Saturday, June 7, 2008

Whether in Beruna or Birnam, When The Trees Start Moving, You Know You're Screwed

I've seen Prince Caspian ("Now With 60% More Battle Action!") twice now. Figure I might as well post a review of sorts.

Prince Caspian is the least exciting of the Narnia books, story-wise; like The Fellowship of the Ring, way too much of the book involves characters walking through a forest. Walden Media solved that problem for us by including about two hours of battle footage that had no relevance to the original text, e.g. Operation Storm Miraz's Castle. They also threw in a romance between Susan and Caspian, which, if we're going anywhere near canon, could have been played as a precursor to "Susan grows up to be silly and boycrazy," but they played it as an OTP.

Probably the worst thing about the movie -- besides the gratuitous battle sequences -- was the representation of the Telmarines. Darker-skinned and funny accents! (I use the term "funny" literally; it seems like some voice coach invented an accent for the characters by taking a myriad of elongated vowel sounds and mushing them all together.) This doesn't bode well for the future films; Lewis' Calmorenes are drawn almost as racially insulting as Dahl's Oompa-Loompas, and it would be too easy for Walden to go Calmorene = Muslim = Evil.

The thing about the Telmarines is that by this point in Narnian chronology they aren't so much a "race" of mysterious, evil, accent-wielding people as they are a nationality. After 1500 years of wandering and conquering and marrying the people of Narnia and the Lone Islands, there isn't so much a "good guys = British accents, bad guys = funny accents" thing going on. Miraz' wife is named Prunaprisma. The cultures have merged together.

Oh, and then at the end of the book/movie Aslan sends the Telmarines back to twentieth-century Earth. I think I didn't really understand the implications of that when I was a kid. He opens a door and takes all of the Telmarines who don't want to be ruled by Caspian and pushes them through into 1945 Polynesia. He promises that they will have a good life there, but I can't imagine how.

One of the things I really liked about the movie was its acknowledgment of the fact that the Pevensie children grew up in Narnia and became adults, and then were shunted back to childhood when they fell back through the wardrobe. (They're the only people in history who got to go through puberty twice.) Lewis never really dealt with that, and I always wanted to know more about what it felt like for the kids. To go from thirty years old to eight years old in a second, and to carry all of that knowledge (of what it felt like, physically and mentally, to be adult) with you.

(Incidentally, when I was young and reading The Last Battle, whenever I felt sad that the Pevensie children died while they were still teenagers, I consoled myself with the knowledge that they had at least gotten to live for about 50 years, if you counted their adulthoods in Narnia.)

After the movie, my sister and I decided that Peter and Caspian had their battle strategy all wrong. Susan has a magic bow and a quiver of unlimited arrows that will always hit their target. Lucy has a cordial that can heal any wound. Their strategy should have been "Susan shoots her magical arrows at the bad guys; Lucy heals Susan (and herself) any time they are wounded. Everyone else goes to Aslan's How and hides." ^__^

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