Thursday, 10 July 2008

Review - Prince Caspian

A two word review of ‘Prince Caspian’: “surprisingly good”.

I went into ‘Prince Caspian’ expecting a quasi-childish fantasy film with talking badgers and magic Jesus-lions and joviality and whimsy and all the other stuff C. S. Lewis stuffed Narnia full of. Instead what Andrew Adamson delivered on screen was a tale of medieval politics and battle. At certain points when in Lord Protector Miraz’s court which was filled with intrigue, ambition, and backstabbing, it felt more like George R. R. Martin than C. S. Lewis, particularly when Dr. Cornelius appeared (the first time the character was on screen I seriously thought it was a cameo by Martin).

The battles portrayed were especially impressive and were amazingly accurate with respect to medieval battle tactics – aside from the presence of the centaurs, minotaurs and dwarves. The locations and the numbers for both the major battles were shown in their completeness on screen before the battles took place allowing the audience to think for themselves how such a battle could be won. Realistically, the Telmarine castle could not have been taken by force even by a superior number of troops: I don’t care how many centaurs you have, it couldn’t be done. It was a well-fortified fixed position with the only entryway being a narrow causeway, perfect for overhead archers to pick off infantry and cavalry. As such it was good to see that the heroes didn’t manage to take it. It also gave an insight into a strong emotive theme of the film: the challenges of leadership.

Both Peter and Caspian’s acting abilities were excellent. Both were leaders struggling to be true to their people, both faced insurmountable odds and were held responsible for soldier’s lives. Peter’s anguish at the failure to take the castle was a chilling insight into the responsibility of a general; a man whom soldiers trust with their lives. When he made a mistake, people died in front of him. The actor brought out that being a leader is a huge burden to bear. Caspian felt the same level of responsibility and almost succumbed to the temptation for quick and easy victory in the form of the White Witch. This being a Disney film, he ultimately managed to hold onto hope and become a great leader precisely because he “wasn’t ready.”

Naturally I have some criticisms. Firstly the romance was awful: Susan and Caspian had no scenes featuring significant dialogue between the two; their attraction was superficial at best. Secondly, Reepicheep.

All in all though it was a fantastic film, surprisingly rich in actual medieval-fantasy techniques, surprisingly accurate period armour, surprisingly great battle scenes, surprisingly deft characterisation, surprisingly adult thematic undertones (the responsibility of leadership), and surprisingly convincing Hispanic accents. Special mention must also go one of the greatest portrayals of a fantasy dwarf ever from Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin: just the right amount of world-weary cynicism and downplayed expressions which quickly made me think him the perfect actor for ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’s’ Tyrion.

Surprisingly good.

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