I’m kind of boggled at the mostly unfavorable reviewer response to Prince Caspian. K and I thought it was better than The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which we also loved, and A allowed that it was pretty good (high praise indeed coming from an almost-thirteen year old).
So here’s why I liked it. They kept to the emotional truth of the story as well as following the plot. In the book, Caspian was younger, so in the movie he does come across as callow (Ben Barnes better be careful, or he is going to get typecast in these roles) but he develops from spoiled overgrown boy into a king. Peter is better drawn, and his and Caspian’s mutual dislike and distrust is well portrayed and made a lot of sense in the context of the plot, even if C.S. Lewis doesn’t really go into it much. But as a boy who has been king and then made to be a boy again, Peter chafes against restrictions. Edmund’s got his back, though. Their relationship was nicely laid out in the first movie and this film follows through. Edmund also has a great scene when he brings Peter’s challenge of single combat to Miraz that showed subtlety and strength and a good bit of humor.
Lucy is the heart of Narnia and the movie is respectful of that and honest. Lucy is one of the great children’s characters in literature, and the movies so far have not messed with that at all. Plus, geez, that kid is really, just — adorable. You get the impression that C.S. Lewis loved Lucy.
Susan is rather more problematic. She’s always gotten the short end of the stick. If you believe, as Phillip Pullman does, that Susan goes to hell in The Last Battle, you see that C.S. Lewis is setting her up for it in Prince Caspian. I never liked Susan in the books when I read them as a kid. After all, she is the rain on the parade, even if C.S. Lewis only meant that she doesn’t go to heaven, not that she goes to hell, but in the movies, I like her. She’s clever, strong, and brave, a mean shot with a bow, and she’s turning into an admirable young woman. Go, Susan!
The special effects were a good fit rather than overwhelming (despite what reviewers said). I know that most of the scenery was not real, but instead of looking for the fakery I was more thinking, wow, where did they model that on? And the decision not to show Aslan the first time Lucy sees him was important. We as the audience have to trust her just as much as her companions (and they don’t of course).
Another complaint by one reviewer was that the non-humans stole the show. Well, as I recall in the books, Reepicheep and Trumpkin did there too, and yes, they are scene-stealers extraordinaire. You can’t compete with Reepicheep, so don’t even try. And hey, he’s got a great arc in the books. He is a mouse with the soul of a lion. So there, snooty reviewer!
So if the reviews were putting you on the fence, I say it’s still well worth it. Plus, the actor who plays Peter is perfect for the character of Colar in Gordath Wood. Just, you know, if you were wondering.