'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' - the Film

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The Chronicles of Narnia Adaptations
Animation: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
BBC: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader | The Silver Chair
Walden Media: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a 2008 film based on the classic children's novel by CS Lewis. It was made by Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures following their highly successful 2005 adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A longer and darker film, it was less successful than the first and ended the partnership between Walden Media and Disney made.

Plot

In Narnia over 1,300 years have passed since the glory days in which the country was ruled by the Pevensie children - High King Peter, High Queen Susan, King Edmund and Queen Lucy - who were magically transported from England during the Second World War. The land is now ruled by a race of humans called Telmarines while the Old Narnians, talking animals and mythical creatures, have been driven into hiding. The heir to the Telmarine throne is the young Prince Caspian but since his father died, Caspian's uncle Miraz has ruled as Lord Protector. When Miraz's son is born he orders Caspian's execution. Aided by his tutor Doctor Cornelius, Caspian escapes and finds the Old Narnians, blowing the magical horn of Queen Susan and persuading them to unite under his leadership.

In London, the Pevensies struggle to return back to normal life a year after their return from Narnia. When they magically find themselves beneath a ruined castle, they realise that this is the remains of their home, Cair Paravel, and that centuries have passed since they were last in Narnia. After rescuing dwarf Trumpkin from Miraz's soldiers they learn of Caspian and his need for aid. Miraz's vast Telmarine army that outnumbers the Narnians will inevitably defeat them once a bridge over a defensive river is complete.

Lucy has a vision of Aslan calling her to him, but the others do not believe her. They rendezvous with Caspian at Aslan's How, the site of the Stone Table where Aslan was resurrected after having sacrificed his life. Peter and Caspian clash over whether to undertake a daring night raid, yet Peter persuades Caspian to agree. Though this starts well, it ends in disaster and many Narnians are killed. Peter and Caspian each blame the other for the failure. Miraz uses this attack to justify declaring himself king while dwarf Nikabrik tries to resurrect the White Witch. Nikabrik has more faith in her evil powers than in Aslan, who prefers encouraging people to sort things out for themselves.

Will the White Witch return to Narnia? Can Caspian kill Miraz? Who will win in a single combat between Miraz and Peter, and will Peter and Caspian realise that they need faith in Aslan and cannot succeed without him?

Cast

Actors and characters in Bold appear in other films in Walden Media's Narnia film series.

CharacterActor
Prince CaspianBen Barnes
Lucy PevensieGeorgie Henley
Edmund PevensieSkandar Keynes
Peter PevensieWilliam Moseley
Susan PevensieAnna Popplewell
King MirazSergio Castellitto
TrumpkinPeter Dinklage
NikabrikWarwick Davis
Doctor CorneliusVincent Grass
Reepicheep, a mouse Eddie Izzard
Aslan Liam Neeson
Trufflehunter, a badgerKen Stott
The White WitchTilda Swinton
Bulgy BearDavid Walliams

Warwick Davis had previously appeared in the BBC adaptation of Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1988) as Reepicheep. CS Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham, who was one of the film's producers, shouts the line, 'A son! A son!'

Making

Prince Caspian was written, directed and produced by Andrew Adamson, who had directed The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The novel's original illustrator, Pauline Baynes, was a key influence on the design of all the sets made for the film.

The film was largely made on location rather than in a studio. This was not always glamorous, as in the Czech Republic everyone needed inoculation because of the tick-infested grasslands while other locations included parts of New Zealand swarming with sandflies. Cathedral Cove in New Zealand was the setting for the beach tunnel. London itself was doubled by Prague, with a computer-generated Nelson's Column in the background. When they coincidentally found a lion statue in Prague it was added to the film.

Although filming took place in both New Zealand and across central Europe, the locations match seamlessly. For example the scene in which the Pevensies have to cross a gorge was filmed in both Poland and New Zealand while the river that Caspian crosses at the start of the film was actually filmed at two different rivers, one in New Zealand and one in Slovenia. The beach where the Pevensies meet Trumpkin was filmed at a protected penguin colony with limited accessibility, while the boat that Peter apparently rows was actually radio-controlled.

The film's two main sets were Beruna Bridge and Miraz's Castle. The landscape around Beruna was filmed at Bovec near the Soca River in the heart of a National Park in Slovenia. As the area had suffered a landslide before filming that had diverted the river away from its original course, the film crew were given permission to build a real wooden bridge if they agreed to divert the river back to its original, pre-landslide course after they finished filming. To build the bridge they diverted the river course away from where they wanted the bridge to be built and then redirected the river back, while trees were added to make it look more natural.

Miraz's castle was a set built in three months in Prague. Although Adamson had originally considered filming in a real castle it was cheaper to build a set. The lower third of the imposing castle walls were actually built with the rest of the castle added later through computer animation. Miniature castle models were also built and filmed in Wellington, New Zealand.

Cair Paravel, a magnificent castle seen in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, also appears in Prince Caspian as an abandoned ruin. In this film it is implied that Cair Paravel was attacked and destroyed by the Telmarines rather than gradually allowed to become a ruin. The original Cair Paravel plans were used as the basis of the ruin set.

The film contained 1,500 effects shots, yet the flying scene in which Edmund is carried by a griffin is the only entirely green screen scene in the film; with the exception of Skandar Keynes everything is computer-generated. The actors playing centaurs and fauns1 wore different coloured tights to allow their own legs to be digitally replaced with computer-animated horse or goat legs for the finished film. Unlike The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the actors playing Centaurs walked on stilts rather than standing on boxes, allowing a much greater range of movement. Similarly the actors playing fauns were gymnasts familiar with parkour, also called freerunning, which made their movements less humanlike.

A new computer-animated Aslan was created to give him a much more tactile appearance than in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When Aslan was interacting with Lucy, Adamson read Aslan's lines as he felt he had developed the right kind of paternal father-figure relationship with young actress Georgie Henley which helped her performance, although Liam Neeson's voice was overdubbed later.

William Moseley who played Peter did more stunts in this film than before. He was particularly proud of the scene in which Peter swings up into a running horse's saddle and kicks a guard trying to stop him, which he performed for real himself. His most complex sequence was the duel with Miraz and to film this, cameras were built into the actors' shields and helmets to get close ups as well as using conventional cameras on cranes and close by. This sequence highlights the incredibly detailed sword and weaponry made by Weta Workshop. In fact the attention to detail is amazing throughout, with the blink-and-you'lll-miss-it treasury scene reportedly featuring 2,500 treasure props made and hired2.

One of the biggest challenges was to make the climactic battle sequence different from the battle in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The scene was filmed with 100 extras dressed as the various creatures, 30-40 cavalry and 300 soldiers, which was expanded vastly using computer animation. Caverns beneath the battlefield were added to the film in order to make it different from the previous film's battle. Another addition is an impressive double-armed, geared trebuchet that hurls boulders at a machine-gun rate.

While the film was in development, relations between Walden Media, who had been granted the film rights to Prince Caspian, and Walt Disney Pictures, who were financing the film, became strained. Though The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had been extremely successful, the studios had very different visions for the sequel. Walt Disney Pictures wished to make a magical fairy tale that would appeal to the widest possible audience while Walden Media wanted a darker film aimed at a slightly older audience. Prince Caspian cost more money to make and market, but while still successful, made much less at the box office than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Disney pulled out of financing a third film in the series.

Differences from the Novels

There are several differences between the film adaptation and the original novel. Some are small changes; minor characters such as the nurse3 do not appear or, like Bulgy Bear, have little impact. Others speed up the action. The biggest change is a highly dramatic sequence in which the Narnians led by Peter attack Miraz's castle, which does not take place in the novel. Another key difference is that Aslan has a much reduced role, not appearing until the end when everyone realises how much they need him and will fail without him.

The characters are also slightly different. While in the novel Caspian is 13, in the film he and Susan are older and are attracted to each other while he considers Peter a rival. Susan has a much more active role, not only participating in the battles to great effect but is also an experienced leader. Miraz starts as Lord Protector rather than king, with a coronation sequence taking place during the film. His wife Prunaprismia is more sympathetic, innocent and ignorant of Miraz's murders to gain power.

In the novel there is already a bridge and town at Beruna but in the film the Telmarines build a substantial bridge across the river in order to press their attack as a visual representation of their power and forthcoming attack. This was inspired by Julius Cæsar's building a bridge across the Rhine in ten days, which allowed him to secure the border of Gaul. Another difference in the film is that the Pevensies enter Narnia from Strand underground station4 in London rather than a rural railway station. This visually exciting change was made for aesthetic purposes in order to exploit the natural beauty of the tunnel at Cathedral Cove beach. At the end of the film magic is used to transform the Pevensies, who are wearing Narnian clothes, back into school uniforms when they return to the Strand having completed their task. Why this magic does not restore Edmund's torch, which has inadvertently been left in Narnia, is not explained.

Review

Although the BBC's Prince Caspian adaptation was by far the shortest of the four Narnia novels they televised, this is the longest of Walden Media's three Narnia films5. It includes several additional scenes yet these work well in context and never feel gratuitous or like padding.

Sergio Castellitto as Miraz is an effective villain, coming across as a ruthless leader who is quick to take advantage of any situation whatever the cost for his own personal glory. There are references to how Telmarines lords who oppose Miraz are going missing. This helps to set the scene for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which involves a search for the missing lords. The Telmarines were intended to be portrayed as having a Mediterranean origin, with a mix of French, Italian, Spanish and British actors cast in the roles, although the film did attract criticism that the enemy was portrayed as Hispanic. The White Witch briefly appears trapped inside a world of ice in a delightfully dramatic short scene.

At the start Peter is shown to be having difficulty adjusting from being High King to being in a High School and when he returns to Narnia finds his authority challenged by Caspian. Peter's determination to once again lead results in constant failure; it is only after he has accepted that Caspian is the new king and that they need to work together with Aslan that they can succeed.

As Caspian and Peter are the same age as, it seems strange that Peter and not Caspian challenges Miraz to a duel, particularly as Miraz killed Caspian's father. In the novel this is because Caspian is too young. One addition to the story to Americanise it is when Miraz describes the Narnians as 'Breeding like cockroaches', which raises the question, are there cockroaches in Narnia? As CS Lewis wrote the Narnia novels in Oxford it seems likely that he envisioned Narnia to have a British climate rather than a cockroach-infested one, especially as everyone in Narnia speaks English. Edmund also says, 'I don't remember any ruins in Narnia', which raises the question, what happened to the White Witch's palace after she died6?

There are several moments of delight in the film, including bagpipe-playing mice. Just as the Pevensies' reaction to seeing snow in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was to play in it, immediately after they arrive in Narnia they frolic and play in the sea with a childlike abandon. Narnia's changed coastline demonstrates that coastal erosion can dramatically transform a landscape. At the start and at the end there are celebrations in which fireworks explode above Miraz's castle, which looks delightfully like the Disney logo. And of course there is Reepicheep, who naturally steals every scene he is in. He personifies honour, bravery, chivalry and nobility – with a healthy dash of cuteness and is by far the cuddliest character.

1A faun is a mythological half-human with goat legs, pointed ears and small horns, and should not be confused with a fawn, which is a young deer.2The fact that Cair Paravel's secret underground treasury is well-lit with daylight shining from above implies it isn't particularly very well hidden, but looks impressive nonetheless.3Caspian's nurse in the novel was based on Lewis' own nurse, who told him tales of Irish legend.4Since 1979 Strand has been renamed Charing Cross after the station merged with Trafalgar Square.5Unlike The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian does not have a post-credit sequence.6Although partly made of ice, it also contained other material that would not melt. As the palace was not allowed to become a ruin, presumably it became the Narnian Museum of Eternal Winter and full of hands-on interactive displays with classrooms for school parties.

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