In Review:
Prince Caspian

In Review — By on May 21, 2008 at 12:59 am

Prince Caspian“All war movies are antiwar movies,” opined Francis Ford Coppola, “in that they describe horrible incidents and the most profound thing of all, to lose a young person.” This truism has ended with the latest film installment of the Narnia Chronicles. Not only is Prince Caspian a war movie that is not antiwar, it is war movie targeted to young people. And to this I say: It’s about time Hollywood made a war movie for children.

As Narnia author C.S. Lewis once claimed, “The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.” This is why there needs to be more war movies for children. War movies are metaphors, and in the proper context, can be powerful literary tools for teaching children the fundamentals of moral conduct. At its best, Caspian succeeds in presenting a vision of how people–even at a young age–must reckon with a world infected by violence and evil.

Because we have grown accustomed to viewing the Chronicles of Narnia as safe books for Christian children, we often overlook how radical a moral universe they present.
For instance, near the beginning of Caspian, four schoolchildren living in WWII-era England leave the realm of air-raid sirens and sandbagged lined subway platforms for the war torn landscape of Narnia. The Pevensie siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy, are leaving a country where they were helpless children and returning to a kingdom where they once ruled as kings and queens.

On children’s television channels like Nickelodeon and Disney, precocious tweeners and young teens are often at the center of the action while parents and other adults are at the periphery. By contrast, in the world of Narnia, human adults are either the enemy of the children or are completely absent. This is a radical departure for modern children. Not only can young moviegoers not relate to a world with a monarchial hierarchy, they can’t relate to a world without helicopter parents.

The Pevensie children, however, are not alone in the Narnian universe. They are surrounded by various creatures, from satyrs to talking badgers. Yet as “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve” they have dominion and authority over all other beings. With one exception: Aslan.

In Narnia, Aslan is God. As explained in The Magician’s Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia was literally sung into existence by Aslan. The noble lion is the creator, sustainer, and sovereign over all that exists in the land.

The “Aslan as Christ-figure” is readily apparent in Wardrobe. Even the most secular audience member can figure out what the death and resurrection of Aslan is supposed to represent. However, in Caspian the allusion is more subtle, though possibly even more profound.
It’s exasperating, though not surprising, that so many Christians who have seen the movie complain that Aslan is not given enough screen time. They seem not to get the point that Aslan is in every frame of the film.

Everything in Narnia was created and is sustained by the breath of Aslan. Evidence of Aslan is seen in the trees, the sun, the woodland creatures, and in everything that exist. His presence is everywhere. How then can Christians miss the point that Caspian is about faith, about “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”?

Perhaps the problem is that they are unable to make the shift from readers to moviegoers; they are too attached to the book. While Wardrobe was a rather literal book-to-film translation, Caspian is a loose adaptation. This is a wholly good and necessary change, for the book, one of the weaker Narnia tales, is structurally flawed and narratively flabby.

To compensate, the movie includes a variety of new elements; some that deepen the story (an extended siege on a castle) and others that serve as minor diversions (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it romance). Overall, though, the liberties taken are what transform the talky, walking-through-the-woods book into an action packed honest-to-goodness war movie.

For this is indeed a war movie and the war scenes are spectacular. Caspian is the first children’s movie that has a body count comparable to Braveheart. The images of battle are brutal, poignant, sad, and yet pleasantly gore-free. Seeing children in combat should be disconcerting, though I found it refreshing. I especially appreciated how Queen Susan was allowed to tap into her inner Xena in order to fight valiantly alongside the boys, bears, and badgers. (And no, I do not think woman should serve in combat. Then again, I’m opposed to sending Dryads, Maenads, and talking squirrels into combat situations too.)

The biggest weakness in the film is the titular character – Prince Caspian. The character, tediously dull in the book, is given far too much screen time. While Ben Barnes, the young actor who plays Prince Caspian, was obviously selected as eye-candy for the Hannah Montana crowd, the writers could have done more than make him a pint-sized Inigo Montoya (complete with the faux- Castilian accent!).

Also, every moment spent on the crowd-pleasing CGI-characters (e.g., the cute but overrated Reepicheep) was time when the screen wasn’t filled with the vastly more interesting Pevensie children. The movie should have given them even more space to mature. High King Peter and Queen Susan were only allowed to shine in the fight scenes, though Queen Lucy–my favorite character–was magnificent in just about every scene.

Overall, I loved the movie and thought it was superior to both the book and to the film version of Wardrobe. But your own reaction is likely to be markedly different, particularly if you are a mother.
Moms simply won’t be able to appreciate seeing a teen boy getting thrashed in single-combat against a man twice his age. They won’t cheer heartily at seeing a teen girl expertly dehorse a half-dozen soldiers with a bow and arrow. Nor will they gasp with delight upon seeing a six-year old draw a dagger when faced with an opposing army.

This ain’t no Veggie Tales; this a Dad’s movie. So kids, put down the Wii controller, grab Pops and drag him off to see Prince Caspian, the greatest war movie ever made for children.



  • http://quillandnail.wordpress.com B. Minich

    I tend to agree with you that this movie was better than the last Narnia movie.
    I must depart, however, when you talk of this being better than Prince Caspian the book. I do not think so. While I share your view that out of the Narnia books, Prince Caspian is the weakest, I disagree that the movie was an improvement – its pretty much on par, quality wise, in my mind.
    The biggest beef I have with you Joe is, however, your argument that Aslan wasn’t underrepresented. While I agree that he didn’t need to appear as much as he did in the book, the movie did the character of Aslan an injustice in the way it changed his role. He turns from being there in the beginning, visible only to Lucy, to a character that shows up at the end to save the day, which understates his involvement in the book.
    Also, I think that the filmmakers stripped Aslan of some of his power, and this bothers me. He kinda turns into some sort of open-theist Aslan in the movie, stating that “We will never know what would have happened, but we can know what will happen.” It wasn’t stated quite like that, I must say – it was implied that Lucy would never know what would have happened. This and things like this are often missed by the filmmakers. While I will keep seeing the movies as long as they keep making them, if they continue to make little tweaks that ham-handedly change the character of Aslan, I will continue to be disappointed.

  • Jonathan M

    Not so sure the movie was better than the book, but it was certainly better than the last Narnia movie made. Honestly, the most important part of the book, IMO of course, namely, Lucy’s relationship with Aslan, was preserved almost entirely intact from the book. I was really worried about Reepicheep’s representation on screen, but while mildly annoying in parts, was mostly done right. They even fixed what I hated most about the first movie: the action. I really have no idea how it was rated PG though. And, goodness… didn’t you see the trees in the final battle sequence?
    B. Minich: watch the BBC production of, well, any of the Chronicles of Narnia. You tell me which Aslan you prefer.

  • Jonathan M

    Not so sure the movie was better than the book, but it was certainly better than the last Narnia movie made. Honestly, the most important part of the book, IMO of course, namely, Lucy’s relationship with Aslan, was preserved almost entirely intact from the book. I was really worried about Reepicheep’s representation on screen, but while mildly annoying in parts, was mostly done right. They even fixed what I hated most about the first movie: the action. I really have no idea how it was rated PG though. And, goodness… didn’t you see the trees in the final battle sequence?
    B. Minich: watch the BBC production of, well, any of the Chronicles of Narnia. You tell me which Aslan you prefer.

  • Darrell DeLaney

    I thought the movie was good. It had some major departures from the book. Some made for a better movie, but some detracted from it. In particular, I greatly missed Aslan and the girls traveling around Narnia waking the trees, gathering the Telmarines who still loved old Narnia in their hearts, etc. I didn’t like the conflict they created between Peter and Caspian, or that they minimized to the point of non-existence Susan’s personal issues and her conversation with Aslan about that. I also didn’t see why they added some kind of temptation for both Caspian and Peter about allying with a former enemy.
    I’m a big fan of Reepicheep and his chivalry and honor. I didn’t care for making him a bit of comic relief, but overall I thought they did him ok, especially his scene with his tail at the end.
    I can see why changes had to be made to the book story to bring it out on film, but I thought they went too far, trying to make a summer action movie and cutting too many other important things to squeeze in more Lord of the Rings style battle scenes.

  • csheidler

    To be honest, I’m fairly surprised at the way many people seem to be gushing over Prince Caspian as an adaptation. John Mark Reynolds (whose commentary I usually agree with wholeheartedly) also raves about the movie as having greatly improved upon the book.
    I don’t buy that for one moment–I think Prince Caspian was a fine film in its own right (one I will probably purchase when it comes to DVD), but as an adaptation of Lewis’ novel it completely misses the mark. I’ll simply repeat the same comments I’ve sent to Professor Reynolds here…
    I should begin by identifying what I thought the film did well–the portrayal of Miraz and the Telmarines was simply spectacular…perhaps even better than in the novel. In the novel, we don’t get the sense of “otherness” in the portrayal of Miraz and the Telmarines that we get in the film, thanks to the accents affected by the characters portraying these roles. This made me think of Prince Caspian as an essentially postcolonial story, which is an aspect of it I hadn’t really considered before, but which I think is well worth further examination.
    I also thought that the film portrayed Edmund’s character marvelously–like the book, it shows Edmund as having left Narnia a genuinely, deeply, irrevocably changed person, and indeed a MAN far different than the boy he had been in the opening pages of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
    Finally, the film in and of itself was uniformly well-made and well-performed; I agree with you that the actor portraying Peter did a superlative job and demonstrated remarkable range and authenticity. Likewise, the actor playing Caspian was superb, and the actors playing both Susan and Lucy reprised roles they had both previously played astonishingly well, with similar results.
    As an adaptation of the novel, however, I was in fact grossly disappointed in the film altogether. I feel that the war, which at best is a background element in Lewis’ novel (getting very little “airtime,” so to speak), becomes completely foregrounded in the film, to its very great detriment. Prince
    Caspian
    should not be about the battle for Narnia; it is first and foremost the story of the Lion of Judah preserving for himself a remnant (Caspian and the “Old Narnians”) among those in exile.
    Indeed, the Caspian of the film is but a pale shade of the character in the
    novel; because the Caspian in the film had not been brought up by Professor Cornelius (whose inconsequentiality in this movie I found most disappointing) to long for the days of the High King Peter and the lordship of Aslan, I found I could not realistically believe in him as the “heir” to the throne of Cair Paravel. Caspian in Lewis’ novels is a good king precisely because he recognizes from the onset his subordination to the High King Peter and to Aslan, the Highest of all Kings. (He is at his worst in The Dawn Treader, for example, when he forgets these, first at the isle of Deathwater and again at the Eastern End of the World.)
    Next, I find that what was done to Peter’s character bordered on the
    criminal–perhaps even the obscene. The Peter in this movie is more of a
    petulant child in the beginning than Edmund was in the first of the series,
    allowing himself to be goaded into a fistfight because of an act of
    impoliteness. He who was High King Peter the Magnificent would not eschew the aid of his brother; he would not view Caspian as an interloper, oppressor, and rival; and he would NEVER for one moment even COUNTENANCE the thought of allying himself with the White Witch. The mark of Peter’s greatness in the novel is the moment when he first meets Caspian and welcomes and encourages him, saying, “I have not come to take your place, you know, but to put you in it.” At no point in the film does Peter do anything to demonstrate himself as the true High King of Narnia, ruling by the decree and consent of Aslan.
    Most regrettably of all the film’s failures as an adaptation, however, is the gross minimalization of Aslan. Aslan is central in the novel, but little more than a cameo guest star in the film (his airtime is scarcely more than that of the White Witch herself!); your argument, Joe, has its merits, and I’d actually have no problem with Aslan’s paucity of airtime, were it not for the simple fact that even his sparse appearances in the film are crassly and carelessly reductive. It’s not only that Aslan doesn’t appear as frequently in the film; it’s that when he does appear, he’s an Aslan who has been minimized almost to the point of inconsequentiality. (And, by the way, the idea that Aslan is the creator and sustainer of all Narnia is only tenable for those of us who have actually read the whole novel series–there’s nothing IN THE FILM to suggest that he is the creator at all!)
    I was deeply saddened to see the devaluing of the most deeply moving part in all the novel: Lucy’s meeting with Aslan while the others are sleeping. It matters INFINITELY that the reason Aslan seems bigger to Lucy is not that he has grown in the long years of her absence of Narnia; it matters because the whole point of the novel as I read it is that the Covenant Lord of Narnia, the Son of the Emperor Over the Sea, is One in Whom “there is no variation, neither any shadow of turning.” The Great Lion has not grown bigger over the years, for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and the more we come to know Him, the more great and glorious and majestic He seems to us whose eyes and minds and hearts are addled and fettered by the limits of our fallen race.
    I was also profoundly disappointed in the scene where Aslan restores Reepicheep’s tail; one of the great moments in the novel is where Aslan does this not because of Reepicheep’s valor or honor, but for the love between he and his people, but MORE STILL for the love that his ancestors showed Aslan, biting away the cords that bound him to the Stone Table. This was a needless deletion from the film!
    Finally, the ending itself was profoundly unsatisfying as an adaptation of Lewis’ tale. I had no problem with the romantic undertones between Susan and Caspian–there’s plenty of precedent for this sort of thing in the rest of the series. But the prominence of her burgeoning sexuality gives unwarranted voice, I think, to one of the most ridiculous charges leveled against Lewis’ Narnia in recent years. Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling have decried the Chronicles of Narnia for Susan’s fate–which, as they see it, is her exclusion from paradise because she has discovered sex. This is, of course, a gross absurdity that only demonstrates the critics’ shallow and careless reading of the actual text; Susan’s great sin is not that she has discovered sex, but rather that she has enthroned it, and has forsaken the truth to do so.
    Lewis himself, I think, alludes to this in the novel; at that glorious moment (one wholly absent from the film, of course) when the girls join Aslan and the people of Beruna in the wild celebration for the returning King, they meet Bacchus and Silenus, who magically provide wine for the masses. The girls enjoy themselves immensely, but at one point Lucy remarks to Susan how scared she would be of Bacchus were not Aslan present. The message here is clear: that the presence of the Most High sanctifies even our jollity, while the pursuit of
    pleasure apart from Him is pointless and leads only to despair and frustration. This, of course, is what ultimately happens to Susan in the novels: she enthrones a sexuality ungraced by the Lordship of Aslan, and so rejects Him altogether.
    Prince Caspian is a fine work of cinematic art. The special effects are astounding and awe-inspiring, the acting is uniformly superb (at turns at least as good, if not better, than that in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films), and there are certainly subtle themes of goodness and justice consonant with biblical Christianity woven throughout. This is a film I would never ever object to my children seeing…but I must say that this is a most unsatisfactory adaptation of Lewis’ work.

  • http://quillandnail.wordpress.com/ B. Minich

    Jonathan M: I’ve seen the BBC dramas, and I whole heartedly agree that the Aslan in the movies is infinitely better than the BBC Aslan. I wasn’t talking about the look and feel of the character, though. I was more talking about what the character says – in the movies, Aslan acts less divine, even if he looks more divine than the old BBC dramas.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    This, of course, is what ultimately happens to Susan in the novels: she enthrones a sexuality ungraced by the Lordship of Aslan, and so rejects Him altogether.
    Didn’t Susan grow to adulthood in the first film/story before turning back into a kid when she returned to Earth? She & the rest of the kids actually got to grow up twice.

  • ex-preacher

    Finally, a movie that sanitizes and glorifies war for today’s children! Jesus would be so proud.
    “It is well that war is so terrible — otherwise we should grow too fond of it. ” Robert E. Lee

  • http://daddypundit.blogspot.com Tom

    Joe, I couldn’t agree with you more. This was a terrific movie and particularly strong war movie. Frankly, I’ve been disappointed by other Christians that have been so critical of the movie. Most of the criticism seems to focus on the fact that it’s not as true to the book as the first film. That’s correct and that’s what makes it such a better movie. The novel, while having a great story, would be a horrible movie if filmed literally. I hope folks will take the opportunity to see this movie because films of this quality are all too rare these days.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    When I see stuff such as Carter has written above, it seems really obvious that conservative Christianity, like Reagonomics, is headed straight for the ash heap of history, for the simple reason that morally, this form of “Christianity” (“Not only is Prince Caspian a war movie that is not antiwar, it is war movie targeted to young people. And to this I say: It’s about time Hollywood made a war movie for children.”) is an abomination, of the same magnitude as the molestation of children.
    And I’m not kidding.
    Teaching children to glorify violence is a perversion, plain and simple.
    You folks are right up there with Charlie Manson.

  • http://crimsonline.livejournal.com Denes House

    Right on, Joe!
    Mumon – I always find it incomprehensible when folks flatten and reduce all acts of force into the same moral category, labeling it “violence.” As if there is no moral difference between using force to prevent the harming of innocents and using force to harm innocents. Or between using force to rob a home and using force to stop a robber. Or between using force to stop a rapist and a rape itself.
    “Violence” has become an almost useless descriptive term, now containing everything from just war to police brutality to harsh words.

  • http://chronatlantis.blogspot.com/ A

    Whereas Doug Gresham seems to have maintained pretty tight control on LWW (right down to the blue bottle fly dying on the window sill), the screenwriters seem to have caught a case of Peter-Jackson-itis in Prince Caspian: a certitude that they know better than the author – here C. S. Lewis – what direction, augmentation, characterization will best please the eye-candy focus groups.
    Sorry to disagree, but when screenwriters start down this path of diverting from the author’s intent, which also contains his message, no telling where the rest of the Narnia franchise will go.
    Why make Peter whiny and malcontent? Why the battle at Miraz’s castle? (Okay – Edmund was excellent: a stable, wiser, go-to guy you want in your corner.)
    One must ask: would CSL agree with this film were he alive? And, for that matter, would Tolkien with Jackson’s diversions from the book, LOTR?

  • John M.

    All the changes were worth seeing Lucy step out on that bridge to face the whole Telmarine army alone. Watch while 200 conquistadors get their tails kicked by a 4th grader! (with a little help)

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Denes House:
    Violence should be the last resort not only for moral reasons but for pragmatic reasons as well.
    This has not been the hallmark of the “religious” “right” or “conservative” “Christians,” a large number of whom currently still support the resident in the White House.
    So that’s not the issue; the issue is the glorification and reveling in violence and mayhem, as Carter is so inclined.
    If you think I’m exaggerating the problem among “conservative” “Christians” look at this:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/5/21/171257/854
    These clowns who support McCain are indeed bloodthirsty clowns.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Denes
    As if there is no moral difference between using force to prevent the harming of innocents and using force to harm innocents. Or between using force to rob a home and using force to stop a robber. Or between using force to stop a rapist and a rape itself.
    Indeed, how will we ever protect ourselves from this pacifist epidemic?
    A
    One must ask: would CSL agree with this film were he alive? And, for that matter, would Tolkien with Jackson’s diversions from the book, LOTR?
    Now that it’s been mentioned….. I haven’t read the Narnia books but I get the sense I’m getting a good taste of them from the first movie and all the commentary. I remember when I read the LOTR books I fell in love with them and wanted to someday see them made into a huge movie so everyone could appreciate how great it was.
    Seeing them made into three great movies was wonderful but I also see how that has become a double edged sword. For someone who comes to the LOTR by the movies, it will be very hard to read through the books. The movies will take the place of the books in many cases and even when people do read the books it is hard to imagine the story without using Peter Jackson’s characters and images. I’m probably never going to read the Narnia books because of these movies.
    I can say that it is beyond question the LOTR movies and books are superior to CS Lewis. Tolkein made a real world with real people in it. Narnia feels like so much less. It feels more like a morality play with slightly more complicated characters than Good Guy.v.Bad Guy…but not much more. In the first movie, for example, only two of the kids actually seemed to be different from each other, Edmund and Lucy. And she had the cute factor going for being the youngest kid.
    A lot of what Joe is praising in this movie strikes me as very ho-hum. For example,
    On children’s television channels like Nickelodeon and Disney, precocious tweeners and young teens are often at the center of the action while parents and other adults are at the periphery. By contrast, in the world of Narnia, human adults are either the enemy of the children or are completely absent. This is a radical departure for modern children.
    Really? Really???? Really??? Radical departure? It’s probably the oldest element of children’s literature. Either make the adults helpless idiots or get the kids away from the adults so they can take on the role of the adult.
    that has a body count comparable to Braveheart. The images of battle are brutal, poignant, sad, and yet pleasantly gore-free. Seeing children in combat should be disconcerting, though I found it refreshing. I especially appreciated how Queen Susan was allowed to tap into her inner Xena in order to fight valiantly alongside the boys, bears, and badgers.
    I’ve seen this before too….Return of the Jedi. Yea I know Ewoks aren’t kids but they were essentially stand ins. Anyway Disney churns out plenty of crap movies where kids are martial arts warriors. I’m willing to let a movie do that but I’d be hard pressed to find it ‘refreshing’.
    Perhaps the books make a richer Narnia that the movies don’t capture but I don’t think so. If they did there would be a lot more disappointment in these movies.
    Mumon
    I didn’t get too upset when Joe wrote:

    As Narnia author C.S. Lewis once claimed, “The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.” This is why there needs to be more war movies for children. War movies are metaphors, and in the proper context, can be powerful literary tools for teaching children the fundamentals of moral conduct. At its best, Caspian succeeds in presenting a vision of how people–even at a young age–must reckon with a world infected by violence and evil.

    This is true and it is also true most movies are war movies of one sort or another. All superhero movies, for example, almost always center on a war between two supercharacters. Even many romances and comedies can be seen as a type of war movie where the leads have to outsmart or overcome some type of ‘bad guy’.
    I don’t think this is wrong but just don’t kid ourselves about it. If you’re going to talk about ‘fundamentals’…well fundamentally war is like chemotherapy for cancer. Maybe it will cure the diease, often it won’t but it will always destroy a part of you. The cartoon war movie is fine but if you want fundamental truth something like The Godfather is probably better….where the hero went to ‘war’ to protect his family and ends up killing his brother, destroying his marriage and turning the mother of his children into an enemy.
    Notice this line again:
    Caspian succeeds in presenting a vision of how people–even at a young age–must reckon with a world infected by violence and evil.
    See the assumption there? You are the ‘good guy’ and you have to reckon with a world infected by violence and evil….presumably due to other people who are the ‘bad guys’. If that was reality then war would be easy and simple. Just kill the evil entities (LOTR simplified this element by making the Orcs clearly nothing more than the servents of evil). A movie that would really hit the fundamentals would hit on the evil that is inside all of us. I’m skeptical that this one did that, but we’ll see.

  • Keith Pavlischek

    “War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, although I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it.”
    –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • http://jamsco.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats Jamsco

    Joe,
    Don’t dis reepicheep.

  • http://jamsco.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats Jamsco

    I also disagree regarding the extended Castle storming scene. This scene served to punish anyone who had read the book and was relatively astute. From the first moment you’re thinking, okay this is going to fail and it’s only here to help Peter be less proud.
    I didn’t like it.

  • Dennis

    I saw “Prince Caspian” this past weekend with a large group from our church. After a day of reflection on a pretty good fantasy movie, I have to say that I don’t see what all the noise is about. Regardless of Aslan’s singing the world into existence, regardless of Lucy’s seeing him in the shadows of the forest, he makes his real appearance in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film. His presence, for this viewer anyway, did not permeate the movie like it did in the first Narnian tale. What I see, in contrast, is a good fantasy movie with a thin overlay of Christian myth-making. There’s nothing in this story that is uniquely, or distinctly, Christian. There are elements of heroism, of faith, of perseverance, of self-sacrifice, but these elements are not unique to Christianity. Instead, they are part and parcel of any really good hero story.
    Am I the only one who feels that he’s missing something that other people apparently are seeing? I just don’t see what’s so special about this movie as opposed to others in the same vein.

  • Dennis

    I saw “Prince Caspian” this past weekend with a large group from our church. After a day of reflection on a pretty good fantasy movie, I have to say that I don’t see what all the noise is about. Regardless of Aslan’s singing the world into existence, regardless of Lucy’s seeing him in the shadows of the forest, he makes his real appearance in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film. His presence, for this viewer anyway, did not permeate the movie like it did in the first Narnian tale. What I see, in contrast, is a good fantasy movie with a thin overlay of Christian myth-making. There’s nothing in this story that is uniquely, or distinctly, Christian. There are elements of heroism, of faith, of perseverance, of self-sacrifice, but these elements are not unique to Christianity. Instead, they are part and parcel of any really good hero story.
    Am I the only one who feels that he’s missing something that other people apparently are seeing? I just don’t see what’s so special about this movie as opposed to others in the same vein.

  • John M.

    “Violence should be the last resort not only for moral reasons but for pragmatic reasons as well.”
    OF COURSE. And the violence depicted in the film was TOTALLY last resort. What were the Narnians supposed to do, just lay down and die?
    I can’t believe the spell checker wants met to replace “Narnians” with “Hibernians”. What DO they teach in schools these days?

  • John M.

    “There’s nothing in this story that is uniquely, or distinctly, Christian”
    Absolutely. That’s because it’s not a Christian movie, and the books were not Christian books. They were simply fantasy stories told from the viewpoint of a man who was a Christian. Nothing more.
    Sometimes I think our expectations are so high because Lewis is venerated as an apologist and we think THIS is one form of popular media we can consume without guilt. But these stories are not apologetics, they are entertainment.
    And I think the Christian themes DO come through. Faith. Struggling with unbelief. Temptation. Holding devotion to Aslan higher than anything else. Imagine how hard it was for him to imply that she, a 4th grader, should have left her family and followed him.

  • http://salesianity.blogspot.com/ Padre Steve

    Beautiful job on the review! I really loved the movie as well and I pray more and more folks are able to get to it. Keep on blogging and God bless! Padre Steve

  • Dennis

    John M. comments that the Christian themes do come through in “Prince Caspian.” However, to return to my original point, the themes he lists are not uniquely “Christian” themes. Instead, they’re _human_ themes, in that they are found in literature and art from all corners of the world, and told from all sorts of viewpoints. Christians can adopt these themes, and demonstrate that Jesus Christ uniquely deals with them, but we can’t claim them as our own.
    The value of movies like “Prince Caspian” seems to fall into several piles. From the standpoint of the movie studios, films like this have a ready-made audience of Christian viewers who will see a validation of their perspective on the world. For Christian viewers, it can be a means of beginning a spiritual conversation with non-believing friends–after all, we’ve been dissecting the salient themes here. For non-believers, it can be seen as a rousing good fantasy yarn, with some clever CGI and special effects. And for Lewis stalwarts, it can be another lost opportunity to deal faithfully with a book they love. I’m sure there are other camps of significance as well.

  • http://www.kogmedia.com patrick

    haven’t seen Prince Caspian yet but definitely looking forward to it… i’ll have to look over the book one more time just to remind myself how the original story goes

  • John M.c

    “we can’t claim them as our own.”
    BALONEY! What is the source of these themes? Ancient caveman fireside tales? Homeric epics? NEVER! Jesus is the ultimate source from which all of this springs. We should not fear to claim this.
    Christianity is not some mere cultural construct or historical fad. It is the wellspring from which all human thought ultimately emanates. Failing to acknowledge this merely gives Satan an undeserved foothold.

  • Baggi

    Absolutely agree with you Joe.
    I don’t remember the novel, it’s been about 20 years since ive read it. However, I loved this movie. Thought it was much better than the first movie, mainly for the battle scenes.
    The first movie fell short because of the cheesy battle scenes. I thought the first movie was made for 2 year olds rather than children with half a brain. Peter would twitch his arm and huge Minotaur’s would fall down dead. It was annoying.
    The danger was more real in this film and it made all the difference.
    Can’t wait for the next film.

  • Dennis

    John M.c writes that to deny that the themes in “Prince Caspian” are _Christian_ themes is baloney.
    We may be dealing in semantic differences here, but I think it’s worthwhile to try to be as precise as we can. The themes I identified are human themes. Human beings were created by God Almighty. Hence, the themes that are human derive from God’s creative act.
    These themes, and the ways in which we humans have acted them out, have been present ever since the first man and woman existed. They pre-date “Christianity” by thousands of years.
    Christianity, as I am using it, is a system of beliefs, practices, and attitudes–a way of living–that has only existed since the first century A.D. Notice I’m not confusing “Christianity” with Jesus Christ. Christianity is our response to Jesus’ coming to earth and being among us when he did. Christ was Christ long before the first Christians appeared.
    To assert that Christianity is the source of these themes is inaccurate. Christ the Son, through whom and for whom everything exists, is the source. That’s what we, as his followers, believe. Do you want to tell a non-believer, or a believer in some other religion, that Christianity is the source of these themes? I suspect they’d laugh at you, or get incredibly hostile at your arrogance.
    Instead of seeing this movie, as good as it was, as a metaphor of the Christian life, I think we should see it as another attempt to come to grips with our essential humanity through the vehicle of cinematic story-telling. It’s far less an overtly “Christian” movie than the first one, but no less a story about how we human beings lose, when we forget from where we came.

  • Reepicheep

    There’s not a man on this blog that could stand against me! Choose your weapon, Mr. Carter– you ‘journalist.’

  • Jason

    John wrote
    Absolutely. That’s because it’s not a Christian movie, and the books were not Christian books. They were simply fantasy stories told from the viewpoint of a man who was a Christian. Nothing more.
    This is wrong. C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia with a Christian message, not as ‘simply’ fantasy stories.
    Here’s a quote from the man himself:
    I don’t say. ‘Let us represent Christ as Aslan.’ I say, ‘Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there.’
    So, yes, the books are Christian books, meant to convey a Christian message, even if they are what C.S. Lewis called ‘supposal’ rather than allegory.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Jason,
    A few years ago I watched the first movie, reading a bit about CS Lewis (I never read any of his children’s books but have read some of his adult stuff like The Screwtape Letters and the Marriage of Heaven and Hell).
    About 3/4 of the way through when Aslan decides that he must allow the witch and her servents to kill him I mentioned to my family that the story is supposed to mirror Jesus’s story. They looked at me like I had two heads and like I was advancing some strange, obscure literary theory. This even from my sister-in-law who fancies herself a student of religions (by that I mean less Houston Smith and more The Da Vinci Code and books with names like “The Goddess Within”)….

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