Thursday, July 03, 2008

Prince Caspian – The Good and the Bad

I’ve seen the latest Narnia film twice now. I often have to watch films twice before working out what I think of them, especially films which I care about a lot, such as those adapted from books of which I am a fan. Here is what I thought of the film, divided into the good and the bad.

The Good

1. It’s a good story. The book is good, and the filmmakers adapted it well. The major plot change from the book was the assault on Miraz’s castle, and I thought it worked well. It was an excellent action set-piece and also fleshed out Peter’s and Caspian’s characters a lot.

2. The visuals were excellent. Obviously it was filmed in New Zealand so the scenery is quite spectacular, but I thought the CGI was also very good, where it hadn’t been in places in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. There was a large variety of creatures, which all looked good, and sets such as Aslan’s How and Miraz’s castle look awesome.

3. As an action film, it really delivers. Two big set-piece battles are both well thought out and original. There is even one tactic I doubt anyone has even thought of before!

4. It didn’t try to be LOTR. When I saw the trailer I thought it looked similar to a lot of things in Rings, but it’s most definitely different. Obviously there are parallels, both being fantasy novels written by two best friends. But Caspian is very much its own film and doesn’t try to live up to LOTR. I feel this is critical, to distance itself from such an epic.

5. The religious themes and analogies are not avoided, and there are quite a lot of interesting ideas in the script. It’s been over a decade since I read the books so I’m not sure how much of this was original to the film and how much is from CS Lewis, but either way, it gives the film a nice theological edge.

6. The acting (in general) was good. Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell and Ben Barnes all do a good job (though restricted by the script – see below), and the adult cast are all very competent in their roles.

7. The ending song (The Call, by Regina Spektor) is as good an ending song as I’ve heard apart from LOTR. It fits perfectly with the knowledge that Peter and Susan won’t be returning, and contributes a great deal to reason 8…

8. The sense of loss at the end of the film is very poignant. It is built up from the very beginning with the Pevensies, developing what they go through in living the double life between England and Narnia, and concludes in the final scene as they return to England, the older two for the final time. I found I could really empathise with them. I can't remember the last film that made me feel like that.

The Bad

1. William Moseley is often not convincing as Peter. It’s hard to know how much is due to him and how much to the director, but he just seems to be taking himself to seriously. I know this is part of Peter’s character, but it’s just not convincingly done.

2. The infamous romance between Caspian and Susan is a little silly to be honest. It’s added in to try to give extra interest, but it’s really not needed and doesn’t really work. It looks like it’s just there to keep the little girls happy (which, to be blunt, it probably is).

3. The script is inconsistent in its quality. Bits are good, but bits are very poor. It feels like they ran out of time and interest in the writing stage. This makes it difficult for the actors at times.

4. The filmmakers tried to cram in too much comic relief. The banter between the Pevensies is good and works well, but many lines from the Narnians just aren’t funny if you’re any older than 8, and some of them are just stupid.

Many of the downsides to the film are a consequence of it being a family film, but I really do think the silly one-liners and romance could be removed and the film still be appealing to kids. But overall, the film was good. I thought it was more exciting and convincing than the first one, and I was significantly moved by it. The plot was great, the pace was fine, the action was exciting. Bring on The Dawn Treader!

P.S. This film had an ‘epilogue’ section nearly as long as that at the end of Return of the King…I wonder if anyone will be complaining about this one? (see earlier post from May 14th)

P.P.S. Interesting trivia: Actor Warwick Davies (Nikabrik) portrayed the characters Reepicheep and Glimfeather in the BBC productions of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of The Dawn Treader (1989) and The Silver Chair (1990).

1 comment:

James Doc said...

I look forward to seeing it on Saturday! Should be good fun! Switchfoot are also in the soundtrack I believe