For Father’s Day, my kids and wife took me to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian based on the children’s fantasy novel by the late Oxford don and Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis. If the previous film adaptation of Lewis’ Narnia series (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) suffered from a rather wooden, literalistic approach (with the exception of an opening scene of the Battle of London in WWII, so that modern children would know WHY the Pevensie kids were sent to stay away from their parents in an old house in the English countryside owned by an eccentric Professor), the current film takes far too many liberties with the book in my view. There are large omissions, such as Caspian’s upbringing with his tutor (a half-dwarf) and the way this leads to his knowledge of and love for “Old Narnia,” and sections created out of whole cloth, such as the assault on the castle. An obligatory romance is created.
The explicit Christian themes of the novels, which, however clumsily, were evident in the first film adaptation, are almost entirely missing here. Unless one knows the books, one has no idea from this film that Aslan the Lion is a Christ-figure. (His words to the 2 older Pevensie kids at the end, telling them that they cannot return to Narnia because they must learn more of him in their own world, are changed to say that they must learn to LIVE in their own world.) Scenes which are supposed to convey the difficulties of faith and discipleship become little more than trying to “believe in fairies” while reading Peter Pan in order to save Tinker Bell’s life.
Most disturbing to me is the extent to which this film version completely endorses the “myth of redemptive violence” which is so anti-gospel and which is the dominant religion of our planet–no matter what outward differences of creed people profess. (When people ask me whether or not I believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, I answer, “Which Christians?” “Which Muslims?” I can tell little difference between the violent God of John Hagee or Pat Robertson and the God of Osama bin Laden–and both are false gods–demons in disguise. On the other hand, I suspect/hope that members of the Muslim Peace Fellowship and members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, whatever differences or even errors embraced by either or both groups, are worshipping the one true God.) C. S. Lewis was not a pacifist and, in my view, this distorted both his Christian apologetics and his Christian fiction. But violence was never redemptive for Lewis. At best, it served a negative, defensive function–an accomadation to a still fallen world. The real action, the real way of redemption, is elsewhere in all his works. In a clumsy fashion (and too much seeming to imply a penal substitution view of the Atonement, which Lewis did not hold) this is conveyed in the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But in Prince Caspian, everything depends on violence and greater firepower. I think Lewis would have been horrified. I know I was.
I was also concerned that the Telmarines, the bad guys, were swarthy while the Pevensies (the human heroes) are fair. This seemed to give the whole a racist overtone, although it was relieved by several of the centaurs (all good guys) appearing very dark skinned. There are slight overtones of racial prejudice in Lewis’ original works, but also much evidence that he fought these prejudices and sought to overcome them in his fiction. I was greatly afraid that the Narnia vs. Telmarine struggle in this film seemed to convey a “West vs. Arab/Muslim” connotation. I hope that is reading too much into the film, but there is much pro-war propaganda out today that seems very Manichean in worldview–and not all of it flows from the U.S. White House.
My children enjoyed the film and there are good parts. The adaptation of Reepicheep the Mouse was great. Trumpkin the Dwarf is portrayed fairly well, too. I enjoyed it as a Father’s Day outing with my family. But, if there are to be further adaptations of Lewis’ Narnia books to film, I hope they do a MUCH better job than this one.
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I AM SORRY THAT I MADE A COMMENT ON CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM RELATIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS BLOG-POST. THAT SLIGHTLY OFF-TOPIC COMMENT LED TO MANY OFF-TOPIC COMMENTS BY READERS. DEBATING MY THEOLOGY WOULD BEST BE DONE BY FIRST READING THE MANY POSTS ON THEOLOGICAL TOPICS I’VE MADE, RATHER THAN ASSUMING ONE KNOWS WHAT I BELIEVE BASED ON A REMARK MADE IN THE MIDST OF A MOVIE REVIEW.