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!

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