Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring Ben Barnes, William Moseley, and Georgie Henley
The first two installments of C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia have gotten the big-screen treatment, and my fingers are crossed that the producers will take the Harry Potter route for future adaptations and start parceling out directing duties piecemeal. Andrew Adamson, the director of the first film and now Prince Caspian, has a plodding competence that can’t hold a candle to Peter Jackson’s visionary talent.
Narnia is a different world than Middle Earth. Piggy-backing on the massive success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy makes economic but not artistic sense, as Adamson strives mightily to imitate Jackson’s epic sweep and grandeur. The result is LOTR-lite, when it should do more justice to Lewis’ unique vision, which was quite different from his friend Tolkien’s.
Whereas a 3-hour LOTR movie flew by, Prince Caspian at 2 hours, 20 minutes feels a good half-hour too long. The fight scenes are leaden, the humor is forced, the magic is computer-generated. The evil usurper King Miraz (I guess the producers weren’t relying on Spanish box-office, since the bad guys here are obviously modeled after conquistadores), is a featherweight compared to the evil but attractive White Witch from the first movie. Susan seems grumpy. Reepicheep, one of Lewis’ most charming creations, is really under-served by here. Where’s the zest, the flair, the quixotic chivalry? His character is as fuzzy as the smudgy digital work. Young Lucy, though, is cute-as-a-button.
Don’t get me started on the painfully inept intrusion of a Regina Specktor pop song at the end of the movie. Yikes. That colossal misjudgment alone should earn Adamson a trip to the Hollywood employment office.
The movie has its moments, no doubt, one of them courtesy of a scary cameo by the beautifully androgynous Tilda Swinton as the White Witch on Ice. That whole sequence, with its suggestions of dark magic and the temptation of both Prince Caspian and Peter, is goosebump-inducing. Of course, the production values in the movie are top-notch — the sets and costumes are lavish, and the scenery quite lovely — but their value is diminished without the guiding hand of a great director to make the most of them.
The Christian themes are less overt here than in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe — which essentially retold Christ’s Passion — but there are questions of faith and belief present, and the dangerous consequences of making decisions without reference to God or Christ, as represented by the great, untamed lion, Aslan. There’s a nice exchange between faithful Lucy and doubting Peter that summarizes the movie’s main message. Peter, struggling to be a leader, wishes that he had proof that Aslan would come to their aid. Lucy says, “Perhaps we need to prove ourselves to him.”
I think it’s time to go the Harry Potter route and infuse some fresh directorial blood into this project. I would love for Voyage of the Dawn Treader to be directed by someone with a lyrical, poetic bent to their style — Alfonso Cuaron would be an obvious choice, but what about genre-hopping Danny Boyle or Alex Proyas? Naturally, we at Catholic Movies want to support a project as worthy as The Chronicles of Narnia, but we’d also love to see it done right. And I’m pretty sure that would be the way Lewis wrote it.