LYT's Film Pick of the Weekend 5-16-08
You know what I'm saying. There's really only one choice this weekend, like it or not (I'll probably be saying that a lot in the weeks to come). So yeah, PRINCE CASPIAN is here. And it's no secret that the book is the lamest of the Narnia books. Basically all that happens in it is that the four kids from the last story get summoned back to Narnia by Susan's magic horn, they walk around in the woods for a while, meet a prickly dwarf named Trumpkin who tells them the story of Prince Caspian, then they run into Prince Caspian, then his evil uncle Miraz shows up and Peter fights him. The end.
Not exactly a cinematic structure, that. So director Andrew Adamson had a bit more of a challenge on his hands here. Adapting THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE faithfully worked out well, but CASPIAN needs some tweaking. And tweak he does: the story begins in Narnia with the borth of Lord Miraz' son, giving him the leeway to kill nephew Caspian, who then flees to the forests of Narnia. Now, it turns out that Caspian and Miraz are both part of a race called Telemarines, who are basically Conquistadors that invaded Narnia some years back (1300 years have passed since the last movie), but Caspian is pretty much the only one of them who's any good. It has been believed that Narnia's fairy-tale creatures were purged -- making Miraz essentially the equivalent of Lord Farquad from SHREK, a previous Adamson film -- but Caspian soon finds out otherwise, when he encounters a pair of dwarfs, one being the aforementioned Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage, who should never be asked to fake an accent, EVER; he cannot do it, and LASSIE should have proven that fact definitively) and the other being borderline evil Nikabrik (Warwick Davis, embodying the hypothetical offspring of Willow and Leprechaun).
Anyway, the dwarves think Caspian's an enemy at first, but soon find out he knows his history, and has blown the magic Narnian horn to summon our heroes the Pevensie brats back form dreary olde England. Then Trumpkin gets kidnapped and sent to be executed, but the Pevensies show up just in time to save him.
Mostly, Susan (Anna Popplewell) does the saving, which is a big change from the book. Because it's now the modern postfeminist era, she has been made a master of the bow and arrow, basically Legolas but more macho than Orlando Bloom (which isn't hard, of course; Oprah is more macho than Legolas). Also, I'm pretty sure C.S. lewis never said that Susan was smoking hot, but she is, I mean damn. Anna invades my dreams now. And she's been legal several years now, so don't gimme crap about it. As longtime Narnia fans know, Susan's affinity for makeup and boys will lead to trouble down the line, and I guess I understand why now. She so fine she gots to play it.
As for Caspian, he's basically like Inigo Montoya Junior, and I can't deny the sex appeal of that either. Given his fake Spanish accent and fencing abilities, it's a shame he never actually says to Miraz "Khhhhhhello. My name is Prince Caspian. You killed my father. Prepare to die." However, it is made very clear that he's thinking it. Close enough.
So, how to liven up the dull book? Adamson adds a castle siege, makes Caspian's story more than just a tale told by a dwarf, and creates additional scenes that are suitably biblical, including a Satanic temptation scene that briefly brings back the White Witch to tide us over till her full-on reappearence in the movie after the next one, and a Moses/Red Sea reference. Also he rips off the climax of THE TWO TOWERS by having trees come to life to help out in the final battle, but these trees use their roots more than their branches, so it's different in that way.
But what about Aslan the Jesus Lion? He acts a bit more like the real God in this one, by being capricious, picky, and acting in mysterious ways rather than just saving the good guys flat out like he did last time. His excuse? "Things never happen the same way twice." He's right -- the last Narnia movie came out at Christmas, not May. But supposedly every other Narnia movie is aiming for May now. Since that's ultimately gonna be more than twice, I guess he ain't a lyin' lion. If things happen the same way six times, that's not twice, right?
Except that when Aslan got killed in the last movie and rose again, it was pretty much the Jesus crucifixion happening a second time, i.e. twice. Work on your numbers, Mr. Savior.
It's not entirely Andrew Adamson's fault, but C. S. Lewis' universe doesn't hold up to geek-level scrutiny. Last time around, I mentioned that it doesn't make sense to celebrate Christmas in Narnia, since the Narnian Christ is Aslan so it should be called Aslanmas. This time, I have to take issue with the use of the word "Minotaur," derived from a Greek myth in which King Minos' wife had sex with a bull, producing a half bull offspring, literally "Minos Taurus." That didn't happen in Narnia, yo. Unless their evolution is incredibly parallel. Also, Narnia has chess?
I know, you can make the case that since Narnian history is rife with humans ending up there from Earth, some of our culture rubs off. But that just seems like an excuse.
Here's the bottom line: as inferior to the first book as the second one is, so is the second film from the first. Which is about right. The next two adaptations -- VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER and THE SILVER CHAIR -- should be better, seeing as how they're the ones based more on Greek myths than the Bible, specifically the Odyssey and Orpheus, respectively.
And I beg the producers to include no more fucking New Age music. When the kids are saying goodbye to Aslan, I DO NOT need a Regina Spektor song to tell me how to feel. And it's anachronistic, too; these movies are set in the '40s. Contemporary music can date fantasy films badly, and just watch LADYHAWKE if you don't believe me.
Finally, if you were wondering how the heck the film could do Reepicheep properly, i.e. making a mouse appear to be a credible threat in combat...they managed it. Don't ask me how, exactly, but it works.
I'm curious to see if there'll be a new "Lazy Sunday" video to tie in. I pray there will not be an EPIC MOVIE sequel for the same reason. If that happens, it will be proof positive that there is no Aslan.