The family took in a matinee showing of Prince Caspian. I’d heard mediocre reviews, so I had low expectations. I knew they’d have to add some subplot because the book is pretty thin, and the long narration of Caspian’s boyhood would have been out of place in an action/adventure movie (which is how they’re billing the franchise).
Many of the reviews complain that there’s little character development, and while I can see their point, I do think that the expansion of Peter’s temptation was a good choice to ramp up the dramatic energy. But Peter was never in any real danger, thanks to Edmund’s wisdom, so that moment came and went quickly.
Edmund has settled into playing his older brother’s wiser (but no less brave) right-hand man; he battled his demons in the last book, and he’ll be back, so I can understand why he didn’t have much screen time. His expression of trust in Lucy’s vision of Aslan was touching.
A romance between Susan and Caspian was not part of the book, but it fits very nicely into the structure of the story. Susan’s disapproval as she sees how similar both Caspian and Peter are, is nicely mirrored by her happiness when both boys demonstrate restraint at a climactic point. I’m not sure my six-year-old caught the subtlety, but it was handled intelligently; and an added scene with Susan and Caspian also gives Lucy a reason to go on a mission by herself, which highlighted her transformation. Seeing her walking beside Aslan, daintily drawing a tiny dagger at a key moment, was a delight.
Thanks to the Lord of the Rings movies, we’ve already seen CGI waves wash away horsemen, flying creatures storming a stronghold, and warrior trees, so there were some “ho hum” moments when I was clearly supposed to be stunned by the spectacle, but instead I just thought, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good effect.” The final return to the train station was very well done — one of those special effects that sneaks up on you without calling attention to itself.
The film did a good job presenting Peter as a battle-hardened veteran with something to prove, but it wasn’t very clear why Edmund and Susan also thought the battle was still worth fighting. I had to draw on what I knew from the Narnia books to fill in the details.
I was worried that the cute talking squirrel would lead the movie into a Jar-Jar kind of hell, but they didn’t do much with him or the Bulgy Bears or the giant. The fact that I wanted more of Reepicheep means they handled him nicely (though his big scene with Aslan came across as a little forced).
The emo song that started playing during the final scene didn’t appeal to me, and the Telmarine society never really seemed real to me (changes to the plot structure means we don’t get to see the glimpses of civilian life that form a big part of Aslan’s role in the book), but we’ll definitely buy the DVD when it comes out. It was a good fantasy film, with a simple plot, stylized battles that are intense but not gory.