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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant adaptation of the book, 20 July 2008
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This review is from: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2-Disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
This review was originally based on having been to see the film in the cinema with my family. We subsequently watched it again on DVD and I have updated the review to reflect this.

Andrew Adamson and the team who produced "The Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe [DVD] [2005]" surpassed themselves this time. All four of the actors who played the Pevensie children are brilliant and the film introduces Ben Barnes who is spellbinding as Caspian.

If you enjoyed either the original book or the first film you will almost certainly love this adaptation.

Apart from the five leads, other excellent performances come from Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan and Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep, the leader of the talking mice - an incredibly difficult role to bring off because he has to be funny in places but also genuinely heroic. (If you've not read the book, imagine a version of Antonio Banderas's character from Shrek II except that where the swordfighting "Puss in Boots" is 80% comic and 20% hero, Reepicheep the swordfighting mouse is 80% hero and 20% comic.) Warwick Davis - who played Reepicheep in the BBC version 20 years ago - is superb this time as the black dwarf Nikabrak and Peter Dinklage is even better as the cynical but golden hearted dwarf Trumpkin.

Previous reviewers have posted some excellent descriptions of the film from the viewpoint of a newcomer to Narnia, so I will add a few comments aimed at those who are familiar with the books but have not yet seen the film.

Surprisingly, the film managed both to be reasonably true to the spirit of the book and also keep me in suspense, because the way the story was presented kept me thinking the film must be about to diverge from Lewis's plot, though it ususlly didn't. In fact almost all the major events of the book eventually happened in the film in more or less the same way, along with most of my favourite details of the book, though the order of events is not quite the same.

What's missing: Bacchus and his wild girls have been censored, and any schoolteachers cursed with naughty children may be disappointed to learn that the scene where a class of horrid little boys get turned into pigs has been taken out. The Bulgy Bear does get to be one of the Marshals for the duel between Peter and Miraz: the delightful little exchange when he reminds Peter that he has the right to that position "I'm a bear, I am!") didn't make it into the final cut, but on the second disc of the DVD release it is one of the "deleted scenes". When Aslan summons the River God, the latter manifests as a man in the shape of a column of water rather than weeds and doesn't need any further permission ("Hail, Lord! Loose my chains") to deal with the Bridge of Beruna.

What's been added: this story gives far more details of the battles than the original book, and also to the political manouvering amongst the Telmarines. In the original the initial battle between the forces of Caspian and the Narnians, and those of the Telmarines loyal to Miraz, is passed over in a few lines written in the past tense. In the film a completely different battle which has an equivalent place in the story is shown in gripping detail. The desperate battle which follows the duel between Peter and Miraz is also depicted in much greater detail than in the book.

The beginning of the film spends slightly longer in wartime England before the Pevensie children are called back to Narnia than in the book, and confronts some of the problems that they, particularly Peter, would have faced on their return to our world at the end of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." If you can imagine spending a decade or two in another word in which you were the High King, during which you had grown to manhood, commanded armies, fought and won wars, and then you had to go back to being an ordinary teenager - it would be pretty difficult, wouldn't it?

Anna Popplewell's character Susan Pevensie also gets a significantly meatier role than in the book: Queen Susan is not just a formidable archer herself but plays a heroic role commanding the Narnian archers at the Battle of Beruna and she also has what gets very close to a romance with Caspian. One of the deleted scenes on disc II was cut partly because the producers did not want to overdo the romantic tension between Susan and Caspian, but what they left in still has plenty of it.

Having built up Susan's character as much as they have in this film, the producers may have created even more trouble than they would probably already have had if they follow the original detail and allow her to drift away from Narnia as recorded in the book "The Last Battle." This treatment of Susan is probably the most controversial aspect of the seven books although it is not true, as frequently alleged (especially by people who want to denigrate C.S. Lewis) that Susan is excluded from heaven. The reason Susan doesn't meet the other characters in Heaven at the end of the series is that she isn't dead yet. (When Lewis was subsequently asked about this his reply, published posthumously in the book "Letters to Children," was that Susan may eventually get to heaven.) Speaking as an arch-purist where being true to Lewis's original vision is concerned, a more positive role for Susan at the end of the series is one of the few modifications which would not annoy me.

Controversy over the whether Caspian and Susan are romantically attracted has continued with respect to both this film and the third one, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in which Lucy asks Caspian if he has found his Queen yet, and he replies that he hasn't found a girl who can compete with her sister.

C.S. Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, who has been involved with all three films to date, has said that he strongly disagrees with the idea of a romance between Caspian and Susan, but he was reluctant to over-rule the director. Gresham's interpretation of Caspian's fascination with Susan is that she is a legendary figure from Caspian's childhood, and that he sees her as a legend made flesh rather than someone he wants to marry: you can view this film in that way and it does work.

Peter and Susan are told at the end of "Prince Caspian" that they are not coming back to Narnia, but both William Moseley (Peter) and Anna Popplewell (Susan) get cameo parts in scenes set on our world in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." If the team who produced this manage to make films of all seven books, Moseley will presumably get a modest part as High King Peter in "The Last Battle" and Anna Popplewell will presumably be offered a chance to play a fairly important one as the adult Queen Susan in "The Horse and his Boy" which is set during the Golden Age towards the end of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" e.g. the period while the Pevensies are Kings and Queens in Narnia, before they return to Earth at the end of the book.

Conclusion: broadly true to the book, gripping and exciting, well worth going to see. This left me eagerly anticipating the return of Ben Barnes, Skandar Keyes (Edmund), and Georgie Henshaw (Lucy) in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" which hit cinemas at the end of 2010 and which I and my family did indeed enjoy immensely.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Sep 2008, 09:58:32 BST
L. Jelinek says:
Absolutely well said...I agreed with everything reported!!

Posted on 27 Aug 2009, 16:56:23 BST
An excellent review - and one I thoroughly agree with. Having read all the books as a child I'm not ashamed to admit that I've enjoyed watching both Prince Caspian and TLW&W, even though I'm probably considered 'too old' and certainly not the film makers target audience. It's interesting to read a review that is intelligent and comes from someone with obvious knowledge of what they are talking about. Thank you !
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