Sunday, January 4, 2009

Prince Kickstand

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Never read the book series, so this is only a review of the film. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

You get your standard fantasy film plot here: the evil brother of the king of the Telmarine people of Narnia wants to claim the throne as his own, so he seeks to off the heir to the throne, one young Prince Caspian. While being pursued by the baddies, Prince C blows a magic horn summoning the Fantastic Four - the four Penvensie children - to Narnia to help him keep his throne. See what I mean by standard plot.

This being an adaptation of a C.S. Lewis novel, there is a watered down thread involving Aslan the (Christ) Lion. In the 1,300 years that have actually passed in Narnia since the Penvensies last camped out, the human Telmarines drove the magical mythical inhabitants (centaurs, minotaur, Frankenberry, Snagglepuss and other talking animals) underground. Out of sight, out of mind. The same fate befell Aslan – the people (human and magical) no longer believe in him.

Little Lucy Penvensie is the only one who still believes in faeries, unicorns, Count Chocula, and the Easter Bunny, so of course she sees Aslan, while her disbelieving older siblings, Prince Caspian and the rest of the adults do not. Basically, Aslan let Narnia fall into ruin, and let thousands – if not millions – of people die because they no longer believed in him. Aslan...more like "Ashole."

Much of this story, especially the action beats, are note for note copies from The Lord of the Rings. There is of course, the interminable walking/riding to Somewhere, then falling into general shenanigans scenes. There is the “red sea” bit – done well with Arwen in Fellowship of the Ring – where the river rises up to swallow the baddies (here it’s who I’ll call “Mr. Seaman,” a humanoid shape in the water). There’s the castle siege, as in Two Towers and Return of the King. There’s the wide open field battle scene, as in Return of the King (and the first Narnia film). The LOTR has hobbits named Frodo and Sam, here the little people are dwarf characters named Trumpkin and Nikabrik. The LOTR has intelligent treelike beings called Ents, here walking trees at Aslan's command help save the day.

Add to this mix non-LOTR elements like Trufflehunter the talking badger and Reepicheep the talking swashbuckling mouse, and Snarflepuffnstuf the ganja goat (okay, that last one was fake). The names are often a little too cutesy for my tastes, although I did enjoy Eddie Izzard’s turn as the voice of Reepicheep, mainly because I am on an Eddie Izzard kick (check out his stand up bit on YouTube about Darth Vader in the Death Star canteen – you'll never look at a cafeteria tray in the same way again).

I’m more a science fiction guy than a fantasy guy, and this movie is a perfect example of why – the indiscriminate use of magic to save the day/move the plot along. Do the Penvensies have to use something like Platform 9 ¾ to get to Narnia, or at least the same wardrobe from the first movie? No, they are just “magically” summoned (by the magic horn) while waiting for the tube in London. Once Lucy rubs Aslan’s belly and pets his perfectly coiffed man he howls and magically summons the Ents, or rather their cousins – other walking trees with roots that magically elongate like Mr. Fantastic’s limbs to stretch out and engulf the enemy. How do the kids return to London, why through a magic tree that Aslan magically re-shapes. They walk through it in their Narnian garb and emerge in the same London tube magically dressed in their school clothes. Yeah, magic fucking sucks.

The Pevensie kids suffer no consequences; it’s not even clear that they learn anything, other than Aslan wants you to believe in him, so he will believe in you. Or something. In the Harry Potter films, Harry and his friends suffer greatly and often get the crap kicked out of them, but they learn to trust, respect and support each other. They face huge challenges and many obstacles, and sometimes loose friends along the way, but they grow after experiencing them. In that series, magic has consequences. The Narnia films (so far) are the exact opposite. There are no consequences because everything will magically turn out for the better in the end (if you just believe in Aslan).

Beam me outta this mess.

1 comment:

  1. Magic...Zzzzz...

    As you point out in your post, and as I have always bitched about, magic powers are so arbitrary in fantasy fiction (as if there is another kind - fantasy non-fiction?). If Gandalf / Darth Vader / etc has all of these incredible powers, why does he ever need to wave a sword around at all?