Prince Caspian: Resident of a Darkened World
PG 2 hours 20 minutes
The four Pevensie children found everyday life in London tiresome following the high adventure of defeating the White Witch and establishing the Golden Age of the Kingdom of Narnia with the help of Aslan(voice by Liam Neeson), the lion. Their reign in peaceful Narnia had come to an abrupt end as they re-entered the wardrobe and tumbled back into wartime England of the 1940’s. Peter (William Moseley), once High King Peter the Magnificent, especially, seems to be in constant conflict with his schoolmates. The four long for the land where they spent so many happy years, when, in of all places the London Underground, they feel themselves pulled back into Narnia. A beach of unearthly beauty appears in front of them and at first they were overwhelmed with joy and release at being back in their true home.
But this wasn’t the Narnia they remembered; no longer did the water sing, the trees dance and the animals speak. There was a savagery and oppression in Narnia, and soon the children discovered the secret; they had returned to Narnia centuries after their reign and their beloved homeland is in dire need of their help. Prince Caspian(Ben Barnes), the heir to the throne of Telmar, a fugitive from his uncle King Miraz(Sergio Castellitto) who wanted the throne for his newborn son, had summoned the Pevensie children with Susan’s magic horn.
In the dark kingdom of Telmar on the other side of the river, the inhabitants had long considered the story of Aslan’s salvation of Narnia, and the brave deeds of its Kings and Queens, fairy tales for children and the simple-minded. Prince Caspian whose parents were dead, was forbidden by King Miraz to learn of such things, yet his wise and gentle Professor (Vincent Grass) had secretly told him the truth. The young Prince hardly dared believe in such nobility, living as he did in a kingdom of darkness, ruled by his uncle, a violent usurper to the throne.
Prince Caspian and King Peter form an alliance which is fraught with tension, caused by Caspian’s’ desire for revenge, and Peter’s pride. Lucy(Georgie Henley), however, has seen Aslan who wants to lead them. Would the proud and impetuous princes heed the faith of a child?
“Prince Caspian” was written by CS Lewis in 1951, as Europe, recoiling from the savagery of World War II, was dismayed to find the nations liberated by the Allies from Nazis under a new oppressor; the Soviet Communists. The Cold War snuffed the glow of the Allied victory and overshadowed the ensuing decades with the specter of international nuclear war. Lewis, who died in 1967, never lived to see the break up of the Soviet Empire, and one wonders if, by using the name ‘Caspian’, he meant to evoke the Caspian Sea, which borders Russia, and the rejection and oppression of religious belief in Telmar, the atheistic dogmatism of Communism. Director/Producer/Screenwriter Andrew Adamson seemed to imply this by having the swarthy Telmarines speak with Eastern European accents, and cloaking their Kingdom in darkness, suggesting an evil empire. Telmarine-oppressed Narnia, though brighter than Telmar, reflects little of its former glory, even the animals are no longer civilized. As Narnian Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) explains the change, “If you are treated like a dumb animal, that is what you become”.
Prince Caspian speaks powerfully of bravery, self-sacrifice, and the importance of remembering one’s cultural heritage as a means of comprehending the present. Pride is seen as a vice, which forgets faith, yet violence itself is not eschewed, as Caspian and the Pevensies defend the rights of the oppressed. The heroes of Narnia are no lambs, after all they are led by a lion.
Spectacular natural scenery seen in powerful aerial shots combined by the familiar lyrical musical themes from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, effectively transport the audience into another world. A teenage girl who attended the movie with me, said, “it’s depressing to come out of this movie because you have to leave Narnia and face reality”. Like the Pevensie children, you find that the longing for Narnia remains a part of you.
Recommended for children ten and up. Some frightening though unbloody battle scenes, a noisy though non-graphic birth scene, one kiss on the mouth, and a disturbing scene of delving into the occult may frighten younger children.
12/2008 UPDATE: I had an opportunity to interview William Mosely the actor who played Peter Pevensie, last month, in Hollywood. He's taking a photography course in London, and snapped the photo in the blog header out the hotel window after I commented on what a great theme it would create for CMR.