In 2008, Narnia returned to the big screen with Prince Caspian. The trailer promised us, “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember,” and “All that you know is about to change.”
Well, it wouldn’t be a Hollywood blockbuster sequel if the hype wasn’t amped up to 11 and the stakes raised accordingly.
With the arrival of the Telmarines and the governance of Lord Miraz (who becomes King Miraz during the story), many of Narnia’s native magical creatures have been forced into hiding. They live in fear, but also in hope of the great Kings and Queens of old returning to aid them against their enemy. But with no sighting of Aslan for many years, a lot of the Narnians have given up hope of taking their land back from the Telmarines.
That is until an unlikely hero stumbles into their ranks – the young, and somewhat naïve Prince Caspian. He is the rightful heir to the Telmarine throne who has been raised on the tales of Old Narnia and who stands to become, as Doctor Cornelius puts it, “The most noble contradiction: The Telmarine who saves Narnia.”
As Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are pulled back to Narnia, the stage is set for an epic adventure that has everything: rebellion, danger, good triumphing over evil… Love…
Seriously, where did the whole Susan/Caspian storyline come from? Of all the things that could have been added to the film, I’m not sure I would have picked a teen romance to be amongst them.
OK, sure, Caspian was played by the rather lovely and very watchable Ben Barnes. And If Anna Popplewell had any sense, she would have surely stipulated in her contract that her involvement in the sequel hinged on being able to snog him with abandon (she is only human after all).
But really, in the grand scheme of things, was it necessary?
Of course, the storyline did lead to one of the most priceless big sister/little sister moments of all time. As Susan and Lucy ride away from Caspian, having left him with Susan’s horn in case he needs to call her again, Lucy, with great indignation and volume, remarks, “You might need to call me again?!” As in, really sis, that’s the best you can come up with?
As a little sister myself, I find I can relate quite strongly to Lucy in this scene. Had my sister come out with such a corny line within my earshot, I too would have mocked her mercilessly. And loudly. And so the object of her affections could probably hear me… I think I may have worked out why my sister lives in a different city…
Anyway, I digress.
As it happens, Prince Caspian is not my favourite of the books, so I think I allow the film a little more leeway to change parts of the storyline. Romance subplot notwithstanding, the majority of the changes made are done to draw out certain aspects of the characters. One such example of this is the tension between Peter and Caspian.
At the start of the film, we catch up with Peter as he gets into a fight on the platform of a London Underground station. With a little help from Edmund, some disapproving glances from Susan and Lucy, and the intervention of a Military Police Officer, the fight is broken up and Peter is told to act his age. This in itself seems to be the issue that Peter has. After living out his life into adulthood in Narnia, he suddenly finds himself back in his own world as a part-way-through-puberty teenager. He has a lifetime of knowledge and experience, and no way of using it. Of course, this can be said for the others, but Peter seems to be the one who struggles most with the transition back into our world.
As the four of them are taken back into Narnia, Peter almost instantly takes up his former position as head of the family, High King Peter. Only this time around it takes a little more to convince the Narnians that he is their King.
Take Trumpkin’s reaction when he introduces himself as “High King Peter, the Magnificent.” He laughs, and then agrees with Susan that he probably could have left the last part off.
So when Peter is introduced to Caspian as the newly appointed leader of the Narnians, he feels just a little put out that he is not automatically in charge.
On the flip side, Caspian spends the majority of the film feeling completely inadequate to the task of ruling Narnia. There is a wonderful moment when the party arrives at Aslan’s How and the centaurs make a guard of honour for them. The Pevensies move forward, obviously quite used to such treatment, but Caspian hesitates for a moment. There is a look on his face of, “I am not ready for this.” Even so, he eventually follows the Pevensies a respectful pace or two behind them.
Even up to the end of the battle when Aslan commands the Kings and Queens of Narnia to rise, Caspian does not count himself among them until he is prompted to stand by Aslan himself.
When he first meets Peter, he has just been accepted by the Narnians as their new leader but he hasn’t had time to find his feet in the new role. Suddenly, he is faced with a boy who looks to be around the same age as him (maybe slightly younger) who has vast experience as, not only a ruler, but also as a military strategist (see my post on The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe for more details on this). Having said this, Caspian’s approach to the whole situation comes with knowledge of the last 1,300 years that Peter has missed.
Needless to say, the two of them get off on the wrong foot and through an odd combination of arrogance and self-doubt, they remain at odds until all of their shortcomings have been played out to disastrous consequences.
I am talking, of course, about the Castle Siege sequence. This entire section of the film was not in the book, but actually works quite well in further developing the friction between Caspian and Peter, and also in demonstrating how woefully ill-equipped they are without Aslan’s help.
Throughout the book (and the film), Lucy keeps trying to get through to her siblings that Aslan has a task for them and that he is guiding them to victory against the Telmarines, so long as they trust him. In the scene where they discuss whether to stay within the well defended How or whether to attack Miraz’s castle, Lucy is the lone voice of reason reminding them (ultimately in vain at this point) to seek out Aslan for his help. Interestingly, in this scene, Lucy is the only one bold enough to sit on the stone table itself. The others are keeping their distance. Her faith in, and familiarity with, Aslan are most apparent here. She completely believes that Aslan is the only one who can save them, but her lone voice is drowned out by those older and purportedly wiser than her. In the end, though, she is right, and it is her guidance towards Aslan that eventually leads them to victory.
In amongst the self-doubt from Caspian and the hubris from Peter, she is the one reminding them that there is another way that doesn’t involve either of them. Her trust in Aslan simultaneously quiets Peter’s arrogance and banishes Caspian’s doubts.
As I mentioned in my previous post, there are several flourishes put in by the filmmakers that help to flesh out the world of Narnia. In The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, we are given the wardrobe itself with the carvings depicting scenes from The Magician’s Nephew and Narnia’s history. In Prince Caspian, we have the Telmarines.
In the book, we are told that the Telmarines originally came from our world. They are the descendants of a group of pirates who came into Narnia through a cave on an island in our world. To this end, the symbols, and costumes of the Telmarines are designed to reflect this. There is a Mediterranean flavour to the costumes, that would not look out of place on a Spanish Galleon or in Queen Isabella’s Court (circa 1500).
Then there is the compass motif that is depicted on the floor of the Telmarine Court and also on their shields. This is a definite nod to their maritime past.
One of my favourite aspects of the Telmarine costumes has to be the helmets they wear during the final battle at Aslan’s How. The masks to the helmets show their new King’s face. The effect is quite unsettling as the army, made up entirely of Miraz’s face, marches as one towards the handful of Narnians rebels. It is clear that they are all there to fight for Miraz and nothing else.
It is yet another little touch that helps to breathe life into a group of people that we otherwise know little about.
The masks, together with the vast numbers in Miraz’s army stand in stark contrast to the small number of Narnians they face. A small number who do not appear to show any sort of uniformity, apart from in their battle cry “For Narnia and for Aslan.”
But as Lucy has already demonstrated for us, numbers do not matter at this point. Nor does one person’s take on leadership. Their trust is in Aslan and that is enough. As formidable as Miraz’s army seems, it is nothing compared to the power Aslan possesses.
As perhaps C. S. Lewis was trying point out:
“If God is with us, who can be against us?”
– Romans 8:31