Why Aslan Is the Worst Thing About Prince Caspian

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Since I live in a sub-dimension that’s time-shifted a month after your Earth world, I didn’t go see Wall-E this weekend. Instead I finally saw Prince Caspian. When I went to buy tickets from practically the only theater in New York that was still playing it, I was like “Prince Caspian, please!” and the woman was all, “I’m sorry, that film isn’t playing here.” Then her supervisor leaned over and was like, “Yo, he mean Narnia, girl!”

Yo. To my surprise, it was pretty great.

It sputtered to life slowly — it was an odd choice to start with the birth of Miraz’s son — I know childbirth is agonizing, but come on, I just walked into a Narnia movie! And then you have to sit through sneery Miraz with his random Telmarine accent, Caspian escapes, blah blah blah. But then, oddly, good things start happening.

— The Pevensie actors have all gotten better and more interesting-looking. Especially the girls — Lucy should get a special Oscar for staring with convincing wonderment at non-existent CGI Aslan. And Susan is growing increasingly badass with her bowmanship. And the older she gets the less bad you feel for thinking she’s hot. Too bad she’s out of Narnia for good (no Last Battle for you, Susan, with your lipstick and your nylons!)

And the boys are more credible in combat, and more comfortable with humor. Edmund does a good job of sparring verbally with King Miraz prior to the single combat with Peter. (Miraz is, incidentally, played by a fantastic Italian actor named Sergio Castellitto who’s been in lots of good Italian stuff and is probably like George Clooney over there.)

— Speaking of humor: it’s actually funny! I spent the whole movie feeling bad for whoever wrote the first one, because I was sure they must have fired them and gotten somebody who was actually clever for Caspian. Weirdly, it was the same people, but they somehow figured out how to pitch the humor properly. Gone is the mind-shreddingly lame beaver-banter. I gave an audible guffaw when the Pevensies are bickering about acting like grown-ups, and Trumpkin mutters, “I’m a grown-up.”

— Everybody just seems to inhabit the world a little more thoroughly. At the beginning, you can see they’ve had problems adjusting to England after spending, what, a decade in Narnia. And people react to how young the Pevensies are, instead of just assuming it makes sense that a bunch of junior high school kids would be saving the universe. Edmund in particular really seems to carry the weight of his bad trip in the first movie — when he stops the White Witch from returning, you can see he understands the price of evil more than the others do. (“I know. You had it sorted.”)

— The creature effects are better, largely thanks to Moore’s law. When that minotaur gives his life holding up the gate of Miraz’s castle, while the others escape, you feel genuine awe at his sacrifice, instead of just wondering how much of him is real, if any. Or I did anyway.

I even thought the actor who played Prince Caspian was fine, despite the fact that (Internet rumors aside) I am not a 14-year-old girl. And in spite of his ludicrous accent (he said he actually modeled it on Mandy Patinkin in Princess Bride.) Which is good, since he’ll be all over Dawn Treader.

If I had a problem with the movie, it’s the same problem I have with the book, which is what the hell is Aslan doing playing peekaboo with Lucy for most of the story while all the Narnians are dying for him? I felt furious with him when he finally showed up, but all the characters just worshipped him as usual. To their credit they ask him about 20 times why he wouldn’t help them, but he always responds with some faux-profound stuff, and they nod like it makes sense. But it never made sense to me.