4
Jul 08

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA PART 2: PRINCE CASPIAN or WHOS’ GOT THE HORN?

Do You See + FT + The Brown Wedge///////13 comments • 4,738 views

nymph and satyrThe problem with any film of this second Narnian book is that — while it has strong scenes and beasts galore — the logic behind its structure is, more than anything else, Aslan Arses About (for c.1300 years). He’s not a tame lion, you know — no indeed, but he is an extremely passive-aggressive and self-satisfied one, never more than this story, and no actor can read his lines without underlining this. Nor can any director hope to expand on the memorable scenes and beasts without giving in to how pellmell pagan this story is, first to last. It isn’t Christian and it isn’t clever: and while I don’t think it especially steps on your fond memories of the original, it massively wimpily sidesteps Aslan’s tactical masterstroke in the book, where he calls to arms the Wine God (Silenus with his fat ass) and the Party God Magnus Bacchus, and they supplement their army of maenad riot grrls with a division of hott and bovvered schoolgirls…

The problem of the Telmarines: book-Telmarines are Puritan colonisers, Early Americans if you will, pirates-turned-moralisers out of sync with the nature they’ve invaded. They had excellent pointy helmets and nifty mini-skirts. Film-Telmarines are Spanish Conquistadors extpriating the Aztecs, proud and treachorous all, except for tyrant-usurper Miraz, who is Hitler obv, and therefore Iranian. Their military knowhow is negligeable — they don’t even know that footsoldiers should break stride on a nearly built bridge — but luckily they are up against the cluelessl of Old Narnia.

The problem of Narnians: Centaurs and Satyrs and Furries oh my! Mr Tumnus (as channelled by Mallarmé, one afternoon): “I adore you, wrath of virgins–fierce delight/Of the sacred burden’s writhing naked flight/From the fiery lightning of my lips that flash/With the secret terror of the thirsting flesh:/From the cruel one’s feet to the heart of the shy,/Whom innocence abandons suddenly,/Watered in frenzied or less woeful tears.” <— This is what kosher fauns get up to when it isn’t winter. In the film, the massed ranks of centaurs are all nips up top, all pubes everywhere else. Old Narnians are REALLY REALLY none too bright, at least outside the ranks of Dwarf Nikabrik’s sadly thwarted Campaign for REAL Old Narnians (CAMRON) (Carmody to thread!)

The problem of war: is the problem of the story. War is, like, horrible: and to be remotely exciting on film today it has to be amped UP not tamped down. In the book it’s a romp where nearly no one gets killed; the film has to stand against LotR and Troy and 300 and whatevs. It’s a tough call guess which side adopts the more incompetently insane strategy: the Narnians who stand in FRONT and then undermine their own fortifications, or the Telamarines, who set their cavalry off at charge then fire massive trebuchet boulders at them from behind. “We detest and fear the trees! Let’s do battle right in the middle of them!” Etc. Perversely, I rather liked the added-in castle-attack: the book sees General Caspian, on his own and untrained, lead a failed foray — Giant Wimbleweather broke out “at the wrong time and from the wrong place”, and a centaur is “terribly wounded” — and its glum aftermath (poor dim Wimbleweather crying all over everyone). The film turns this into a Robin Hood-type escapade, which goes wrong bcz Caspian and Peter are squabbling inexperienced rivals, bcz plans are not stuck to, and bcz castles are kinda built to withstand Robin Hood-type escapades, 90 years of cinema cliche notwithstanding. So hurrah for PC’s plot-departing genre-busting daring here, even if it does mean a bunch of lovely Furries dying in horrible agony, a downer even Lucy’s winsome freckles and snub nose can’t entirely dilute. Lots of Narnians die because Peter and Caspian are idiots — not to mention KIDS d00d! — and the grown-ups, viz Aslan, are prancing about in the woods playing test-yr-faith hide-and-seek. Did I mention Aslan is a kn0b?

The problem of the children: why does Narnia need Kings and Queens who are Sons of Adam? It is of course because you are NOT ALLOWED TEH SECHS IN unless you already fell off the wagon, eden-apple wise. CSL gets himself in SUCH a silly mess about this — Aslan has set up an RPG with ad hoc rules that make a happening FantasyWorld totally impossible. (Old Father Time, last to leave, will put out the light before three of these Earthlets even lose their virginity; and the lion will be carpeted by the Emperor-Overseas: “With all due respect, Aslan, youre fired”))

The problem of Susan: beestung lippie-tastic stunna from the off, fending off mere mortal mingers, I will happily defend that Susan can’t keep her eyes or hands off Suave Latino Caspian, and vice versa — horn’n’faun jokes are the Rampaging Oliphaunt in the Narnian Spare Oom already, and TORCHWOOD AGENDA GET OVER IT ppl. Susan is a super-boring character without this dimension; I prefer the Pevensies flailing around getting stuff wrong and bickering convincingly.

The problem of High King Peter (the Magnificent): worst general evah (but then he is 13 AT MOST and quite properly expecting Aslan to arrive soon and sort stuff out). I liked the way Peter lurched from decency to flustered petulance — the oldest brother character is a classic dud in KidLit anyway (tone set by Swallows and Amazons, John Walker the utterly wooden-be-good stand-in for real-life tomboy Taqui Altounyan, who sounds like the Pirate Queen of the Calormenes). So yeah. “We would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids FANNYDANGLING DEITIES WHO MADE THIS WORLD AND EVERYTHING IN IT” <— fixed

The problem of Aslan: is that like all monotheistic supreme being he was a preening self-absorbed tw@t, and being voiced by Liam Neeson makes it worse. I enjoyed this film immensely: TASH-SLASH NOW!

Comments

  1. 1

    (oops i wrote this a bit quick and careless! i shall tidy up later)

    THINGS I FORGOT: circular crossbow firing squad for assassinating caspian!; uselessness of the size-does-matter banter — the “dear little friend” exchange is actually not bad in the book, where trumpkin is first to patronise the children; fair-to-middling excellence of reepicheep’s first arrival

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 4 Jul 2008 #

    My problem with the film was an absolulte lack of empathy for any of the Pevensies, Prince Caspian or indeed th Narnian’s (who are both surly and thick). Peter in particular is a knob, whose character arc goes from pompous to insufferable via idiocy.

    The only way it could have worked was if Reepicheep had been the lead character really. That said it was immensely funny, including the Tree Vagina Of Teleportation, and Susan getting The Horn.

  3. 3

    haha i kinda liked the lack of empathy for the characters — it was like something by neil labute!

    the bigger problem is the even-more-of-a-lack of empathy for aslan or (worse still) narnia: apart from nice views and weird populace, least magical land evah! UNDITCH THE WITCH!

  4. 4
    RickyT on 4 Jul 2008 #

    Haha, ‘Aslan is a knob’! Too bleddy right!

  5. 5
    Pete Baran on 4 Jul 2008 #

    When you see the white witch for a second, you do get a yearning for a PROPER villain. Of course Edmund wins the day in that battle, and its one of the few moments his character gets to shine.

    The intro with peter having a fight in the tube is all understated “how do you get to live as a king for five years and then go back and be a schoolkid?” But then Lewis never really deals with that issue anyway.

  6. 6
    Tom on 4 Jul 2008 #

    What I really noticed this time is the clash between the old school courtly/Christian storytelling tropes Lewis threads through the books (sometimes gentle mocking them) and the demands of the modern fantasy epic. viz. the fight between Peter and Miraz: P. spare Miraz’ life, and then so does Caspian, because that’s what chivalrous Xtian heroes do… but having spared the big villain’s life he then goes on to slaughter 1000x Jose Telmarine because the film needs its big battle.

  7. 7

    in the book, very few people indeed killed “on-screen”: in the forays before the children arrive, the worst that’s stated to occur is the “terribly wounded” centaur; then nikabrik and the other members of CAMRON; then miraz (handily stabbed by the lord glozelle); then unnamed telmarines — numbers unknown, but it doesn’t sound very many — finished off by the mice if they fell, or by someone else as they hopped around on one foot if they didn’t… and THAT’S IT

    peter’s and caspian’s decision NOT to follow through the logic of the single combat between kings not only dooms hundred or telmarine baddies, but also hundreds of narnians — it’s a weird bit of plotting, bcz it allows the royals to be so mimsily self-indulgent at the expense of their subjects

  8. 8

    and plus also sopespian, who gets his head “walloped off” by peter while glozelle is doing for miraz

    haha the chief centaur is called glenstorm

    euan euan eu-oi-oi-oi <--- riot grrrl yell

  9. 9
    xyzzzz__ on 5 Jul 2008 #

    “The problem of war: is the problem of the story. War is, like, horrible: and to be remotely exciting on film today it has to be amped UP not tamped down.”

    Depends on the story. Maybe a Narnia adaptation needs amping up and would not work otherwise, but generally I find it iffy when war is re-created and people declare how ‘realistic’ it is. I find it better when some other aspect of this very extreme situation is portrayed on film (unfortunately I can’t think of an example right now).

  10. 10
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 5 Jul 2008 #

    i wasn’t being very clear there: by “amping up” i’m referring to a pressure that the film-makers here seem to feel, rather than a general aesthetical law:

    my basic line on PC is that the makers have identified a series of difficulties with the original, as regards a exciting film that will appeal to kids and get them in sync w.a particular kind of christianity — where “exciting” is judged my a mix of currently effective technique (“the quick edits go like THiS bam bam bam” and currently wobbly panic (“oh noes if we don’t have THIS it will look lame and ploddy”)

    anyway, these difficulties are variously addressed — what hasn’t been given much thought or logic to is the cumulative effect of the changes

    viz in particular: yes, i think yr right that the frontal assault pitch battle element is a huge weakness in this film (where it actually wasn’t, say, in “return of the king”); but sidestepping it into artful evasion — battle going on offscreen — would not suit the particular kind of cheerful muscular xtian sensibility they feel they need

  11. 11
    Pete Baran on 7 Jul 2008 #

    Also needs to be remembered that war is seen by ver kids in a very different way to how it is seen now. Fighting in a war was a heroic thing to do in the fifties because daddy had done it (and or died in it – though that way Roger Watersism lies – BUILD A GIANT WALL AROUND NARNIA TOO).

    The modern morality of killing only by accident, in action, faceless peons is a fascinating piece of Hollywood morality which I blame on Batman (though he generally doesn’t even use the “self defence” defence in his non-killing lack of utilitarianism).

  12. 12

    “BUILD A GIANT WALL AROUND NARNIA” = last but one scene of “the last battle”

  13. 13

    also note dispatch with which i “tidy up later” = still not done

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