Prince Caspian on Film: A Victorious Return to Narnia
- Wednesday, May 14, 2008
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This feature contains a few minor plot spoilers.
At some point near the completion of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the film’s director Andrew Adamson made a crucial phone call to his producer Mark Johnson. “It was the middle of the night when my phone rang,” says Johnson, “without introduction Andrew asks me, ‘Are we really ready to do another one of these?’”
Making a movie is certainly exhausting business with millions of struggles and details to handle. One could certainly understand why on the heels of his first cinematic journey to Narnia, a weary Adamson would be hesitant to go there again. Backed by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, they set out to make not just a movie; they had to make a huge movie that realizes a fully fictional world inhabited by completely imaginary characters. One that satisfied both the rabid fans of C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia, but also a large segment of the movie-going world that was not familiar with these books.
Fortunately for us, their success almost three years ago with the first Narnia film and their love for these popular stories drove them to bring the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia to life: Prince Caspian. But like the second movie in any series, the filmmakers knew that Prince Caspian could not just be as good as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it had to be better. Also like any book adaptation on film, Johnson, Adamson and the film’s screenwriters had to make some changes to the original work. Yet the structure of the novel Prince Caspian provided some unique challenges to the adaptation process.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is so revered by so many people, you got the sense that if you tampered with it, your were doing so at great risk,” says Johnson. “With [Prince Caspian] when we first read it … we knew it was going to be really tough.”
What Johnson and the others discovered, was that even though millions have read and enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, far fewer readers had also read Prince Caspian and the rest of the Chronicles. “So we didn’t feel quite the same pressure, as we did on the first movie,” confesses Johnson, “The success of the first gave us a bit more leeway to make some changes to the second. We were very much aware of what these books mean to so many people and want to stay true to each one them.”
Going Forward 1,300 Years
In this second part of the Narnia story, we return to Narnia 1,300 years into the future. The land is ruled by an ignoble race of men called the Telmarines, and their power-hungry ruler Miraz. The magical creatures of old Narnia have all but disappeared in the face of this human tyranny, and have not been seen in years. Upon the birth of his son, the wicked Miraz attempts to murder his nephew Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne. During his escape from Miraz, Caspian discovers the old Narnians in hiding and joins with them to take back Narnia from the Telmarines. Caspian also finds himself in possession of a magic horn—familiar to those who remember the first film—and blows it in his “hour of great need,” pulling the Pevensie children, the famous “kings and queens of old,” back into Narnia.
Narnia purists will note this slight departure from the book (which has Caspian using the horn after a long argument with the rest of the Narnians about how appropriate using the magic horn would be). Since most of Prince Caspian’s story in the book is told in flashback, the filmmakers knew that they had to change this bit of structure for film.
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