Walden Media's journey into the world of Narnia has been full of controversy from the beginning. However, despite the many debates on Narniaweb and other sites concerning the first movie, they were nothing compared to the controversies raging now over Prince Caspian.
So the question is- what has been changed- and is it enough that we should consider skipping the film?
My answer is a resounding "NO!"
However, there are some things that are absolutely critical for you to keep in mind in order to enjoy the film. And some of these, for die hard fans especially, is being aware ahead of time of some of the changes that are being made.
That is the point of this blog post- in addition to giving me a chance to voice my own opinions about these films once and for all.
First of all let me say that after watching "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" I gave up all hope of seeing a faithful adaptation of this series. Granted, the characters were perfectly cast, the production was quite beautifully designed, and it followed the generally story very well. However, there were perhaps no more than two or three lines that made it unchanged from the book into the film. And that, in my mind, was inexcuseable. Jane Austen and Shakespeare- writers of far more difficult and archaic dialogue have been translated to screen with much more faithfulness to their original language.
So with that in mind, I entered the period of waiting for the next film, "Prince Caspian" with extreme skepticism. All the rumors and confirmed plot changes that have surfaced have only cemented in my mind the belief that this will not be a faithful adaptation of C.S. Lewis's book.
I think it will be a most enjoyable and well made film. And I have decided to enjoy the changes as a story of their own, and not beat them up for differing from the book.
So, with that in mind, let's discuss what those changes actually are.
First of all, there is the casting. As I said previously, the casting in LWW (particularily of the Pevensies and Mr. Tumnus) was my favorite part of the whole film. And- apart from one character, I think the production has continued to do a superb job of picking actors who match their characters perfectly.
And that one character that is rather off the mark...well, he's one of the changes that I've decided to love.
He is, of course, Prince Caspian.
In the book, we are told that Caspian is young, about the same age as Peter- most of us understand that to be about 13 or 14. Ben Barnes is 26. However, as we've been told over and over again, William (who plays Peter) is 20, therefore casting someone who looks the same as as Peter is going to require someone older than the implied book age.
Secondly, of course, is the fact that Caspian is described as having golden hair. Hmmm. Not quite matching up there. This is where the production's decision to delve into the pirate background of the Telmarines (hence the "Spanish" feel) put them in a tough spot. Caspian had to match the rest of his people...therefore the "golden hair" went out the window.
What's the good side? The reports we've gotten on Ben Barnes so far seem to be very positive. I think he is going to make quite a dashing (er...swashbuckling...) prince of Narnia- and very enjoyable to watch. And on that note- here is a lovely new interview for your enjoyment!
Next up, of course, is the plot itself. Most fans of Narnia agree that the plot structure of Prince Caspian is almost impossible to translate to screen. As Mr. Gresham (Lewis's step-son) put it, it wouldn't exactly work to have the Pevensies sitting around a campfire for half of the film! (my paraphrase).
We're not exactly sure what all of the changes are. Some pictures seem to indicate that Caspian may join the Pevensies at the ruins of Cair Paravel (In the book, he doesn't meet any of them until they reach Aslan's How- and then only the boys). We do know for certain that the story begins in Narnia, with the birth of Caspian's cousin- an event which causes him to flee for his life.
Other changes include a "night raid" on Miraz's castle- the purpose of, again, we aren't sure. It seems that Lucy opposes this raid, and then goes on a "search" for Aslan. We also know that Aslan himself does not appear until quite close to the end of the film.
Another, more minor change that most people have been confused by in the trailer, is the appearance of the White Witch in the cavern of Aslan's How. As reader's of the book know, the hag and the werewolf offer to call her up, saying that witches can never really die. However, that is as far as they get- in the book. The film, it seems, chooses to show a bit more than this, requireing Edmund to break the enchantment- which, all in all, seems quite fitting. A film, after all, needs to show more than tell, and I'm anticipating that the emotional impact of actually seeing the White Witch will be much greater than just hearing of the possibility. (Clarification- it's not really her, it's merely a ghost-image)
And then there is the most controversial rumor of all....
This is one of the first bits of photographic evidence that we have of there being a flirtation/slight romance between Caspian and Susan. However, there's a lot more than this behind this particular rumor.
It all started a couple of years ago, when, as an April Fool's Day joke, the moderators at Narniaweb played a prank on all of us by posting a "rumored romance" between Caspian and Susan as a news item. The next day they admitted that it was a joke and took it down- in addition to several other news items that were also pranks. This is a yearly tradition at Narniaweb and a source of immense amusement to us all.
But...it now seems that the mods were righter than they knew...
In the Ben Barnes video production blog that was released online several months ago, there was a shot of Susan assisting Caspian with his archery aim- a shot that seemed to hint of "something more" between the two. This provoked enough fan discussion that we asked Mr. Gresham about it in an interview. He told us that there were more important things (like global warming) to worry about, but he did not deny it.
Then, much more recently, rumors of a pre-showing began to surface and several comments were posted to the effect that there was indeed a very subtle romance between Caspian and Susan. Something to the effect of "they flirt, he saves her, they kiss at the end."
Needless to say, since such an occurace as kissing never appears in the Narnian books (nor any hints of a romance between Susan and Caspian) this provoked quite a storm of outrage. Many theories on why this could have been invented by the filmmakers, and how it could add to the story (and Susan's eventual disbelief in Narnia) can be found on the Narniaweb forums. The general opinion remains that this romance (and certainly a kiss) has no place in Narnia.
However, some fans, like myself, who have decided to embrace the changes, find this all highly amusing and are delighted to have a bit of romance thrown into the mix. Since we gave up on a literal adaptation, there is simply no need waste our breath protesting it. And, I admit, that if May 16 comes and there is not even the slightest hint of a romance between those two, I'm going to feel slightly cheated.
After all, I think a lot of viewers not familiar with the books would find it rather odd to have a beautiful girl and a handsome guy in a film and not have some sort of romantic attraction. Again, this is a consequence of playing around with the ages.
But perhaps, not such a bad one after all.