Michael Ward on Prince Caspian, Mars, and CSL

Hogs Head Tavern landed an interview with Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, when he was in New York earlier this year and it is a WOW event. Of the many articles and reviews of the movie ‘Prince Caspian’ just released by Walden/Disney, all of which discuss the book as an aside or in lengthy comparisons, none of them captures what the book is about as powerfully as does Michael Ward in his answers to Johnny’s excellent questions at the Tavern.

I’ve read that this movie is better than the book. I haven’t seen the movie and won’t probably for a long time (though my children are going to the Drive-In tonight for a family treat). I can only say, though, as a great fan of the Narniad as an exposition of Lewis’ genius, that it will have to be a better film adaptation than any I have seen to be better than the book. Can a shoe-horn be sweeter than the best Braeburn apple? I’m skeptical of such cross-category comparisons, and, as an apple lover with little knowledge of film artistry (except to recognize the relatively limited subtlety to be found on its palate of neon colors), I will be the first to say I shouldn’t comment on the subject of shoehorns vs. apples. I can and will say (again) that Ward’s exegesis of Lewis’ purpose and achievement in Prince Caspian is challenging and important reading.

Because the depth of a book’s wonders and meaning are hard to fathom is no reason to celebrate the story’s form recast as a puddle easily grasped (and forgotten). Read Michael Ward’s comments, see the movie, and re-read the book. Write a note about your experience at Hogwarts Professor. This movie is undoubtedly a very good thing, but only, I suspect, in the way that all film adaptations of books are good things; they act as trailers or enticing invitations to the book and the more profound experience of ideas there.


  1. And go over to Quoth the Maven for Janet Batchler’s thoughts and to Hog’s Head for Travis’ review.

    There’s a link at the Tavern to an overview of the film reviews and I confess to being surprised at how disappointed the film crowd and Narnia fans are. Let’s hope the tonic of reading the real thing that many film-goers may choose to experience can reverse the spell of a careless adaptation.

    I mean, they cut out Lucy’s vision of Aslan no one else sees? Ouch.

  2. Robert Trexler says

    I had high hopes when I went to see the Prince Caspian movie. It was disappointing in almost every important way. The children were all playing to the camera, the dialogue was contrived, Aslan’s most important lines were changed and therefore the meaning ruined. This was a movie-by-number production, unfortunately, and I found myself counting all the other movies that they seemed to clumsily be stealing ideas from. Moreover, it was (as someone else has said) basically a war movie. Unlike Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, this movie is not one I would recommend for children under 8 years old, due to the violence. If Douglas Gresham wanted to preserve the meaning of his godfather’s books, he failed. If he had consulted about the script with almost any Christian Lewis scholar some of the disappointment could have been easily avoided. I’m glad Adamson is turning over the directorship to someone else for Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

  3. My children just left for Shankweiler’s Drive In — and the boys couldn’t be more excited (they’ve seen the trailers on my computer). I will be stunned and very disappointed if they are not delighted by the film. As Ward says, the book is about Mars and martial virtues. Certainly all the subtlety and depth have been stripped from the text to adapt it to the screen, but there will still be plenty of sword fights (what my crowd live for) and the good guys courageously confronting the bad. Douglas Gresham has gone so far as to say that the film is something of a parable about the war on terror.

    It’s got to be a better than average film by default. As I said above, in my obligatory serious-reader-curmudgeon role, it’s a shame they had to distort the story’s genius in the re-telling and it is glorious that so many new readers will read the book after seeing the movie.

    No rotten tomatoes here, Pat!

  4. revgeorge says

    Surprised that not a lot of people like the Prince Caspian book. I always liked it, although it wasn’t my favorite. The one I’ve always had the most problems with is The Silver Chair. And my absolute favorite is The Horse & His Boy. Can’t wait to see how they butcher that one on the big screen! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anyway, if I didn’t have a funeral to prepare for, I’d start reading Prince Caspian again just to show my commitment to Lewis’ work.

  5. I saw the movie yesterday and wasn’t really disappointed until I started reading why everyone else was. What it’s made me realize is that, as much as I love C.S. Lewis’s many writings, I’m not that much of a Narnia fan or purist. Don’t throw things at me, but when I re-read Prince Caspian earlier this year, I just didn’t like it that much. Yes, the movie is a war story, but so is the book. And there was a lot of the first part of the book with the kids wandering and getting lost and eating lots of apples. I’m sort of glad they didn’t include all that either. Sorry, but Caspian was never my favorite of the books. My favorite Narnia book is Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so I also hope that the new director will be more careful with the story.

    One of the things that everyone keeps bringing up is the changed line from Aslan, but while I was watching the movie, the meaning was there and I found it to be very clear. The same with some of the other things. I thought it was very creative to start the movie with seeing what was wrong in Narnia instead of having it told later. That third person narrative in a movie just doesn’t work well. And there were other changes that just didn’t bother me that much. My only real complaint was the addition of romance–I found myself thinking that I’d missed something in the book. And I do agree, that there needed to be more of Aslan in the movie than there was.

    Pat (ducking the rotten tomatoes)

  6. revgeorge says

    Don’t get me wrong. I do like The Silver Chair. It’s just been the hardest read for me out of The Chronicles. The Last Battle does that to me, too.

    But there’s a lot of great stuff in The Silver Chair. They’ll have to work hard to gut the Christian content of that book for the movie.

  7. revgeorge says

    Don’t hold it in, Inked. Let us know how you really feel. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Although I agree totally with your sentiments. Which is why I don’t plan on torturing myself by seeing the movie. I couldn’t even make it past Edmund’s meeting with the White Witch in the first movie before I gave up the movie as a bad go.

  8. The Silver Chair is the BEST!

  9. As a Narnia reader for 4 decades, the movie was vastly disappointing. It missed the story. It missed the characters. It was a B-movie standard script Hollywood production number with names borrowed from a possibly recognizable series of books. (You can always tell a longtime fan disappointed by (B)ollywood -pun intended- can’t you?)

    Adamson fails miserably as director and Gresham even more so in alleged attempt at remaining anywhere proximate to the books message, meaning, or motivation. The proximity -if not exactitude- was present in LWW. Which is why I expected it here. Alas, disappointment. I am unsure whether the rack or boiling oil is more apropos for this level of disappointment. I shall have to consult Miraz – whose character is the only one managed and acted well.

    For the love of literature, they could have gotten the entry and exit into and out of Narnia correctly. Is that asking too much? Yes, apparently.

    Now, as a movie, a Grade B Hollywood action-adventure movie with script writers from a high school drama class and access to special effects. Well, it succeeds about as well as a B-movie can. However, I admit the caveat that if EPIC MOVIE had waited until PC came out to be plotted, they would have baskets of rotten tomatoes to throw at PC. Good thing EPIC MOVIE got out befoe PC, else it might not have done so well.

    That said, if you like Grade B Hollywood action adventure flicks with nifty special effects, you are gonna like this movie alright.

    If you are me, you will wait for the video/DVD release with added features to justify the price of the theater BECAUSE there might be some information in the extras that will explain or excuse this bastardization even by (B)ollywood standards.

  10. Arabella Figg says

    Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair were my favorites, too. I was enamoured Prince Caspian, which I reread last year. Doubt if I’ll see the film.

    What you say about “the Christian audience,” Janet. Just like “all evangelicals,” we’re not some homogenous glob who like only green jelly beans. I’m tired of being marketed to, patronized and politicized as if I’m part of a clone army of Christian faith-bots. So I won’t go to “Christian” movies if it looks like they’re cheesy. However, I do applaud good family films, especially ones addressing faith issues in a genuine manner.

    Off for some kitty therapy…

  11. John Mark Reynolds, a Narnia lover who likes movies and who has seen the film, joins Douglas Gresham and Frederica Matthewes-Green in saying “this film is better than the book.” Michael Ward just spoke at Biola; I’d love to hear what he thinks about this movie, too.

    My oldest daughter, home from VMI, did not like it all. My boys want to go again tonight.

  12. Arabella Figg says

    Ack! Writing and editing a comment at the same time. I meant to say above that I *wasn’t* enamoured with the book Prince Caspian.

    Sorry, RevGeorge, I could hardly get through The Horse and His Boy. Guess I should give it another go. It’s a good thing Lewis wrote seven books so we could all have favorites.

    Speaking of favorites, why does Fullatricks prefer pink, purple and orange glitter foam balls over red, green and white? A vision thing?…

  13. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    I thought the movie was actually better than the first one. Although it is no doubt not the masterpiece the book was, it was worth watching. The violence I don’t think is too big an issue. I had real issues when Peter cleaned the invisible blood off his “gore-covered” blade. It was like they were trying to avoid the fact that war is… warlike. Seeing the new movie I could just picture the director saying “Oh! Blood!” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Saving Private Ryan, but kids aren’t stupid. A little blood won’t hurt.
    As for the literary content, I’m sure it didn’t all get in, but I sure got the message. I haven’t seen such a good Christian movie in ages, although that might not be saying much. It really showed a lot of Christian ideas I didn’t catch in the first movie.
    In short, sorry guys, I liked it.

  14. revgeorge, I was holding it in!!! Like Reepicheep, my courtesy sometimes gets the best of me.

    I am reading Planet Narnia at present -anything to get my mind off that film- and IF persuaded that martiality is the centre from which depends the Prince Caspian-iverse, I might re-consider. But it’ll have to be a powerful suasion, at least as powerful as the Professor’s here in regard to that Potter creation………

  15. Arabella Figg says

    GTN, wiping invisible blood off a sword? I’m busting a gut over that one! In “Twister” parlance, “we have mimes!”

    Inked, perhaps you could use the same magic cloth to wipe your mind of the film’s revolting invisible residue.

    Remus Loopy blends so well with the carpet, he’s practically invisible, too…

  16. It was a fun, interesting movie but it was not Prince Caspian, This is mainly because they seriously distorted the character of Peter. In the movie he was defensive, competitive and quite a control freak. In the book he was a kid trying to figure out what Aslan wanted him to do in an overwhelming situation. Also, they really didn’t explore Caspian’s character very much.

    The other changes were ok. I thought portraying Miraz and co. as conquistadores worked well. It conveyed the right associations for how the characters acted toward Narnia in the book. But overall I am very disappointed because they really got the portrayal of the children right in the first movie. I was hoping this one would be good too.

  17. To those who ask for more realism about the blood on Peter’s sword:

    I have never been in a war. I have read and seen enough of it second hand to be able to say with some certainty that what war is like is something I don’t want children to see.

    Of course the Narnia movies are fantasy, and we assume that many, if not most, of the the chidren who come to see the movies can tell the difference. My 7 year-old does understand the concept. That doesn’t prevent me from explaining to him, whenever anyone is killed or wounded or frightened on the screen that it is “pretend”, that the “blood” is fake, the “wounds” are make-up and the “lost” limbs are still attached. So not having the “blood” on the sword is easier for me.

    This is not to say that my 7 year-old does not understand the concept of swords and blood. He explained to me, very carefully, that a sword would have to be cleaned of blood after doing its work. But again, that knowledge does not mean he won’t be disturbed by the sight of blood.

    So thank you to the director / producers / art directors of Prince Caspian for making going to the movies easier for me and my 7 year-old.

  18. Arabella Figg says

    Here’s the Christianity Today interview:


    The kitties like Aslan…

  19. I’ve been out of town with no wi-fi (oh the horror!), so didn’t know you had kindly linked to my Prince Caspian review… Thank you, John…

    I do agree with Gladius above that, as a movie, PC is a better movie than LWW. But, agreeing with Tweak above, it is definitely not the book. Often people talk about using a book as a “blueprint” for a movie — my guess is that those kinds of discussions were held here.

    As for future movies… I wouldn’t hold my breath for The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy. Dawn Treader is in pre-production right now. It of course has Georgie Henley and Skander Keynes — oh, and Ben Barnes — to link it to the familiar movies as a bona fide sequel. After that, *if* there is a 4th movie (box office will be the sole determinant of that), my bet is Magician’s Nephew — because of the familiar link of the White Witch, and the sense that it returns us to the beginning of the saga.

    But they could easily end it there. The only story link to Silver Chair and Horse and His Boy is Aslan — and given that Aslan seems to be a minor character in the movies, that’s not much of a marketing link for the studio. Combine that with the fact that Disney has pretty much dissolved its output deal with Walden Media, and there’s not much reason to force a continuation of the movies past no. 3 or maybe 4.

    (Unless they make a lot of money, of course.)

  20. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    I think they will make a lot of money, so they could continue this. I also heard that they’re doing all the ones with the Pevensies and the characters that go to Narnia with them before they do Magician’s Nephew or Horse & His Boy. Has anyone else heard this?

  21. schmalchemy says

    A couple of comments, randomly expressed:

    In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the book, not the movie)…the battle was about two or three sentences in the last chapter. It certainly wasn’t that way in the movie.

    Although I have yet to see Prince Caspian (and I will probably see it in the near future), I am sure that they have done the same…big battle scene for what is described as a few words in the book. From what I have seen advertised Prince Caspian is a young man, not a boy about Edmund’s age (as indicated in the text). So where is the romance?

    What are essentially decent books (and of such length that the movies could actually be faithful to the text), why does Hollywood have to turn everything into violence and battles? Isn’t the story enough? Apparently not!

    If they are to do all the movies with the Pevensies, they need to do the Horse and His Boy pretty soon, too. Susan is being courted in Calormene in that story. I think Edmund might in it, too although it has been a while since I have read it.

    As I said, just a few random thoughts…

  22. I’m probably a dissenting voice here, because, although I had some problems with the film, on the whole I though it a pretty faithful, intelligent adaptation that got several of the main points of the story across very well. I’ve got a full (fairly short) review on my blog, and can post it in full here if you’re interested. Very briefly:

    We *did* see the dancing trees and Lucy’s vision of Aslan, and it was lovely.
    BUT, I do agree that Peter’s character (and perhaps Susan’s) were somewhat distorted. I could understand why the filmmakers did this and where it came from, but it bothered me a bit.

    Nevertheless, a few very positive messages came through loud and clear, This film was ultimately about the need for faith, and also about the need for reconciliation. Those themes were quite clear in the book as well, so no problems there. Otherwise – Lucy and Edmund were great, Caspian was good, I LOVED Trumpkin and really liked Reepicheep. I do wish we had seen more of Aslan, but still, I honestly thought the film had a great deal more substance than most films you see. I liked it. And I”m a huge fan of the books, and have lost count of the number of times I have read or heard them.

    I’m really looking forward to “Dawn Treader”

  23. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    Yeah, Edmund was in Horse & Boy. But I think they can wait a bit, since both were adults at that point. Schmalchemy, I agree completely. Although a bit more war is understandable, it is hollywood after all, they really extended it. They could’ve cut some of that out and let in more of the real story. But the romance they added in brings up a good question- how does that fit in with her & Rabadash in Horse & Boy? Is she gonna be having boy troubles the rest of the series? I wouldn’t put it past Hollywood.

  24. I think that in the book Prince Caspian, Lewis was offering children a portrait of two very different types of leaders. Miraz was the self centered leader, using power in any way that he could to benefit himself. How he affected others was unimportant. He had no knowledge of Aslan and didn’t think about himself as accountable to anyone. Although Caspian was the rightful ruler, Miraz thought that Caspian’s throne was his to take.

    Peter was the humble leader. He did not have all the answers but he knew that he was accountable to Aslan. Aslan would accomplish his plan, even if Peter could only take the steps that he could discern at the time. He came as a servant to establish another leader. He knew that there were some thing he could not do for power no matter how desirable his goal was.

    I think that by changing Peter’s character, the film took the heart out of the book. In the movie Peter was just another insecure guy who couldn’t handle letting go of his power. It’s sad because the first book was so on target.

  25. I must say that I liked reading the books in a different order than the movies are being released. I am with others and Silver chair and LWW are the best for me. I personally like The Magicians Nephew better that Prince Caspian. As far as a movie goes without even thinking tha tit is a C.S Lewis masterpiece it is a great film for hormonmal teens. Bur as far as it being Lewis’s Caspian and about losing your faith in Christ, it is very void.

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