|My wife, the bewitching Mrs. BestDestiny, applied to the 9News website and won us tickets to see a special advanced screening of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Monday.|
Yeah, she's pretty good.
I'm going to try to review this without giving away any spoilers--not that anybody who is the least bit familiar with C.S.Lewis' work will be surprised by any of it, but . . . Let me start by saying that I loved this movie, and expect to see it in the theaters several times.
On the first, most obvious level, the entertainment value of the movie is very good. While it lacks some of the innocent charm of its predecessor, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, it makes up for it with substance and humor. Fans of the first movie will feel right at home, as, early on, the movie uses many of the same musical themes to help the audience remember the world of the first movie. However, we're re-introduced to a Pevensie clan that is a little bitter about its "exile" back to our earth, and starting to doubt their Faith just a little bit. We're also shown a Narnia that is not in the grips of a magical enchantment, either, but rather, consumed by the all-too-familiar familiar politics of human ambition. Given that the source material from C.S. Lewis is decidedly more grown-up and darker than the first, it is only appropriate that this movie have a different tone; however, there are plenty of magical creatures and wondrous sights to keep the little ones entertained and engaged. In particular, the mouse-warrior Reepicheep is a wonderful addition to the cast of humans, and provides constant humor.
Since fans of the first movie learned all about the quirks of Narnia in the first one, this tale takes other devices to keep the audience engaged. For the younger--and particularly younger male--audience, there are plenty of well-staged battles and exciting acts of daring-do to keep things moving along. I was actually quite impressed by the swordplay in this installment: it seems both more realistic and more impressive than the first time around (because, deep inside, there is still a younger male impressed by the flash of metal). And for mature audiences, there are questions of Faith and Pride and Honor that keep the cast interesting and the conflicts moving along. Also, this movie does not seem to suffer from the "lull" that slowed down the middle portion of The Lion, . . ., nor is it plagued by weak acting from secondary characters, as the first one was. I know both my wife and I were completely interested for the 2 hours, 20 minutes of the film, and I strongly believe both our pre-teen and our younger child will be completely engaged throughout (though, at 2:20, try to hold off on drinking the "medium" soda until after the previews).
From a craft standpoint, this film is stronger than its predecessor. As mentioned before, the sworplay is better, the acting is overall better, and the pacing is better. As with the first, the filmmakers took liberties with the story line--moreso than the first time around. I can see, on some level, how this made for a much better film than the original story would have made--the characters were a lot more three-dimensional, the conflict had more chance to build tension, and the emotions of the audience were evoked across more range. However, strict adherents to the original text may take exception to some of the changes (in much the same way, I'm sure, as strict adherents to the original work had problems with LOTR: The Two Towers). For me, I would rather have a great movie story than worry too much about the source material--especially since that source material was written for an audience substantially younger than myself.
One small complaint from me from a craft standpoint: the musical score relied too heavily on the music from the first movie. While, as I mentioned earlier, this does have the power to help the audience recapture some of the feelings they had in the first movie, it can be overdone. And, in this case, was overdone. I can appreciate borrowing thematic material and musical motifs to convey the world to the audience; but using, almost verbatim, several of the pieces from the first movie was, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, there were also some absolutely brilliant moments of scoring and instrumentation during the film, so . . . I guess I would say it was "uneven" from a soundtrack perspective.
Small complaint, though. Not essential to the story.
Being very solid on the first two levels, it was easy for me to get involved enough in the movie to hear a message. Different people will take from this film different ideas, as my wife pointed out to me afterwards, and all of them are unabashedly Christian themes. While this should come as no surprise to anybody who knows anything at all about C.S.Lewis, it is still a bit surprising when it comes out of a Hollywood product. Kudos to Walden Media for remaining true to the spirit of Lewis, though I expect it will cause them much critical consternation.
Unlike The Lion, . . . , whose theme could be dismissed as universal and was delivered somewhat subtly, Prince Caspian makes no bones whatsoever about the Christian nature of its message. From the crisis of Faith the Pevensies had in the beginning, to the obvious failures that accompany Pride and Doubt, to, ultimately, the last reconciliation between the believers and their Savior, it is obviously an allegory of Christian life, one that I doubt anybody would be able to ignore (though children may not get it). This will cause the secular media much distress, and I predict this movie will be widely panned (watch for it to get very carefully rated just below whatever the critics gave The Golden Compass--Hollywood's paean to atheism which got killed at the box office), but still manage to pull in very close to the $291 MILLION that its predecessor made. But for the people most likely to see this film, I expect that the message will be welcome, will be a source of much discussion, and will draw Christians back to this film over and over again.
Be warned: there is one particular question of Faith that comes up in this movie that left me very troubled, and has been on my mind much in the last three days. People stronger in their Faith than I may not feel the same impact, but that is how powerful this movie is, and how well-made it is that one line of the movie has the ability to linger in my heart for so long.
Go see this movie. See it the first weekend. See it again and again. With your children. And then talk with them about it. I think you will be surprised by how rewarding it could be.