Prince Caspian?

By

I haven’t seen it yet, but I just finished reading it again to my children.

Now, if you know me at all you know that I’m a cry-baby. For example, I got choked up tonight when I was watching Indiana Jones II with my boys for the first time. (It was when they cheered when Indy snapped out of his creepy trance by the lava pit and winked at Short Round. Woot!)  So of course my chin quivered when I read parts of Prince Caspian.

The book is full of moments that give me a window into the heart of the author and convince me all over again that something miraculous happened in C.S. Lewis’s life, and that something could only have been Christ. These aren’t stories that I read for their action or their plotting. I read them for the magic. For the old magic that reminds me again and again to be young at heart, that the Kingdom is made of such as these, that the stories I grew up on were true stories. As Pete wrote in his post about Indiana Jones, hints of that magic sometimes translate to film (though in a far less specifically Christ-centered sense).So the movie releases today to mostly positive reviews. And some of the negative ones come from Christians, particularly the ones who have a deep affection for the books. (Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog references a few of them.)

Now that you’ve seen the movie, what did you think? Did they pull it off? Did you get the sense that the filmmakers realized which parts of the book made it more than just another book? Does it even matter? Can I stop writing questions? I don’t think so? Who ate my cheeseburger? Yes?

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


34 Comments

  1. rachel

    IT WAS SOOO GOOD.

    obviously, things about the books that are AMAZING have to be left out for time. but i’m ok with that. i can understand when people are upset that the movie isn’t sixteen days long so that all of the book can be cinematized perfectly … but i’m ok with a two-hour abridgement.

    the scene when edmund delivers the message is especially good ….

    and this is how good it is: there is a scene near the end that actually brought my heart to worship the Lord. i don’t want to spoil it or change the moment and how it might affect someone else, but it was STINKIN GOOD!!

    the only bad part was the preview for some annoying disney movie that employed every single chihuahua that God ever put on this earth–SINGING. parents, bust out the advil now ….

  2. ashii

    Hey I have re-read the book just to recollect the story. I enjoyed then book even more.
    I can’t wait to see the movie!!
    I heard some very good reviews!!
    I shall be watching the movie over this weekend!!!

  3. Drew

    I’m expecting great things from this movie, mostly because the LWW film was really outstanding. In that one they managed to capture the book on film perfectly. The additional stuff was just icing. One of the better book-to-film translations I’ve seen. And if I can mention the earlier film, I did some serious holding-back-of-the-tears when the kids encountered Father Christmas.

    So signs point to me liking this one as well.

    But you know, as far as the books go, I have always felt that ‘Prince Caspian’ was the weakest book of the series. Half the book is all the backstory told by Trumpkin, and it just seems to meander to its conclusion. There are some neat surprises (and of course, the Narnia books are still fantastic), but perhaps the power of the book is in particular scenes rather than the story as a whole.

    One of the most powerful (to me) being the incident where the kids are lost in the woods, and Lucy keeps spotting Aslan, apparently indicating the way they should go. None of the other children see him, so they ignore Lucy’s insistence that Aslan is trying to lead them out. And Lucy very sadly goes along with the rest of the group.

    Later when they meet Aslan, Lucy explains that she wanted to follow him, but the rest of them wanted to go a different way. And Aslan makes it clear that she could have left the others and gone after him by herself — she could have followed him even if no one else did. “D’oh!”

    For some reason this is the first scene that pops into my mind when I think of Prince Caspian, and the part of the book that makes the whole book worth reading.

    Hmmm. Maybe I like the book better than I think.
    🙂

  4. John

    We’re going to see it this afternoon, and I’m soooo excited. My wife & I have both read the book a few (hundred) times and are expecting it to be less complete than the book, but more glorious on the big screen. Whooo Hooo – I can’t wait!

  5. Greg Sailors

    We just finished the book a few weeks ago and was on a road trip and listened to the Radio Theatre version… we are so excited about tonight!

  6. LIsa

    Hi there–sounds like you’re really looking forward to Prince Caspian! I wanted to let you know that it’s received the Truly Moving Picture Award–myself and a select jury screened the film and deemed it a movie that will move you. So, for what it’s worth, it’s already effecting audiences!

    Can’t wait to hear what you think of it, too!
    Lisa

  7. Stephen @ Rebelling Against Indifference

    I’m with Jeffrey on this one. He quotes Steven Greydanus as saying that “… while the essence of Lewis’s plot is preserved, the themes and ideas behind the story are largely lost.” I felt the same way about “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” – that it was true to the book in as much as it had 4 kids and a lion – but that the themes and ideas behind the story were completely changed. I haven’t read “Prince Caspian” in years, so I may go ahead and see the movie now so I can enjoy it as an “inspired-by-the-book” story, which it apparently does quite well, and not as a faithful adaptation of the story, where it misses the mark.

  8. Clay Marbry

    Haven’t seen the movie yet…hopefully this weekend. However, I too felt this was one of the weaker books, but recently re-read it anyway. One thing jumped off the page at me – the “wild people” around Aslan when Lucy and Susan are with him (while Peter and Edmund are preparing for battle and fighting the Telmarines). I was reminded again that “He is not a tame Lion”, that Jesus is not a Savior in a box or a sweet Jewish man or a just a good teacher. He is the all powerful Lord of all and I too often shy away from His majesty. How often have a missed something amazing Christ was doing because of my idea of “appropriate” or “proper”. Lewis was knocked silly by Christ’s overwhelming joy. I wish to be the same.

  9. Mike

    Drew, that’s the scene that I will forever connect with the Narnia series. It was life changing in that following when no other can see may lead them to follow as well. Part of the scene, (the first time Lucy meets Aslan again) when Lucy told Him that He looked bigger and He said something to the effect ” I haven’t grown Lucy. Its you that has grown. The bigger you get, the bigger I get.” That has been so true in my life. I’m amazed at the small god I used to think I knew.

    I just read it to my 6 year old son. We can’t wait to see it.

  10. Jeffrey Overstreet

    Rachel wrote: “Obviously, things about the books that are AMAZING have to be left out for time. but i’m ok with that. i can understand when people are upset that the movie isn’t sixteen days long so that all of the book can be cinematized perfectly … but i’m ok with a two-hour abridgement.”

    Hmm. Prince Caspian the book takes about two hours to *read.* The filmmakers could not have cut scenes like the scene with Bacchus for purposes of *duration.* They cut them because either because:

    A) they did not understand that this scene was essential to the meaning of Lewis’s story, or

    B) they *did* understand the spiritual insight at the core of the story and were actively striving to subvert them.

    When Dawn Treader comes around, watch carefully to see if the most important images are included (for example, the lion appearing as a lamb.)

    When filmmakers invent elaborate battle sequences, but then cut scenes that are essential to the heart of the story, it’s obvious what’s happening: They’re more interested in drawing teenage boys in for box office success than they are in challenging audiences to encounter a spiritually profound piece of storytelling.

  11. Chris Slaten

    I haven’t seen Prince Caspian yet. I am hoping to as soon as possible, however, something worth noting about the next movie: The director of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader will not be the king of Shrek again. Michael Apted is set to direct instead of Andrew Adamson. Apted directed Nell, Rome (tv series), and Amazing Grace (and a lot of other movies that I did’t recognize at first glance) and is the current president of the directors guild of America (I got all this from IMDB). Hopefully, he will do a better job of translating the depth of the stories onto the screen rather than just the plots, images and settings, than Adamson did on the first movie.

  12. Greg Sykes

    Wow, what a tough crowd. To reference a past debate, I guess some of you would have felt more like Adamson stayed faithful to the book had he tossed in a few curse words. Curse words create art, I guess.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the first movie and look forward to seeing this one tomorrow morning. I have three children that love the movie and the books, and I’m thankful to have films available that give me a template to discuss Lewis’ fantastic themes.

    I don’t think it’s fair to expect a movie to faithfully adapt all of the nuances and spiritual themes of a great book. Few movies ever rise to that level. But, the essence of the book was there in the first one — right down to the death and resurrection of Aslan — and I have been able to use the movie as a great springboard to presenting the Gospel to both my children and others.

    Considering this is a product of money-mad Hollywood, I’m relatively thankful and pleased. But I’m the fickle guy who doesn’t think cussing is a sign of maturity, or art, or Christian rebellion, so what do I know?

  13. Stephen @ Rebelling Against Indifference

    Mike, Steven Greydanus points out that they changed that line in the film. A small difference, yes, but it changes what Lewis was saying.

    “Yet, as noted in my review, the film makes slight edits in Aslan’s dialogue that subtly un-divinize him. For instance, Lewis has a seemingly larger Aslan tell Lucy, “I have not [grown]… every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” In the film, the line is simply, “Every year you grow, so shall I.”

  14. Jeff Cope

    GAH!

    As of right now I don’t know when we’re going to see Caspian.

    Normally our movie night is either Sunday night or Monday night due to my work schedule, but our babysitter (i.e. my sister-in-law) is leaving tomorrow morning for France. And, I fear, this movie is still quite beyond our 3-1/2 year old daughter.

    Hopefully we’ll see this sooner rather than later as the opportunity presents itself.

    I own a gaming/comics shop and have framed posters from both Narnia pictures adorning my walls.

  15. Nathaniel Miller

    I felt the movie was absolutely amazing. It was much better than the first movie and I like that book better. Did they take liberties? Of course. I can’t think of any book-based movie that is 100% faithful because if it were, the movie would probably suffer.

    To the Proprietor’s question though: did they capture what made this book something more than just another book? I don’t think the filmmakers went out of their way to push those themes forward. But things like having faith, even when no one else around you does, are there to be seen and discussed. You get the sense that a lot of the bad things that happen in the movie are the result of taking matters into their own hands instead of having faith in Aslan or seeking him out. So people may come away saying it wasn’t explicit enough if they like. But my take is the themes are there.

    With all the junk that Hollywood is putting out that is teaching things that are outright wrong and taking many Christians with them, I think we need to be quick to applaud movies like this one that are well made, teach good morals, and even give the opportunity to discuss truths from God’s Word.

  16. Karisa

    Haven’t seen it. Won’t see it. Haven’t seen “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” either.

    It’s not that I don’t like the books; they are some of my all-time favorites and I re-read them every year or two. It’s my love for The Chronicles that keeps me from going to the movies about them.

    No, this is not another indignant cry that the book is butchered in the movie. See, “The Lord of the Rings” is another set of my favorite books, and I rushed to the theatre to watch each as it was released…and they were AMAZING–possibly the three best movies I’ve ever seen. But they still weren’t as good as my imagination.

    So when I went to re-read “The Lord of the Rings” after watching the movies, I found that what I had imagined Gandalf to look like and the elves’ songs to sound like, had been replaced by what I’d seen and heard at the theatre. I can never regain the original pictures that were painted in my mind’s eye as I read Tolkien’s vivid descriptions. (Except Tom Bombadil is still all mine, since he didn’t make it into the movies!) ..And that, I think, is a grievous loss.

    …So that’s why I made the decision not to watch movies made out of beloved books I have read (i.e. “The Chronicles of Narnia”), or want to read some day. It’s a hard decision to stick to when I read all these reviews in the RR! Does anyone else feel this way?

  17. Arron

    The movie is to the book Caspian what Lord of the Rings II is to The Two Towers book…
    What edition (exactly, precisely, and preferably with the ISBN so I can find it) is that illustration from? It’s awesome…

  18. Joshua

    I’m sorry, the book was far superior to the movie. They changed so much that the book was barely recognizable. I felt like the screenwriters tried to impose their own themes on the movie (not necessarily bad themes, mind you) that were not found in the book. It seems to me that they had a checklist when writing the screen version: romance, (oh no, Lewis didn’t have that in the book, we’ll add it) check; rivalry, (once again, not in the book, we’ll add it) check; big battle scenes, (added again) check; etc…. It seems to me that while the movie was a fair enough story in its own right, it was not Prince Caspian in many ways. The appearance of the white which was, well, somewhat contrived. I feel like they could have stayed true-er to the story line, but then again, I am a critic. Let’s just say I won’t be watching this movie again and again.

  19. Joy C

    Hey Andrew, I’m trying to order some things at your RR store and no items appear.

  20. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    I thought the film was just about as good an adaptation as was possible. When I read the book a few weeks ago I wondered how on earth the adaptation was going to turn out because basically the entire story of the book can be wrapped up in about 15 mins of screen time. So the outcome is that the film (like many short story adaptations) is actually superior to the book in a LOT of ways (certainly not all). Nothing was outright fabricated but much was expanded on and rearranged to make a for a better film. I was sorry to see some things left out and changed and I wasn’t entirely happy about it, but overall I think there is little reason for complaint.

    If they’d left Bacchus in and cut Reepicheep, I’d have wanted my money back. Bacchus, like Tom Bombadil, simply won’t translate to the visual medium in a way that’s likely to be taken seriously.

    It appeared to me that there were some scenes cut, too. The subplot about Peter charging off and doing things his own way instead of waiting for Aslan should have resolved more explicitly and I had the distinct impression that there was a scene in there with Lucy somewhere that we didn’t get to see that would have really brought that storyline home.

  21. Kyle Kite

    Prince Caspian (the film) was amazing.

    I’m more than a fan of Narnia (Narnia, mind you. Not just the books, not just the movies, Narnia. Itself.)

    You can find several great interviews with the director, the producer, and the writters (respectively here, here, and here) that speak to their understanding of the story (and the truth therein).

    After seeing the film three (3) times, I feel that the film makers understand the book, better than many readers.

    Prince Caspian (the film) gripped my heart with bittersweet reality for the entire (wonderful) 2 1/2 hours.

    The struggle of faith is clear and yet artfully (and powerfully) conveyed.

    The theme of not being able to get back to the past, to “innocence”, and having to let it go and lose that sense of “control” and “safety” that the past brings, and, instead, press on by faith (in Aslan) was also very powerfully communicated.

    The characters relate the kind of depth that is not found “in the book”, that is in “the words on the pages”. Instead they are conveyed with a deep sense of reality and “believability”, much like we imagine them in our heads, by “filling in the gaps” between the lines written on the page.

    All of the “changes” made, can either be chalked up to:

    1. Re-ordering the scenes so that the plot becomes more visually linear; or

    2. “Filling in the gaps” where Lewis has not explicitly stated what does (or doesn’t) take place.

    I guess everybody has their own tastes and opinions. But these movies (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) have encouraged my wife and I like no other movies have. We’re thankful for them.

    P.S. – The music was incredible. I don’t mean to give too much away, but the use themes and variations from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was a deeply moving part of the storyline. The soundtrack nearly tells the whole story.

  22. Michael Terry

    Kyle… I respectfully differ.

    For me the problems ran deep in this movie. They didn’t play out how taboo it was for the professor and the nurse( who was completely omitted) to share anything about Narnia. In the movie it was simply a forgotten part of history. Another part missing is the theme of faith and sight, with faith opening one’s eyes to the extent that one believes. We do see where Lucy sees Aslan when no one else does — however, the rest of that story, in which Aslan is at first invisible to the children until one by one they begin to see him in proportion to their openness and willingness to see him. I also think the portrayal of Peter, though much stronger than LWW is pretty bad. In the beginning he is fighting because he feels like because he was a king in Narnia he shouldn’t be treated “like a kid” now. Then he gets to narnia and is in a stupid pride battle with Caspian over control. Lewis always showed peter (in Caspian) to be very understanding of Caspian’s role in Narnia vs. his. I didn’t really hate this one until the scene inside Aslan’s How where the white witch was conjured. Strangely reminiscent of Frodo vs. the Ring Adamson didn’t trust Lewis’ storytelling and thought that both Caspian AND Peter had to be drawn by a siren-like white witch. Like Jackson turning Faramir into a much weaker version of his written self Adamson ruins Caspian as a character for me in that scene. How do we go from:
    ————
    Above the steadily increasing growl of the Badger and Cornelius’s sharp “What?” rose the voice of King Caspian like thunder.

    “So that is your plan, Nikabrik! Black sorcery and the calling up of an accursed ghost. And I see who your companions are-a Hag and a Werewolf!”
    ————

    in the actual book, to the scene in the movie where Caspian decides that conjuring the witch is a good thing and then Peter falling for it too.

    Here is a link to the entire chapter from PC Compare that chapter to the movie. That is where Adamson lost me completely

    http://www.mylibrarybook.com/books/671/C.S-Lewis/Prince-Caspian-9.html

    And Susan kissing Caspian was too much for me to bear!

    I agree with this reviewer who said,

    ———–
    “None of this, though, mitigates the fact that while the essence of Lewis’s plot is preserved, the themes and ideas behind the story are largely lost. If the first Narnia film got perhaps two-thirds of Lewis’s intended meaning, Caspian is lucky if it gets a quarter. That may not directly detract from its merits as escapist fantasy, but Lewis fans with regrets about the first film will feel betrayed by the second — and not just because events have been changed…

    More inspired by the book than adapting it, Caspian is most likely to appeal to those not especially attached to the book, which is after all a lesser work flanked by two more popular tales. The next hurdle, though, matters a lot more: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader demands better than this series at its best has been able to deliver. If the same team were going on to the third film, I would be about ready to write it off now.”
    ——–

    Honestly, having reread the book today, I would almost rather have no movie than have the movie that was made. That is totally just me though.

  23. Andrew C

    I thought that for the big part of it, it was very well done. They took more artistic license with PC than with LWW. But as I thought about it, there are some very deep spiritual concepts communicated in PC (the book; such as Lucy continuously seeing Aslan when nobody else will, and her coming to the point that she must follow him no matter what anyone else does). The majority of the secular audience that sees PC probably would not understand very much of the truth communicated within that because they don’t have eyes to see it. But I think that through the license they took in the movie, the same spiritual principles were taught in a way that was more easily grasped by the majority audience.

    It was awesome and I’ll watch it over and over again…

  24. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Hey, folks.

    First of all, I found the above picture in Google Images by searching for Prince Caspian. I’m pretty sure it turned up on NarniaWeb.com, where it’s downloadable as a screensaver. And I agree, the picture is pretty awesome.

    I saw the movie this afternoon with my family and another family from church. I tried and tried to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, but in the end I had to land on the side of the sorely disappointed. I just don’t think I’ll ever watch the movie again. I don’t think I’ll encourage my kids to watch it again either. I’m pretty sure every one of the moving moments in the book were either jettisoned or tamed so as to be nearly unrecognizable. Like Simon Cowell says, it’s just an opinion. But there it is.

    I keep reading from Gresham and Adamson and other filmmakers that there are certain elements that a movie must have in order for it to work, like the presence of a love interest, or bawdy action, or certain kinds of conflict (though of course, conflict is necessary), and I agree to an extent. But if you have to deconstruct a great book and rebuild it into something barely recognizable in order for it to work as a movie, why bother? The silly rivalry between Caspian and Peter was contrived. The temptation of the witch was implausible and pointless. It’s already been said a zillion times, but Lewis’s central themes were ignored. I believe that if he came back to life and saw this film he would’ve cringed that his point was missed. And with these books, there was always a point.

    The Narnia books are great stories, but they make no apologies about being didactic. The finest thing about these books is the truth in them. It’s not the plotting, or the dialogue, or the mythology Lewis created. It’s when you brush up against Christ himself roving throughout the story. It’s when you remember how to be a child again. It’s when the milk-faced Jesus of your weak imagination shakes loose the trappings you’ve put on him and he bares his holy arm. I find myself reading these books again and again for the moments when Aslan roars, because I believe that roar is real, and that it woke Jack Lewis a half a century ago and worked its way through his pen to the written page, and when I read his words aloud to my children last week that roar was so vibrant in my imagination that I could almost hear it. Indeed, I wanted to hear it with my physical ears more than I wanted anything in the world.

    None of that yearning–none of it–stirred in me at the cinema today.

    But then, who knows? Maybe some people felt it. Maybe seeds will be planted, and people will read the stories now who wouldn’t have otherwise. Maybe it’ll lead someone to Scripture, and to the real Story, and they’ll understand it better because Lewis’s story pointed them to it, in spite of the producers’ meddling. I’m glad to hear some of you enjoyed the film, and I ought to make the disclaimer that my opinion of the movie isn’t meant to belittle or put anyone on the defensive. If we were in the real Rabbit Room, I imagine the discussion would be lively but good-natured–and it would come to a blessed halt when the fish and chips arrived at the table.

  25. lyndsay

    karisa – i’m with you. well, in heart at least, since i saw LWW and i’ll probably see Caspian (mainly b/c my hubby is beyond excited about seeing it) but i really, really didn’t like LWW (for lots of reasons) and i imagine i’ll hold the same opinion as AP about Caspian. i love these books so much – more than i ever thought i could love a story – and i don’t think any moviemaker could capture the magic and essence of the story. no offense to moviemakers of course.

  26. Caleb Land

    Saw the movie last night…I get what your saying on many of the major plot points being removed, but honestly, I didn’t expect much less. However I think I need to tell you this story.

    My wife has never read the books. She hates fantasy. I had to drag her to see this with me. She walked out in tears and more in love with Jesus because of the elements of the book that were left in! The childlike faith of Lucy and the loving but ferocious Aslan. She loved seeing Aslan save Lucy and then curl up on the ground with her. It really impacted her to see Lucy standing on the bridge and drawing her dagger to face the oncoming army with total faith in Aslan’s strength.

    I prefer the book because it is packed with so much more meaning and I cherish the story and the truth it teaches, but I’m also thankful that my wife and many others who will never crack the pages of the book got to experience the powerful metaphor of Aslan that Lewis created.

    Besides, though it lacks the truth and simple beauty of the book, it has far more than the majority of standard blockbuster fare.

  27. Peter B

    AP, thanks for laying out your thoughts, as always. I just love the interplay of ideas here, the dissonance of differences, the sparks that fly when iron sharpens iron.

    And I would imagine your pub serves a mean fish and chips! I’ll have a Smithwick’s with mine, please.

    Still looking forward to seeing the film, hopefully with sufficiently lowered expectations…

  28. Mike Harris-Stone

    “The Narnia books are great stories, but they make no apologies about being didactic. The finest thing about these books is the truth in them.”
    ————————–
    I guess I’d respectfully disagree with you here. I don’t think Lewis meant the Narnia stories to be didactic at all. He loved stories and I think trusted his imagination. The truths crept in or, in the case of Aslan, “bounded in.” You can’t separate the medium from the message. They’re the same thing. If you just care about truth, why tell stories at all? Unless stories themselves embody a different sort of truth, one you can’t get at any other way.

    I’d say the films have their own examples of this, but being a different medium, it comes through different and simply can’t replicate what’s in the book. I loved the film, though I saw flaws, for the visual, emotional story it told. Seeing a film can never be the same or a near equivalent of reading a book. Nor should it be. Some other filmmaker, starting with Caspian, could make a VERY different film. If I was writing the screenplay myself, it would have been a very different film. The same holds true IMHO for The Lord of the Rings. But for me that doesn’t invalidate the film, or the enjoyment of it.

  29. 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

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