Sopespian looks at Susan’s arrow sticking out the book about her. That might not seem like it could possibly be important now but trust me.

Meanwhile, the Pevensies and Trumpkin are rowing inland into Narnia in the boat they got from Trumpkin’s would-be executioners. The scenery is beautiful, but the returning monarchs don’t seem to be enjoying it much.

Lucy: They’re so still.
Trumpkin: They’re trees. What’d you expect?
Lucy: They used to dance.
Trumpkin: It wasn’t long after you left that the Telmarines invaded. Those who survived retreated to the woods. The trees…they retreated so deep into themselves that they haven’t been heard from since.
[3]This makes the trees’ comatose state sound more self-imposed than in the book which describes the Telmarines as silencing them.
Lucy: I don’t understand. How could Aslan have let this happen?
Trumpkin: Aslan? I thought he abandoned us when you lot did.

There’s a lot to unpack here. A minor thing this adaptation specifies that the book doesn’t is that Caspian’s ancestors conquered Narnia fairly soon after Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy returned to their own world.[4]According to a timeline C. S. Lewis wrote, which was published after his death, it was actually nine-hundred and eighty-three years later. But there are some things in the timeline that don’t … Continue reading This gives the Pevensies more reason to feel guilty for not being there to defend their kingdom.[5]You could argue they’re responsible however much time passed between their absence and the Telmarines’ invasion since if they had left heirs behind, Narnia might very well have been in a … Continue reading I’ve described this movie previously as packing a bit more of an emotional punch than the book does-or trying to do so anyway. This is one of the reasons why. Another reason is that in the book, this exposition comes from Dr. Cornelius telling it to the young Caspian who has only heard of dryads and naiads in bedtime stories. We never see the Pevensies’ initial reaction to learning how much Narnia has lost. It probably isn’t quite as sad as the movie wants it to be, mainly because we haven’t seen enough of the trees being alive in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the contrast to really stand out here.

But that’s a complaint that could be made against the books too[6]C. S. Lewis, or, more specifically, his characters told us that the trees were listening in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe far more often than he ever showed us evidence of it. and it’s still pretty sad. Georgie Henley’s line readings and Peter Dinklage’s pained facial expressions are very effective.

A side effect of having Trumpkin be the one to give this exposition though is that he has to believe in dryads, the ancient kings and queens of Narnia’s golden age, and Aslan. In the book, he believes in things like dwarfs, fauns, centaurs and talking beasts because, well, he’s one of them and he’s seen them all his life. But he is inclined to agree with the Telmarines’-or the Telmarines’ official story that other parts of Narnia’s past never existed. Note that he says Aslan and the Pevensies abandoned his people, implying that they exist. Whether intentionally or not, this conveniently allows the movie to resonate with theists, specifically Christians, who struggle with the feeling that God has abandoned them without necessarily alienating atheists.[7]For what it’s worth, the honestly skeptical Trumpkin was more positively portrayed by the book than Nikabrik who says he’ll “believe in anyone or anything that’ll batter these … Continue reading I feel like this makes the world of the story less rich as there are fewer worldviews represented in it. In the book, we get Miraz who denies the entire existence of “Old Narnia,” Trufflehunter, Caspian and Cornelius who believe in all of it and Trumpkin who believes in the parts he can confirm to be true but only them. In the movie, we get a background character who refers to Narnians as fairy tales but otherwise, everyone, good or bad, agrees about the truth of the old stories. They just disagree about whether or not the legendary figures in them can be trusted. To be fair, that’s still an interesting question to explore.

Peter is stung by Trumpkin’s last comment. “We didn’t mean to leave, you know,” he says. “Makes no difference now,” says Trumpkin. “Get us to the Narnians and it will,” Peter insists, quickening his oar strokes. This implied guilt goes some way to keeping the movie’s reimagining of Peter from being totally unsympathetic, but it doesn’t go as far might be wished. Later, the crew pulls up onto the shore. While the others secure the boat, Lucy wanders a little way away from them and sees a bear. “Hello there,” she calls, assuming it can talk. The bear rises on its hind legs, threateningly. “It’s alright,” says Lucy, “we’re friends. Her older siblings see this and aren’t particularly concerned but Trumpkin stiffens in horror. “Don’t move, Your Majesty,” he calls. Lucy automatically turns toward him and the bear charges at her, growling. Susan draws her bow. “Stay away from her!” she cries. But the beast pays her no heed. Before it can hurt Lucy, an arrow brings the bear down but it’s Trumpkin’s arrow, not Susan’s. “Why wouldn’t he stop?” she asks. “I expect he was hungry,” Trumpkin replies.

Lucy thanks Trumpkin for saving her. It’s a brief moment but it serves to show them bonding. She and her brothers and sisters stare at the bear’s body. “He was wild,” says Edmund. “I don’t think he could talk at all,” says Peter. “Get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become,” says Trumpkin, taking out a knife and starting to skin the bear. “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.”

What I find interesting about this scene is that fans of the Narnia books who dislike the movie adaptations typically criticize them for adding random action scenes.[8]If you’re someone who likes the books and not the movies and you feel like I’m stereotyping, I beg your pardon. But this bear attack pretty much was a random action scene in the literary Prince Caspian where its main function was to give the heroes something to eat besides apples. This adaptation gives it much more of a point.[9]While still having it serve to provide the characters with bear meat. The book had already established that talking beasts had become the exception rather than the rule in Narnia by this point. The movie hasn’t and this bear’s animal behavior is meant to be a shock both to the Pevensies and to the viewers. Again, I don’t think it totally works. If it did, we would empathize more with Lucy’s reaction to the bear, but I feel like she and her siblings just come across as silly. Maybe the problem is that while we’ve seen plenty of talking animals in Narnia before this point, with the major exception of Aslan, they’ve been relatively small.[10]I believe there was a presumably talking bear in Aslan’s army in the last movie, but he was just in the background. This scene kind of gives the impression there were no dumb beasts in Narnia at all when the Pevensies reigned, which raises some questions, the main one being what did they do for meat then? The Narnia books are a lot more specific about how all this works. The question can be resolved though by the idea that all the bears in Narnia originally talked but other species had both talking and nontalking examples.

Anyway, while I don’t think the scene is as emotionally devastating as the movie intended it to be, the idea behind it was solid and it’s still somewhat emotionally devastating. I especially like the way Lucy weeps into Peter’s shoulder at the end of the scene. Hmm, I hope that last sentence didn’t sound too sadistic.

I Think I’ll Take a Break From Blogging Next Week. But the Following Week, We’ll Meet One of the Most Memorable Narnian Supporting Characters

References

References
1 Another great set.
2 Though, on reflection, I understand why some fans of the character might object to making him less competent.
3 This makes the trees’ comatose state sound more self-imposed than in the book which describes the Telmarines as silencing them.
4 According to a timeline C. S. Lewis wrote, which was published after his death, it was actually nine-hundred and eighty-three years later. But there are some things in the timeline that don’t quite align with the books, so it’s debatable if fans should accept it as canon.
5 You could argue they’re responsible however much time passed between their absence and the Telmarines’ invasion since if they had left heirs behind, Narnia might very well have been in a better condition to defend itself.
6 C. S. Lewis, or, more specifically, his characters told us that the trees were listening in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe far more often than he ever showed us evidence of it.
7 For what it’s worth, the honestly skeptical Trumpkin was more positively portrayed by the book than Nikabrik who says he’ll “believe in anyone or anything that’ll batter these cursed Telmarine barbarians to pieces.”
8 If you’re someone who likes the books and not the movies and you feel like I’m stereotyping, I beg your pardon.
9 While still having it serve to provide the characters with bear meat.
10 I believe there was a presumably talking bear in Aslan’s army in the last movie, but he was just in the background.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 3: I Think It’s Time We Found Out What’s Going On

In a great transition, we cut from the bright and colorful ruins of Cair Paravel to the grim looking Telmarine castle. OK, I admit it’s not very original to give the good guys bright colors and the bad guy’s darker ones, but it works here. And while the contrast isn’t subtle, the muted colors the Telmarines aren’t as much of a villain cliche as them wearing black would be. All of the scenes at the Telmarine court have a very chilly, gray, gritty atmosphere that contrasts wonderfully with the lush, storybook aesthetic of the Narnians.

If I have a problem with the Telmarine aesthetic in this adaptation, it’s that it’s a bit too visually interesting. How can that be?

In keeping with what Aslan tells us about the Telmarines’ history at the end of this story, the filmmakers gave their culture a broadly Mediterranean feel and cast mainly Spanish and Italian actors in their roles.[1]Many of whom are famous in their own countries but not in the UK or the US. For what it’s worth, I think this makes a pleasing change of pace from the first movie which had a mostly English cast with a few Americans thrown in the mix. The cinematic Telmarines’ armor also suggests that of the conquistadors, probably as a nod to their history of invasion and conquest. I’m a bit bemused by the decision though. Later books in The Chronicles of Narnia have been criticized for making the villainous country of Calormen generically Middle Eastern/Oriental in its culture. The literary Telmarines, by contrast, were clearly intended by C. S. Lewis to be generically European. You’d think the filmmakers would be relieved by the opportunity to have an evil culture that’s so nonspecific but instead they decided to give them a specific nationality and cast somewhat swarthy looking actors as the villains to boot.[2]Perhaps they were actually thinking ahead to The Last Battle which pits King Tirian, a descendant of Caspian’s, against the Calormenes, the idea being that viewers would be less offended by … Continue reading

I’m not personally offended, I guess[3]Though I can understand why some Hispanics and Italians would be since Caspian, the one unambiguously sympathetic Telmarine, is the only one played by an English actor., but I wonder if giving these villains a distinctive aesthetic goes against Lewis’s intentions with Prince Caspian. Whereas he meant the Calormenes to be exotic adversaries, he clearly meant the Telmarines to be generically European to the point of dullness in contrast to the varied and fantastic native citizens of Narnia. Often in stories, the bad guys are much more charismatic than the flat heroes. What C. S. Lewis does in Prince Caspian is something of an interesting inversion of that. To be fair though, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it’s hard to make something visually boring in a movie without it coming across as laziness rather than a deliberate artistic choice. And you still get a good contrast between the Telmarines and the Narnians with the Telmarines’ costumes (courtesy of Isis Mussenden), buildings and props (courtesy of Roger Ford) looking less like something from a fantasy story and more like something from a historical drama albeit with a few fanciful touches.[4]It’s a bit odd that they have images of eagles considering that the Telmarines are supposed to be enemies of beasts but, hey, eagles are birds of prey after all. This works very well on its own terms.

Anyway, Lord Miraz and Lady Prunaprismia are playing with their newborn son when they see General Glozelle and his soldiers ride into the courtyard with a captive in tow. Miraz leaves his family to go see them. There was originally a brief dialogue scene here where Prunaprismia asked her husband where Caspian was, and he told her they would see him soon. In my opinion, this really shouldn’t have been cut since Prunaprismia is going to get a highly dramatic scene in the middle of the movie after she’s been simply a silent background character, much like she is in the book, prior to that moment and afterwards she goes back to being one until the very last scene. It’s very jarring and awkward and keeping that minute-long dialogue scene could have fixed it.

Miraz strides into the stables where the soldiers are dismounting and heads straight for the horse with the prisoner on it, covered by a cloth. “Wait, my lord,” says Glozelle, “It is not what you think.” “Then what is it?” asks Miraz. “We’re not exactly sure,” Glozelle replies, looking nervous. The cloth is pulled back and Miraz gasps at what he sees. “Impossible,” he murmurs. (Could this be a callback to Susan’s reaction to see Narnia for the first time and the White Witch’s reaction to Aslan’s resurrection in the last movie?) Then wheels start to turn in his head.

Meanwhile, a council is being held in the Telmarine council chamber. Many chairs in it are empty including the fancy one for the king. “I warned this council when it put its trust in Lord Miraz, there would be consequences,” declaims a lord named Sopespian (Damian Alcazar.) In the book, Lord Sopespian, like Glozelle, is initially a supporter of Miraz and only turns against him at the climax. Here he’s antagonistic towards him from the start. I think that change works well. As I’ve mentioned before, Glozelle and Sopespian are a bit of a random deus ex machina in the text. Another lord objects that they can’t accuse the lord protector of Narnia without proof. “How long are we going to hide behind that excuse?” grouses Lord Scythley (Simon Andreu), another council member. “Until every chair in this chamber is empty?” This is a reference to how Miraz has been discreetly killing off nobles who might support his nephew’s claim to the throne as Dr. Cornelius explains to Caspian in Chapter 5 of the book. The meaning isn’t immediately clear to someone who hasn’t read the source material but, to be fair, it’s not too hard to infer the meaning. Sadly, that’s not true of some other parts of this movie’s plot which are only understandable for book fans.

See what I mean about the Telmarines having this chilly, gray, gritty aesthetic?

Miraz enters the room and takes his seat.

Miraz: Lords of the council, I apologize for being late. I wasn’t aware we were in session.
Sopespian: No doubt you were otherwise occupied.
Miraz: My lord?
Scythley: Ever since the death of Caspian the Ninth, you’ve behaved as if you were king and now it seems that behind these walls even Prince Caspian has gone missing!
Sopespian: My deepest condolences, Lord Miraz. Imagine losing your nephew, the heir to the throne, on the very night your wife has blessed you with a son.
Miraz: Thank you, Lord Sopespian. Your compassion is a boon in these troubled times.

What those words can’t convey on the screen is the hilariously sarcastic delivery of Damian Alcazar and Sergio Castellitto. The latter’s line readings are especially impressive considering his English language skills weren’t the best when this movie was being filmed and he sometimes needed a translator on set. Alcazar gives his character a smug smile and twinkling eyes that actually let you empathize with Miraz’s annoyance at him. Simultaneously, since we know Miraz is a bad guy, we kind of root for Sopespian. The animosity between these two evil characters is highly entertaining, definitely one of the most fun parts of any Narnia movie that’s not from the books.[5]Well, it’s kind of in the books but as I said, it’s not developed much and the dynamic between them is a bit different.

“I trust you can tell us how such a tragedy could have occurred,” Sopespian says. Right on cue, Glozelle demurely enters. “That is the most disturbing news of all,” says Miraz, “Our beloved Caspian was abducted. By Narnians!” The council scoffs at this. “You go too far, Miraz!” says Scythley. “You expect us to stand by while you blame such a blatant crime on fairy tales!” Miraz signals to Glozelle who opens the door, and two guards bring in the red dwarf from the forest, bound and gagged. The Telmarines gape at him. “You forget, my lords,” says Miraz, “Narnia was once a savage land. Fierce creatures roamed free. Much of our forefathers’ blood was shed to exterminate these vermin. Or so we thought.” Ironically, in his first scene in the book, Miraz is the one who insists that the Narnians are fairy tales to Caspian and forbids him to ever mention them again. Of course, that was in Caspian’s childhood, which this movie tragically cuts. (I’ll start to really explain why it’s tragic in my next post.) Of course, in the main part of the story, Miraz has to affirm the existence of the native Narnians since he’s waging war against them. Still, it’s sad that the part about him insisting they never existed had to be dropped from this adaptation. It’s a memorable detail. Anyway, back to his speech. “But while we’ve been bickering amongst ourselves, they’ve been breeding like cockroaches under a rock, growing stronger, watching us, waiting to strike!” On the last word, Miraz smacks the dwarf’s face, actually knocking his gag off. (Is that possible?) “And you wonder why we don’t like you,” the dwarf snarks.

Miraz ignores this. “Well, I intend to strike back,” he says, “Even if I have to cut down the entire forest, I assure you, I will find Prince Caspian and finish what our ancestors began.” Here’s another place where I think you could reasonably argue that the movie improves on the book. The literary Miraz has few actual scenes and is easily the most boring villain in any Narnia book. To be fair, I believe C. S. Lewis intended him to be somewhat boring by the design; his mundane, realistic villain makes him something of a foil to the White Witch from the previous story. But that design doesn’t always make for the most fun reading. By dramatizing the way Miraz maneuvers himself from the position of Lord Protector to King of Narnia, something that is only summarized by Cornelius as having happened a long time ago in the book, this movie makes him much more threatening, especially coupled with Sergio Castellitto’s charismatic performance. We’ll see more scenes of how he uses the threat of the Narnians for his own political purposes later. This villain proves to hold up surprisingly well against Tilda Swinton’s White Witch from the previous movie.

Back at the island-oh, I should mention something. In both the books and the movies, Cair Paravel was originally on a peninsula, but it became an island by the time of Prince Caspian. Back at the island, Edmund finds evidence that Cair Paravel didn’t just fall into ruins after being abandoned but was attacked by catapults. Then he and Peter push aside a stone wall to reveal a secret door.

Peter pulls apart the rotting wood then he tears a strip of cloth from his shirt and wraps it around a stick to make a torch.

“Don’t suppose you have any matches, do you?” he asks Edmund. “No, but would this help?” his brother replies, taking out an electric torch from his satchel. This moment is both really funny and allows the filmmakers to avoid confusing American audiences who would call the device a flashlight.[6]Edmund will refer to it as a torch though in the last scene. Not that I’m complaining. It’ll be a really fun bit from the book. “You might have mentioned that a bit sooner,” says Peter, laughing. It’s nice that this scene shows him accepting this little moment of humiliation in good humor instead of having him be all angry and arrogant as the movie will later portray him.

The Pevensies troop through the door and down a flight of stairs to an ancient treasure chamber. “I can’t believe it,” says Peter, “it’s all still here!” There are four treasure chests, each with a statue of one of the four siblings at the height of their Narnian reign. Edmund, Lucy and Susan rush over to their respective chest and open it.

“I was so tall!” says Lucy as she pulls out an old dress. “Well, you were older then,” says Susan. “As opposed to hundreds of years later when you’re younger,” says Edmund. I’d complain about him explaining the joke, but I love the humorous visual of him wearing a Narnian helmet with his school uniform. Actually, in a clever touch, the Pevensies have already abandoned parts of their uniforms and the girls’ hair has come unbraided, so they appear to be in halfway stage between their English selves and their Narnian selves in this scene.

Although he was the one who seemed to want to return to Narnia the most, Peter is taking his time looking over his former treasure. First, he blows the dust off a golden disc[7]A shield maybe? with an image of Aslan’s face on it. Then he slowly and reverently approaches his chest with the statue of himself standing guard over it. His attention is momentarily distracted by Susan who has found her bow and arrows from Father Christmas in her treasure chest but not her enchanted horn. “I must have left it on my saddle the day we went back,” she says. Finally, Peter opens his chest and pulls out his sword. He reads part of the inscription aloud. “When Aslan bares his teeth, winter meets its death.” As you may remember, that was the prophecy that was never spoken in the previous movie. Better late than never, I suppose. Lucy wistfully recites another part of it. “When he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” There’s a moment of silence. In the book, after Peter unsheathes his sword, “the others all felt that he was really Peter the High King again.” Their silence indicates something a bit different in this version. “Everyone we knew,” says Lucy, “Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers…they’re all gone.” The children in Prince Caspian the book never seem disturbed by the revelation that coming back to Narnia centuries after their last visit means all their friends have long died. It arguably makes the story sadder and, to use a tired word, darker than it originally was. I wouldn’t say it’s untrue to the spirit of the Narnia books in general though.[8]One of them, The Silver Chair, has a character from this world return to Narnia and be shattered to find that a friend he knew as a strapping youth is now an old man at the point of death. “I think it’s time we found out what’s going on,” says Peter.

Outside, two Telmarine soldiers (stuntmen Mana Davis and Winham Hammond) are rowing in a boat up the coast by way of a river. With them is the bound and gagged dwarf. The dwarf’s name is Trumpkin by the way. That won’t be said in the dialogue until the next scene and in these recaps, I try to avoid saying names until their mentioned in the dialogue to replicate the experience of watching the movie but describing this whole scene without calling Trumpkin by name would just be a pain. One of the soldiers is unnerved by the dirty look the dwarf is giving him and both soldiers seem to be on edge. “Here’s far enough,” the one complaining about Trumpkin’s stare says. They pick him up and are about to throw him into the water. You may wonder why Miraz has had them take a prisoner all the way out here to drown him instead of doing the practical thing and killing him right away in some simpler manner. That was actually explained in the book. There the Telmarines believed that the woods around Cair Paravel’s ruins, as well as woods in general, were haunted by ghosts and ceremonially left certain prisoners there. This seems to be the implication in the movie too, given the soldiers’ jitteriness, but it’s not explained at all. Truth be told, this plot device was already a bit contrived in the book. C. S. Lewis’s reason for including it seems to have been that Trumpkin simply going to the island in search of the ancient kings and queen and then finding them would be boring, so he had to have him captured and taken there against his will.[9]Incidentally, Trumpkin also wasn’t captured by Miraz in the book but by a random seneschal. But it feels really contrived in this movie which never explains this weirdly specific form of execution. Sadly, that’s not the only plot point in the adaptation that viewers won’t understand if they haven’t read the book. Anyway, back to the scene. The soldiers barely lift Trumpkin before an arrow strikes their boat. They look up to see it came from Susan’s bow. She stands on the beach with her brothers and sister, all of them dressed in Narnian clothes. It’s a bit of a stretch that they would each find outfits their size just lying around the ancient ruins. (In the book, they spend most of the story in their school clothes.) But who cares? It’s a really cool moment to see them in Narnian garb for the first time in the movie. It really feels like the kings and queens of old have returned to rescue a Narnian from Telmarine oppression.

“Drop him,” orders Susan. The soldiers oblige my dropping Trumpkin into the water. Peter and Edmund dive in after him. Susan fires another arrow. One of them hits a soldier in the side. He and his companion jump out of the boat and swim away with all possible speed. (Again, this would make more sense if we knew they were afraid of ghosts.) Edmund drags their boat to the shore. Peter retrieves Trumpkin and Lucy cuts the sputtering dwarf’s bonds with her dagger.[10]The dagger wasn’t mentioned in the book by the way. I believe C. S. Lewis included it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe since Peter and Susan each got a weapon from Father Christmas. But … Continue reading

Trumpkin: “Drop him?!” That’s the best you can come up with?
Susan: A simple “thank you” would suffice.
Trumpkin: They were doing fine drowning me without your help!
Peter: Maybe we should have let them.

OK, I hate to say it but I’m really not a fan of the way this movie’s script writes Trumpkin. In the book at this point, he needs to be reassured several times that his rescuers aren’t ghosts, which is quite amusing, and is also very grateful to them. The movie makes him a grouch, mostly because…well, as we’ll see, Trumpkin is the Narnian who is most skeptical about Aslan and the Pevensies and naysaying sidekicks in fiction are expected to be bitterly sarcastic. The literary version of Trumpkin was quite sarcastic but in a cheerfully cynical way.[11]Imagine Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie if he didn’t start out as a mercenary but were a loyal ally from the start. Staying true to that would have made for a more original character and honestly would have fit in perfectly with this adaptation’s quippy action movie milieu.[12]For what it’s worth, director Andrew Adamson wrote the part specifically for Peter Dinklage, but I don’t think it would have been that hard for the actor to bring the book’s … Continue reading

Lucy: Why were they trying to kill you anyway?
Trumpkin: They’re Telmarines. That’s what they do.
Edmund: Telmarines? In Narnia?
Trumpkin: Where have you been for the last few hundred years?
Lucy: That’s a bit of a long story.

Susan hands Peter back his sword which he naturally dropped when diving into the water. Trumpkin notices it and his mouth falls open. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he says. “You’re it?! You’re the kings and queens of old?!” It’s an odd aspect of this movie that people can immediately recognize the Pevensie’s Christmas gifts at a glance. I guess their oral legends included very specific physical descriptions of them and it never occurs to anyone that it could just be a sword or a horn that with a similar design. Anyway, Peter holds out his hand to shake. “High King Peter the Magnificent,” he says. Trumpkin just stares at the hand. “You probably could have left off the last bit,” opines Susan. Trumpkin laughs, looking and sounding more like his literary counterpart, and agrees. “Probably.” Peter draws his sword. “You might be surprised,” he says. “Oh, you don’t want to do that, boy,” says Trumpkin. While the movie has just made Peter insufferably full of himself and will do so later, it happily gives him a moment of humility now. “Not me,” he says and indicates Edmund instead. (It’s depressing that I have to point it out whenever Peter does something likeable in this adaptation.)[13]In the book, Peter offers to be the one to fight Trumpkin to prove his and siblings’ worth but Edmund objects that “It will be more of a sucks for him if I win, and less of a let-down for … Continue reading

Edmund draws his blade and Peter lends Trumpkin his. For a moment, it looks like the sword will be too big for the dwarf and that this duel will be a bit of a mismatch. But then he almost chops Edmund’s head off and hits him in the eye.[14]I feel like it’s out of character for him to get so violent in a friendly match but oh well. Lucy actually calls out Edmund’s name in fear at that point though she quickly relaxes. In the book, it was Susan who was uncomfortable with the fight. (She “never could learn to like this sort of thing.”) But this adaptation, as we’ll see, makes her much less squeamish about violence. Anyway, before too long, Edmund disarms Trumpkin who falls to his knees and gapes at him, saying, “Beards and bedsteads!” In the book, that’s something of a mad libs catchphrase for the character. Variants include “horns and halibuts,” “whistles and whirligigs” and “giants and junipers.” Sadly, this is the only example of such an exclamation we get in the movie.

“Maybe that horn worked after all,” Trumpkin says. “What horn?” asks Susan. Before he answers, we cut to another scene. You’ll remember that the movie had Dr. Cornelius give Caspian a horn and tell him only to blow it at his greatest need but didn’t have him explain why. That was because the screenwriters wished to eliminate the original book’s nonlinear storytelling but wanted Susan’s horn being the thing that summoned her and her siblings back to Narnia to be a big revelation just as it is in the book. While Cornelius withholding the vital information didn’t make much sense in-universe, I appreciate the movie trying to be keep the book’s sense of mystery. But it does start-only start-to get annoying for it to hold back on explaining everything here.

Next Week: Hey, We Still Haven’t Seen Caspian Since the First Scene, Have We?

References

References
1 Many of whom are famous in their own countries but not in the UK or the US.
2 Perhaps they were actually thinking ahead to The Last Battle which pits King Tirian, a descendant of Caspian’s, against the Calormenes, the idea being that viewers would be less offended by villains looking and sounding generically non-Western if the hero isn’t generically Western.
3 Though I can understand why some Hispanics and Italians would be since Caspian, the one unambiguously sympathetic Telmarine, is the only one played by an English actor.
4 It’s a bit odd that they have images of eagles considering that the Telmarines are supposed to be enemies of beasts but, hey, eagles are birds of prey after all.
5 Well, it’s kind of in the books but as I said, it’s not developed much and the dynamic between them is a bit different.
6 Edmund will refer to it as a torch though in the last scene. Not that I’m complaining. It’ll be a really fun bit from the book.
7 A shield maybe?
8 One of them, The Silver Chair, has a character from this world return to Narnia and be shattered to find that a friend he knew as a strapping youth is now an old man at the point of death.
9 Incidentally, Trumpkin also wasn’t captured by Miraz in the book but by a random seneschal.
10 The dagger wasn’t mentioned in the book by the way. I believe C. S. Lewis included it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe since Peter and Susan each got a weapon from Father Christmas. But Lucy never showed a talent for using the dagger that her sister did for archery or her brother did for swordplay, so he forgot it by the time he wrote Prince Caspian.
11 Imagine Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie if he didn’t start out as a mercenary but were a loyal ally from the start.
12 For what it’s worth, director Andrew Adamson wrote the part specifically for Peter Dinklage, but I don’t think it would have been that hard for the actor to bring the book’s Trumpkin to life.
13 In the book, Peter offers to be the one to fight Trumpkin to prove his and siblings’ worth but Edmund objects that “It will be more of a sucks for him if I win, and less of a let-down for us all if I fail.”
14 I feel like it’s out of character for him to get so violent in a friendly match but oh well.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 2: I Don’t Remember Any Ruins in Narnia

In a nice transition, we cut from the sound of Caspian blowing the horn to the sound of an automobile horn in our world as our old friend, Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), runs across a London street, wearing a school uniform and carrying suitcases. The car’s (uncredited) driver yells at her to watch where she’s going, and she apologizes as she hurries off. For the first time in this movie, we hear a musical theme from the last film’s the soundtrack. The movie reuses a lot of musical themes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe actually, sometimes without even remixing them. The first time I watched it, I found this something of an annoying distraction, but repeated viewings have given me an appreciation for it. The movie never musically hearkens back to the last movie without there being a good thematic reason for doing so. Even on my first viewing, I liked that we first hear an old theme in the scene where, after a scene entirely about new characters, we’re reintroduced to ones we already know.

We find Anna Popplewell’s Susan before her sister does. She’s wearing a uniform for the same school and browsing a magazine rack. (The movie doesn’t make a big deal of it but there’s a newspaper being sold there announcing the raid is over.) A rather geeky looking boy (Ash Jones) tries to strike up a conversation with her.

Geeky Boy: You go to St. Finbarr’s?
Susan: That’s right.
Geeky Boy: I go to Hendon House. Across the road. I’ve seen you. Sitting by yourself.
Susan: Yes, well…I prefer to be left alone.
Pause
Geeky Boy: Me too! What’s your name?
Susan: Phyllis.

This dialogue is pretty hilarious though I feel like Susan is being kind of mean. (Her counterpart in the books always tried to avoid hurting people physically or emotionally.) Of course, other viewers might feel that this guy is being a clueless stalker and Susan (and the movie) should be harder on him. But there’s something I really appreciate about this little bit of comic filler. The Narnia books describe Susan, both in Narnia and her own world, as the most physically attractive of the Pevensies. And the idea persists among both lovers and haters of the series that she’s really into boys. But I’d argue that they’re the ones who are into her. She’s not particularly into them.[1]A major part of one book’s plot is actually Susan rejecting a suitor and him not responding well. The common perception of Susan being boy crazy comes from the final Narnia book, The Last … Continue reading So it gratifies me greatly that this movie is portraying a guy as being attracted to Susan and her being uninterested. Now if only the film could keep that up for its entire runtime!

Anyway, Susan’s alias (Phyllis) is blown when Lucy runs up and tells her she’d better come quickly. The girls run into an underground railway station. (In the book, this station was above ground and rural by the way.) They find a crowd of other school children gathered to watch a fight between three boys. Two of them are handing the third his posterior. That third is Peter (William Moseley.) He and Susan lock eyes and she looks at him with reproach and disgust.

Just as Peter is getting his face pressed against the wall, another boy comes to his aid. It’s Edmund (Skandar Keynes.) He does his best, but Peter still takes quite a beating. Fortunately, two soldiers (John Bach and Jack Walley) come along and break up the fight. “Act your age,” one of them tells Peter. We then cut to the four Pevensies glumly seated on a bench with their luggage.

Edmund: You’re welcome.
Peter: I had it sorted.
Susan: What was it this time?
Peter: He bumped me.
Lucy: So you hit him?
Peter: No, after he bumped me, they tried to make me apologize. That’s when I hit him.

Um…yikes! In the literary Prince Caspian, Peter is a completely noble hero albeit one that makes a major mistake. He’s also a very humble hero and arguably as great a diplomat as he is a warrior. And here the adaptation has him brawling in public like a common hooligan. And it’s implied that this is something he’s been doing regularly for a while. Even if the movie really wanted to include this fight for the sake of more action, it would have been so easy to give Peter a more sympathetic reason for getting into it. He could have been defending a smaller boy against bullies.[2]That would have actually tied into his larger character arc in the movie anyway. We could have at least seen the two boys being really rude to Peter when they bumped into him, so that we’d be more likely to sympathize with him lashing out at them. Either of those ways to make Peter more sympathetic are so obvious that I’m not sure if I’m angry with the movie for not using them or impressed by it avoiding the obvious route.

I feel like his siblings’ reactions to Peter’s petty excuse in this shot pretty much sum it up.

Perhaps most troublingly for fans of the book, we’ll learn in a matter of seconds that his issues stem from a sense of wounded pride and entitlement. For many fans, this one change to this one character is enough to ruin the adaptation for them. I can understand that if King Peter was a huge role model for you growing up. But while I consider Peter in the book to be admirable and well written, he’s not a particular favorite of mine and while there’s a lot I dislike about the execution of this character arc for him, as well as with William Moseley’s performance, which feels like he’s playing a different character from the likeable one in the last film, there’s also a lot that appeals to me about it conceptually. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter’s journey was all about him learning to have more confidence. I like that this sequel gives him the opposite arc rather than rehashing what we’ve already seen. Also, I don’t really get why so many kids’ movies, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, feel that the main thing they need to teach their young viewers is to be more confident. Doubtless, there are some children who need to learn that but aren’t there also many-possibly even more-who suffer from overconfidence? Having the protagonist in a mainstream kids’ movie[3]I know I described this as being the Narnia movie most geared toward teenagers, but I also mentioned that I was speaking relatively. learn to be humble is an interesting and refreshing move if you ask me and one more in line with the broad themes of the Narnia books.[4]To be fair, while I’m not much interested in superheroes and haven’t kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m informed that many of its heroes start out as prideful and end … Continue reading

Back to the conversation.

Susan: Really! Is it that hard to just walk away?
Peter: I shouldn’t have to! I mean, don’t you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?
Edmund: Um, we are kids.
Peter: Well, I wasn’t always![5]Some fans have argued that English children in this time period were expected to mature as soon as possible what with World War II going on, making this angst on Peter’s part anachronistic. The … Continue reading It’s been a year. How long does he (Aslan) expect us to wait?
Susan: I think it’s time to accept that we live here. There’s no use pretending any different.

That last line is interesting in that it foreshadows events in the final Narnia story, The Last Battle. (If you haven’t read that one and don’t want anything spoiled for you, skip the rest of this paragraph.) There we’re informed that the older Susan has reached a point where if her siblings bring up Narnia, she says, “What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.” Many readers find this development for the character random and it’s not a bad idea for an adaptation to foreshadow it though I feel like this one may be trying too hard to make Susan sympathetic. Still, that’s better than just dropping the plot point entirely. That would be both the easiest and the most cowardly route to take if you ask me.

Susan notices her unwanted admirer from the magazine rack heading her way. (Don’t worry. He’s not stalking her. He’s just going to take the same train.) Quickly, she instructs her brothers to pretend they’re talking to her. “We are talking to you,” Edmund points out. Suddenly, Lucy yells, “ow!” and jumps to her feet. Even though I’d read the book, I assumed at first, she was trying to create a distraction to help Susan. But no. “Something pinched me,” says Lucy. “Hey! Stop pulling,” says Peter, rising to his feet. “I’m not touching you,” Edmund replies. As a train rattles past them, he and Susan feel the pull too and get to their feet. As a book fan, I’m tickled to report that the order in which the characters feel the mysterious sensation is the same as in the text.

Susan: What is that?!
Lucy: It feels like magic.
Susan: Quick, everyone holds hands.
Edmund: I’m not holding your hand!

Nevertheless, the Pevensies’ do grab each other’s hands.[6]Ironically, in the book, Edmund got the line about the experience having the feel of magic and the suggestion that everyone hold hands. The walls of the railway station appear to be sucked away bit by bit while everyone besides our heroes is oblivious to it. Suddenly, they’re standing in an empty cave. The train disappears down the railway tunnel which transforms into the cave’s mouth, leading out onto a beautiful beach. This is a great magical transition though regrettably it conveys more of the impression that the world around the characters is being pulled away when it should be they who are being pulled out of the world.

Lucy gives Susan a you-were-saying look. To her credit, Susan grins back and all four Pevensies run into the water, shedding their shoes and less comfortable school clothes, splashing each other and having a good time. In the book, they arrive in an uncomfortable thicket rather than a cave and are initially more shocked than delighted. They only happily rush into the water after they’ve picked their way out. I feel like that’s a little more believable, but I don’t mind the way the movie does the scene. I’ve described it earlier as being darker than the book or trying to be so anyway. This moment of joy is welcome, especially since it’s aided by a lovely location. We hear another old theme on the soundtrack, the one that played when all four Pevensies were in Narnia together for the first time in the last movie.

As the music fades, so does Edmund’s smile. That’s not to say he frowns; he just looks thoughtful. “Where do you suppose we are?” he asks. “Well, where do you think?” says Peter. “Well, I don’t remember any ruins in Narnia,” Edmund says. All four children grow silent as they stare up at the ancient remains of a castle on the cliffs above them. Then we see them exploring the site. Lucy eats an apple from an overgrown orchard. In the book, it takes the characters a long time to find this ruin and it’s stressed how grateful they are to find a source of food in the orchard as well as how sick they get before long of having nothing to eat but apples. I think I’m glad the movie trimmed all of that and also glad it still included the apples so that viewers would still get an idea of how the Pevensies avoid starvation.

“I wonder who lived here,” Lucy says. Susan’s foot bumps against a tiny golden figurine of a centaur studded with ruby fragments. “I think we did,” she says, picking it up. “Hey, that’s mine,” says Edmund, “from my chess set.” Peter asks him which chess set. “I didn’t exactly have a solid gold chess in Finchley, did I?” says Edmund. As we’ll see, this adaptation generally tries to be more emotionally intense than its source material, so it’s interesting that this moment was actually more emotional in the book. There the chess piece belonged to Susan herself and the memories it raised nearly reduced her to tears. If the movie weren’t going to try to be more tearjerking than the book later, I would object to toning down the emotions in this scene. But since the movie does try that, I think it makes for better pacing not to get too sad too soon.

Lucy realizes something. “It can’t be,” she whispers. Then she grabs Peter by the hand and drags him to an open area that was once an interior. Susan and Edmund follow. “Don’t you see?” says Lucy. “Imagine walls and columns there and a glass roof.” The Pevensies realize that they’re standing exactly where their thrones once were. “Cair Paravel,” murmurs Peter. In the book, he was the one who figured out that the ruins were their old castle centuries after they’d left.[7]And incidentally he did so after evening had fallen. Giving that role to Lucy is typical of how the movie makes its version of Peter less heroic than C. S. Lewis’s but, to be fair, it’s one of the less annoying instances of it.

Next Week: What About All Those New Characters from the First Scene?

References

References
1 A major part of one book’s plot is actually Susan rejecting a suitor and him not responding well. The common perception of Susan being boy crazy comes from the final Narnia book, The Last Battle, in which a character dismissively describes as being only interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations.” But, as one fan has pointed out online (in a forum that is no longer available to read) clothes and makeup are often a way for girls to impress each other.
2 That would have actually tied into his larger character arc in the movie anyway.
3 I know I described this as being the Narnia movie most geared toward teenagers, but I also mentioned that I was speaking relatively.
4 To be fair, while I’m not much interested in superheroes and haven’t kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m informed that many of its heroes start out as prideful and end up being humbled, so maybe I’m exaggerating the cinematic Prince Caspian‘s uniqueness. It should be noted though that it was released the same summer as Iron Man, the first movie in the MCU. Maybe Narnia was just ahead of the trend.
5 Some fans have argued that English children in this time period were expected to mature as soon as possible what with World War II going on, making this angst on Peter’s part anachronistic. The undertones of get-off-my-lawn in these critiques make me unsure how seriously to take them but they sound legitimate enough, so I’m including them in this footnote.
6 Ironically, in the book, Edmund got the line about the experience having the feel of magic and the suggestion that everyone hold hands.
7 And incidentally he did so after evening had fallen.
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Prince Caspian (2008) Part 1: You Won’t Be Watching the Stars Tonight, My Prince

This blog series is going to follow the same format as the one I did for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) so you might want to go back and read the introduction to that one since it explains why I’m going to give away my overall feelings about the adaptation before I describe the first scene.

After The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a huge financial hit, the Walt Disney Company had high hopes for its sequel, Prince Caspian, and gave it a corresponding budget. They were disappointed. One of the reasons for that may have been the decision to make that sequel a summer action movie rather than marketing it as a film for families to watch together over the holiday season as they’d done with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Another reason may have been returning director Andrew Adamson’s goal of making the sequel (relatively) darker and edgier and aimed more at teenagers, the age group least likely to gravitate toward Narnia. (The books are more for children and nostalgic adults.) But the main reason for the studio’s disappointment was probably that they forget that while the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a well-known and beloved classic of children’s literature, this is less true of the other books in the Narnia series. They’re beloved by people too, but not by the public in general and even among the fandom, Prince Caspian is widely considered the weakest installment.

Because they were adapting the least beloved Narnia book, Adamson and his returning collaborators, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely[1]Ann Peacock did not return, leading me to imagine her contributions to the first movie were minimal., probably felt that they had some leeway in adapting the book. This sequel takes far more artistic license with its source material than its predecessor and it should be noted that many critics praised it as the better of the two movies. Some would even call it better than the original book. But many Narnia fans were angered and disappointed by the liberties taken with the text, which I think is a heartwarming tribute to the book, showing how much fans love even the least favorite Narnia book. Or maybe the movie made people realize the book’s greatness.

Where do I stand? Well, I don’t consider the 2008 Prince Caspian movie better than the first Narnia movie on the whole. But neither do I consider it worse than it on the whole. They each have their pros and cons and for me, if no one else, it all balances out in the end. Now do I think the movie is better than the book? Well, I can understand that opinion-at a first glance. The adaptation removes some of its source material’s structural issues. It brings the title character into contact with the other four protagonists much sooner, allowing it to develop relationships between them, and trims the lengthy central section of the characters being lost in the wood.[2]Theoretically, there’s no reason why stories about people trying to find their way out of woods can’t be great. After all, the first really popular novel was Robinson Crusoe, which was … Continue reading But unfortunately, this adaptation also cuts some of the most emotionally potent themes and interesting ideas from the book, making for a movie that feels less specifically Narnian and much more like a generic fantasy action movie.

But, hey, sometimes a generic fantasy action movie, assuming it’s well made, is exactly what I feel like watching. Actually, it’s kind of amazing how much I enjoy the Prince Caspian movie considering how many strikes it has against it from my point of view. As I mentioned before, of the three Narnia movies, this is the one most trying to appeal to teenagers, and I think that’s a mistake if fidelity to the books’ spirit is a goal. And while I don’t necessarily mind the idea of a Narnia movie being dark per se, there being plenty of dark material in the books, to suggest that Prince Caspian is an edgier story than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is ridiculous. If anything, you could argue it’s the least intense Narnia story.[3]Well, literary critic Doris T. Meyers made a good argument that Prince Caspian is a more mature and adult book than its predecessor but in a comparatively subtle way. I feel like the filmmakers just went that direction because it’s Hollywood convention to make the second movie in a series be darker than the first one. C. S. Lewis, by contrast, made the seventh and last Narnia book, The Last Battle, the darkest by a long shot. Making Prince Caspian edgier arguably would have undermined that if Walden Media had been able to adapt the whole series. (It really should be noted though that this movie is dark compared to the 2005 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but hardly the darkest movie ever. Likewise, it’s aimed more at teenagers but can still be enjoyed by kids. Not every kid maybe but some.) Also, this is the Narnia movies that’s an action movie the most and, truth be told, while I enjoy a good action scene, modern action movies tend to give me headaches.

Yet, for all that, I get a big kick out of this movie. Why? Well, let’s start the deep dive.

Remember what I wrote in my analysis of the first Narnia movie about how this more recent Disney logo makes for a rough transition to dark, ominous opening scenes? Yep.

We open with a nifty transition from the Walden Media logo to two planets crossing each other in the Narnian night sky.

Those familiar with the book will realize that these are Tarva and Alambil.[4]Which were described as stars there, not planets, but never mind. They will also recognize that the adaptation is playing around with the original story’s chronology. The camera pans down to reveal a clifftop castle. It’s a great set-too great even. You see, it’s the castle of the Telmarines, this story’s villains and C. S. Lewis deliberately made them boring compared to the more colorful Narnians. This castle is just a little too cool in its creepy looking way to be boring. But in the movie’s defense, it can be tricky to make something look boring in a movie without the viewers just getting the impression the designers were simply untalented.

Fans of the book instantly learn that the adaptation is taking even more liberties with the chronology than they originally supposed[5]That is if they didn’t do any research before watching the thing. as a woman’s scream is heard and the camera zooms in on one particular room in the castle where a noblewoman (Alicia Borrachero), surrounded by midwives, is giving birth to a son.

The only midwife with a speaking part is played by Hana Frejkova who does a great job. When she asks for towels, I really believe she needs them.

In another room-it’s a great set by the way-a burly, grizzled soldier (Pierfrancesco Favino) enters to find a nobleman (Sergio Castellitto) staring up at the sky through a window. These two are the only ones there.

“Lord Miraz,” says the soldier, “you have a son.” In the book at this point, Miraz is already a king. The movie is going to show his rise to the throne which was summarized in one speech by a character in the book. “The heavens have blessed us,” Miraz says, still looking at the planetary phenomenon. “You know your orders.” The soldier hesitates, evidently not completely comfortable with these orders. Miraz turns his head slightly. “General Glozelle?” he says. “Yes, my lord,” the man replies. In the book, Glozelle is only really introduced before the climax of the story[6]The aforementioned speech summarizing Miraz’s political career mentions that “his flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become king” and it’s eventually implied … Continue reading and incidentally is a lord, not a general. He’s also completely a villain in the book with no apparent conscience. I think it makes sense to give him more screentime since he’s something of a deus ex machina in the source material. I generally dislike the idea of redeeming characters from the books who weren’t redeemed there but adding some sympathetic aspects to Glozelle’s character is going to allow this movie to keep an interesting little moment from the book that would otherwise have probably been cut. Anyway, on its own terms, this scene is great, especially the tension between Castellitto and Favino.

Meanwhile, a cloaked and hooded figure sneaks through the moonlit castle hallway, avoiding a sentry. He slips inside a royal bedchamber, draws open the bedcurtains and places a hand over the mouth of our hero, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes.) I should say a word hear about the casting here. Many fans object to Barnes, who was in his early twenties at the time, playing this character who is a boy in the book. However, the only thing the book specifically says about Caspian’s age is that he was about as old as Peter and the previous movie had already cast a teenager as that character, a teenager who was even older when this sequel was filmed and yet nobody complained then. To me, the important thing is that Caspian looks like he could be Peter’s peer and Barnes does a great job making the character seem youthful and naive. I think the reason fans insist on seeing Caspian as really young in the book is that C. S. Lewis stresses that he was a very little boy in the first chapter depicting him and fans forget that years take place between that chapter and the main body of the story. The movie entirely cuts the section of the story about Caspian’s childhood, and I have strong opinions about that but let’s put the subject on the back burner for now, shall we? Caspian’s eyes pop open in fear but he relaxes when he sees that he’s being awakened by his twinkly eyed gray bearded tutor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass who’s great in the role.) Actually, they never say Cornelius’s name in the movie; everyone just addresses him as “doctor” or “professor.” It’s in the credits though and I’m going to use it on this blog.

“Five more minutes,” Caspian says, rolling over. “You won’t be watching the stars tonight, my prince,” says Cornelius. This is a reference to the book in which he sometimes takes Caspian up on the castle battlements at night for astronomy lessons. In fact, during one such lesson, he revealed to Caspian the true history of Narnia about which everybody is forbidden to speak. It was a wonderfully atmospheric scene in the book that has been barbarically scrapped by this movie. (Remember what I mentioned about Caspian’s childhood?) “Come,” says Cornelius, “we must hurry.” He drags Caspian over to his wardrobe. “Professor, what’s going on?” he asks. “Your aunt has given birth to a son,” says Cornelius. There’s a great moment of silence as the implications of this, not yet clear to the viewers, sink in for Caspian. Cornelius reveals a secret passage in the back of the wardrobe and bustles the prince inside. They close the door behind them, but Caspian lingers to peer through the crack and see what happens in his absence. Glozelle leads a group of bowmen into the room. They surround Caspian’s bed and fire arrows at it, only to find the bed empty.

Did I mention I love this film’s sets?

Cornelius hastily helps Caspian dress and arm himself. “You must make for the woods,” he instructs the prince as he mounts a horse in the stables, “they won’t follow you there.” In the book, Dr. Cornelius[7]Lewis always calls him Doctor Cornelius but I’m going to call him Dr. to save typing. also tells Caspian to seek sanctuary in the court of King Nain of Archenland. That is a much more intelligent plan than just hiding in the woods, but I don’t blame the movie for cutting it since neither King Nain nor Archenland are ever going to appear in this story. Then Cornelius hands Caspian an object wrapped in cloth. “It has taken me many years to find this,” he says. “Do not use it except at your greatest need.” “Will I ever see you again?” asks Caspian. Don’t ask me why he would ask that instead of “what is this mysterious object and why must I use it at my greatest need?” Well, because this movie wants to retain a mystery in the book’s plot while avoiding the nonlinear storytelling that allowed it to be a mystery. “I dearly hope so, my prince,” says Cornelius. “There is so much more I meant to tell you. Everything you know is about to change.” They hear a voice outside calling for the drawbridge to be closed so naturally Caspian has to hightail it out of there, leaving Cornelius feeling like a fool for saying, “everything you know is about to change,” a line obviously written so it could be used in the movie’s trailer, instead of taking the time to tell Caspian just what the mysterious artifact is to be used as a last resort.

Caspian rides across the courtyard. Two sentries try to stop him, but he knocks aside their pikes, taking one of them. He gallops across the stone drawbridge on his horse as celebratory fireworks go off in the background. (In case that sentence was confusing, they’re celebrating the baby’s birth, not Caspian’s escape.) A town crier (Douglas Gresham, one of the movie’s producers and the head of C. S. Lewis’s literary estate) is heard proclaiming that “Lady Prunaprismia has this night given Lord Miraz a son.” Glozelle and his soldiers chase Caspian on horseback through the town and into the countryside. I may be alone here, but this is an iconic opening for me.

Like the last movie, this has a great opening credits scene albeit one with a very different feel. Caspian enters the woods, and his pursuers initially hang back in fear with the exception of Glozelle. “Which of you superstitious old women wants to spend the night in a cell?” he demands. Reluctantly, they follow him. In the book, the Telmarines fear the woods because of their people’s past inhumanity to trees and imagine them to be full of ghosts. As a fan, I’m glad that this was kept but it’s unfortunate that the movie never explains it. We can deduce that they believe these particular woods are haunted but not necessarily why. Oh well. We do get to see some lovely scenery in this chase scene and listen to some great tense chase music by composer Harry Gregson-Williams.

At one point, Caspian has to ride across a ford. (This is the ford of Beruna which was supposed to be the location of the battle in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.) The obstacle relieves him of some of his pursuers but not all of them. He does put enough space between himself and them to give him hope. Hilariously (and intentionally), the dramatic mood is shattered when he looks behind him, then turns back only to get hit in the head by a low hanging branch, knocked off his horse and dragged around for a while before finally managing to get his foot out of the stirrup. Caspian lies there on the ground while his steed runs off. (In the book, by the way, something like this didn’t happen until he’d been riding for a whole day and into another night. The Telmarine castle is much closer to the woods in the movie.) The silence grows ominous.

Caspian painfully raises himself and is shocked to see two dwarfs, one with a red beard (Peter Dinklage) and one with a black beard (Warwick Davis who also played a couple of roles in the BBC’s Narnia miniseries from the late 80s and early 90s), emerge from under the roots of a tree. There’s also light coming from under the roots and if you have sharp eyes you can see a talking badger behind them.

“He’s seen us,” says the black bearded dwarf. Both of them carry swords. Caspian’s lies out of reach. The red bearded dwarf, blade drawn, runs up to Caspian but stops when he sees that the bundle Dr. Cornelius gave the prince has unfurled, revealing an ivory horn that should look familiar to viewers though the camera probably doesn’t linger on it long enough for it be recognizable. The dwarf recognizes it though. Apparently, so do the other one and the badger though they should be standing too far away to see it in the dark. One of the Telmarine soldiers appears on the horizon. “Take care of him” the red dwarf tells the other and runs to distract the newcomer. It eventually becomes clear that the sight of the horn has earned Caspian these dwarfs’ loyalty and that he means “take care of him” in a friendly sense. Why this is so won’t be abundantly clear, I’m sorry to say, but it’s too early to start criticizing that. Caspian understandably interprets the red dwarf’s words in a threatening way and when the black dwarf heads his way, he grabs the horn in desperation, raises it to his lips and blows before the dwarf knocks him out. I’d roll my eyes at Caspian blowing the horn seemingly hours after being told to only do so in his greatest need-if it took that long. But I understand why the filmmakers had him do so. And all quibbles aside, I really do love this opening scene. Some viewers may not like how it features none of the characters from the first movie and doesn’t even explain very much about the new ones it introduces but I don’t mind. If anything, I enjoy the mysteriousness of it all.

Well, this feels like a good place for a cliffhanger.

Next Week: How Have the Four Pevensies Been Doing Since the Last Movie?

References

References
1 Ann Peacock did not return, leading me to imagine her contributions to the first movie were minimal.
2 Theoretically, there’s no reason why stories about people trying to find their way out of woods can’t be great. After all, the first really popular novel was Robinson Crusoe, which was all about its hero surviving in the wilderness. And the profitability of shows like Survivorman and Man vs. Wild testify to the hold the theme has on the human imagination. But when I look back on the scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia that I feel like rereading the most often, the scenes of Prince Caspian that focus on the characters struggling to survive in the wild are nowhere near the top of the list and the book’s relative lack of popularity makes me think I’m not alone in that.
3 Well, literary critic Doris T. Meyers made a good argument that Prince Caspian is a more mature and adult book than its predecessor but in a comparatively subtle way.
4 Which were described as stars there, not planets, but never mind.
5 That is if they didn’t do any research before watching the thing.
6 The aforementioned speech summarizing Miraz’s political career mentions that “his flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become king” and it’s eventually implied Glozelle was one of them, but this is easy to miss.
7 Lewis always calls him Doctor Cornelius but I’m going to call him Dr. to save typing.
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The Best Great Expectations Miniseries Is Unavailable for Streaming

It may sound crazy to say that the Disney Channel produced a better miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations than the BBC ever did but that’s what happened in 1989!

Just eight years prior to the 1989 miniseries, the BBC had done its own version and it’s astonishing to see how much more visually appealing the later series was. Credit to that goes to director Kevin Connor, cinematographer Doug Milsome and production designer Keith Wilson. True, the sets don’t look as “lived in” as much as might be wished and the costumes even less so but for a TV serial of this time, they’re quite impressive and the locations are lovely.

The casting for the 1989 miniseries is also superior to that of the 1981 version and the scripts by John Goldsmith[1]Who also wrote adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and David Copperfield in 1995 and 2000 respectively. are far more engaging. Basically, this adaptation makes the 1981 miniseries look dull and clunky in every way. Well, truth be told, I think that one comes across as dull and clunky by itself, so that’s small praise. But I’d also stake the 1989 Great Expectations against any of the other miniseries based on the book and there have been several. In fact, I’d stake it against any adaptation yet made. That’s not to say it’s only one that’s any good, just that it’s the most consistently great in my opinion.

Of course, nothing is perfect, so I’ll start with a flaw. Young Martin Harvey who plays the character of Pip in his childhood[2]This is going to be one of those blog posts where I don’t explain the story. If you haven’t the read the book, you should either do so or read my previous post. is something of a weak link in the cast. His facial expressions are pretty great, but his line deliveries tend to sound fake compared to those of everybody else. And his crying sounds even more so.

Anthony Calf as the older Pip though is perfect. He looks and sounds more like how I imagine the character than any other portrayal I’ve seen, and he’s helped by the writing which excels at finding ways for Pip to express his thoughts aloud to the other characters that he only tells readers in the book. If I had blogged about this miniseries before I did my “awards ceremony” post, Calf’s Pip would have been a shoe in for best antihero.[3]Jeremy Irvine’s Pip from the 2012 movie would have gotten an honorable mention.

Another problem with this production is the choice to have Pip’s two possible love interests, Biddy and Estella, each be played by a single actress throughout the whole series rather than using child actresses in the characters’ youths and older ones afterwards. I know, I know. It’s unfair of me to first say that the child actor for Pip was inferior to the adult actor and then criticize the decision to not use child actors for other characters.[4]The only other character here to be portrayed by two different actors is Herbert Pocket who is played by Henry Power as a boy and Adam Blackwood, who was Dick Swiveller in The Old Curiosity Shop from … Continue reading This probably does make for more consistently great acting but if you’re not familiar with the story, it’s very confusing. Biddy’s early maturity isn’t as impressive when she looks like an adult from the beginning and there’s a scene where we see Estella as a teenager for the first time that was clearly written to be the first look viewers would get of her played by a new actress, but she looks just like she did the last time we saw her except that she’s wearing more age-appropriate clothing.[5]Viewers familiar with the historical culture in which this story takes place can theoretically tell that the characters are supposed to be younger based on how they wear their hair. But if said … Continue reading

Fortunately, the actual quality of the actresses’ performances is exemplary. As I wrote previously, anyone playing Estella has to delicately balance many contradictory characteristics to bring this unforgettable character to life. Kim Thomson does so without breaking a sweat, giving us an Estella who is sometimes icily indifferent, sometimes casually friendly and sometimes intensely bitter. Returning to the scenario in which I’d blogged about this miniseries before my awards ceremony, she’d have won best antiheroine.

Susan Franklyn is also great as Biddy. Like Thomson, she’s helped by how well this adaptation develops her character. You could even argue she has a bigger presence here than in the book. (Remember what I wrote about this miniseries finding ways to have Pip confide things in other characters that he only tells us through narration in the book?) Estella may be the story’s leading lady, but this adaptation understands that Biddy is its heroine in the moral sense.

You’ve probably picked up by now that this miniseries has a stellar cast. As awkward and ignorant as the loveable Joe Gargery can be, John Rhys-Davies plays him without a hint of condescension or winking at the camera. Some of the most emotional moments in the series belong to him.

As Pip’s shrewish older sister, Rosemary McHale makes her character’s abuse of her brother and her husband genuinely disturbing while simultaneously bringing great comedic timing to the role.

Other great performances include those of Anthony Hopkins as Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict who terrorizes young Pip[6]Though I must admit I prefer Ralph Fiennes from the 2012 movie, partly because, for once, the character is better developed there. Hopkins is still great though.,

Ray McAnally as Jaggers the fearsome lawyer[7]Don’t read this footnote if you haven’t read the book or experienced any adaptations. His most memorable scene is in the last episode where, after being chilly and inhumane throughout the … Continue reading,

and Charles Lewsen as his clerk, Wemmick who is cold and businesslike to the point of cruelty in his “professional capacity”

but friendly and playful outside of office hours.

But as much competition as she has, the crown jewel of the cast by a long shot is Jean Simmons, whom you’ll recall played the young Estella in the 1946 movie, as Miss Havisham. She brings a throaty growl to every line that she doesn’t venomously spit or deliver in a mournful wail. Even when she’s not speaking, she seems to radiate bitterness. I fully believe that she’s brooded over her grudge every day for years. This is the most awesomely creepy Miss Havisham I’ve ever seen, and she would have won the “Adaptee” for best tragic villainess with her hands tied behind her back.[8]I’ve gone on record as saying that Helena Bonham Carter was more moving as the remorseful Miss Havisham in the last act of the story and I’ll stand by that. But I enjoy Simmons’s … Continue reading

Nearly every minor character from the novel is present in this adaptation. There’s harried Matthew Pocket (Jonathan Newth) and his lazy, pretentious wife, Belinda (entertaining Angela Ellis),

Wopsle (John Quentin), the overly ambitious amateur actor,

“Trabb’s boy” (Mark Williams who’s good but I’d have preferred a younger actor in the role), the insolent tailor’s assistant who irritates Pip

and Orlick (Niven Boyd), the vengeful journeyman.

True, not all of these subplots are as well developed as in the book. I wish there were more audible heckling in the scenes of Wopsle’s bad performances to make them funnier and Orlick only shows interest in Biddy in one shot, making his later accusation that Pip “come twixt” the two of them rather inexplicable. Still, this is adaptation is an admirably complete take on the novel’s plot. In fact, it expands on the minor character of the useless young manservant who Pip hires for the sake of a genteel appearance and gives him a subplot to good effect. As played by Paul Reynolds, he resembles a young Uriah Heep and that’s no accident as this version has him conspire with his employer’s enemies.

Sadly, this adaptation does stumble a bit at the finish line. The way it handles a plot twist in the second-to-last scene[9]You’ll know it when you see it. makes Dickens’s bittersweet ending, which leaned more into the sweet in the book, lean more into the bitter here. A botched ending can sometimes ruin a whole story, but the very last scene of the miniseries, taking place eleven years afterwards, manages to mollify me. The adaptation moves the location to the churchyard to bookend with the very first scene of the first episode. I’m theoretically against this change since the scene’s location in the source material is thematically significant. But I’ll allow it since it gives the miniseries the opportunity to put a hilariously ironic inscription on the tombstone of one of the villains. I’d like to think Dickens himself would have gotten a kick out of that addition to his story.

No, I’m not going to show you the inscription. Maybe I should though since exasperatingly this, my favorite adaptation of Great Expectations, is unavailable for streaming anywhere and has only ever been released on VHS and Region 2 DVDs, something not every DVD player will play! Oh, the injustice! Currently, the miniseries can be watched on YouTube though it could be taken down for violating copyright at any moment. Normally, I would advocate paying for it but since whoever owns the series isn’t really selling it, I advise everyone to enjoy it while they have the chance.

References

References
1 Who also wrote adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and David Copperfield in 1995 and 2000 respectively.
2 This is going to be one of those blog posts where I don’t explain the story. If you haven’t the read the book, you should either do so or read my previous post.
3 Jeremy Irvine’s Pip from the 2012 movie would have gotten an honorable mention.
4 The only other character here to be portrayed by two different actors is Herbert Pocket who is played by Henry Power as a boy and Adam Blackwood, who was Dick Swiveller in The Old Curiosity Shop from the same screenwriter, as a man. Did the director just have something against child actresses?
5 Viewers familiar with the historical culture in which this story takes place can theoretically tell that the characters are supposed to be younger based on how they wear their hair. But if said viewers aren’t familiar with the book, I can easily imagine them assuming on a first viewing that the makers of the miniseries just didn’t do research on age-appropriate hairstyles.
6 Though I must admit I prefer Ralph Fiennes from the 2012 movie, partly because, for once, the character is better developed there. Hopkins is still great though.
7 Don’t read this footnote if you haven’t read the book or experienced any adaptations. His most memorable scene is in the last episode where, after being chilly and inhumane throughout the series prior, he reveals himself to be capable of compassion.
8 I’ve gone on record as saying that Helena Bonham Carter was more moving as the remorseful Miss Havisham in the last act of the story and I’ll stand by that. But I enjoy Simmons’s overall take on the character more and it’s not like she’s bad in the scenes where we sympathize with Miss Havisham. Her reminiscing over the first time she saw Estella is especially powerful.
9 You’ll know it when you see it.
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