Monday, June 02, 2008

Caspian Can't Compete with Summer Movies

by Peter T. Chattaway | posted 06/02/08

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a better movie than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but has not quite been the hit that Disney had hoped for, studio chief Robert Iger told an analyst conference last week—and he blamed the new film's disappointing grosses on the crowded summer movie season.

Compared to Wardrobe, which was released in December 2005, Prince Caspian has been raking in less money at the box office nearly every day since its release, and it has been showing weaker "legs" as well—which means the film has been losing audience members at an even faster rate.

Prince Caspian was originally slated for a December 2007 release, but Disney put it off until the summer partly to make room for The Water Horse, which Narnia co-producer Walden Media had produced with Sony. The Water Horse came out Christmas Day and went on to gross $40 million in North America and another $61 million overseas.

Most recent fantasy films—including The Golden Compass, three of the five Harry Potter films and all three Lord of the Rings films—have been released in November or December, to take advantage of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The record for summer releases is more mixed. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released in June 2004 and went on to become the lowest-grossing film in the series; on the other hand, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released in July 2007 and became the second-highest grossing film in the series.

Prince Caspian came out May 16, two weeks after the better-than-expected debut of Iron Man and six days before the new Indiana Jones film—and as of this weekend, it ranked behind both of those films, as well as a couple of this week's new releases. To date, it has earned about $115 million in North America; by this point in its release, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had earned $153 million.

MarketWatch noted that Prince Caspian cost about $200 million to make and needed to gross $500 worldwide if it was to break even. It is not clear whether the film can do that—Wardrobe grossed $744 million worldwide—but Prince Caspian "is expected to have a home video life, however."

Before Prince Caspian came out, there were rumors that Disney might be looking for a new franchise to replace Narnia. But for now, the studio is still working on an adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is tentatively set for release on May 7, 2010—i.e., the first weekend of the summer moviegoing season, a timeslot that has been very good in recent years to films like Spider-Man and Iron Man.

Douglas Gresham, stepson of Narnia creator C.S. Lewis, also told that he is "already starting discussions on The Silver Chair. And we're just toying with the idea of doing The Horse and His Boy after that. So we are thinking ahead."

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Prince Caspian" Reviews!


The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (B+)

More than a millennium has passed as the latest Narnia adaptation brings a bigger, bolder and darker adventure to the screen

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Starring Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell and Peter Dinklage
  • Co-written and directed by Andrew Adamson
  • Based on the children's book of the same name by C.S. Lewis
  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • Rated PG
  • Opens May 16

By Tara Bennett

It's been a year since the Pevensie children returned to wartime England after their adventures in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. As the four siblings are growing up, they're having a tough time acclimating to their "normal" lives, where nothing special happens outside of school and air raids.
... one of the rare sequels that actually improves upon the original ...
Yet back in Narnia, 1,300 years have passed and the land of dancing trees and talking animals is now a mere shell of its former glory. The human Telmarine race has spent centuries exterminating the Narnians. Those wily enough to survive, like Trumpkin the dwarf (Dinklage) and Trufflehunter the badger, are hiding in the depths of the forest waiting for the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve (the Pevensie children) to return and save them.

But their initial savior actually turns out to be the exiled heir to Telmarine, Prince Caspian (Barnes). Having just barely escaped the clutches of his power-hungry uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), Caspian ends up in the forest and, in a moment of panic, blows a horn that magically sweeps the Pevensie children back to Narnia.

Devastated by the ruined state of their former home, the Pevensies band together with Caspian and the surviving Narnians to wage what looks like a hopelessly lopsided war against the diabolical King Miraz and his epic army for the ultimate fate of Narnia. Their only hope is that the Pevensies' faith in the wise lion Aslan, their former subjects and themselves can sway the tides of war.

Restoring a fantasyland
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is one of the rare sequels that actually improves upon the original, not because of a superior storyline, but rather because the maturity of this production gives this film more resonance. Director Andrew Adamson wisely moves away from the gleam of the overly CG'd first film and instead uses the grandeur of actual location shooting from all over the globe to ground Narnia in reality. The kingdom feels real now, and that does wonders in connecting the audience to Narnia's peril. Plus the production design is jaw-dropping, with massive sets, including castles and Aslan's rock-faced fortress, which set the stage for impressively choreographed battle sequences.

And action is most certainly the focus of Prince Caspian, as Adamson tinkers with Lewis' narrative to quickly set up intersecting storylines that allow him to get right to the business of preparing for the war against Miraz and the Telmarines. And while the battles can be overlong in some sections, they are energetic, creative and blissfully void of any gore or blood, which makes the film safe for families.

The other great strength of Prince Caspian is the cast. Barnes, with his Inigo Montoya-inspired accent, is everything an earnest, handsome prince should be, and he has sweet chemistry with the other characters—especially Susan (Popplewell). As for the Pevensie kids, the years between films have been good to young actors Henley, Moseley, Keynes and Popplewell. They all come across more assured this time around, whether they're having heart-to-hearts with CG critters or racing into battle, and the film is stronger because of them. The supporting cast is also winning, including Dinklage's soul-weary Trumpkin and Eddie Izzard's charming voice work for the swashbuckling rodent Reepicheep. While overall the themes are darker and the ending is as bittersweet as the first, Prince Caspian evolves the Narnia mythology without disappointing.

Prince Caspian gets the epic sequel right by raising the action stakes without forgetting that the characters are what drive the story's emotional heart. —Tara

From Christianity Today:

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Review by Peter T. Chattaway | posted 05/15/08

For all their talk of staying true to the spirit of C. S. Lewis's novels, the makers of the Narnia films have frequently deviated from the books in ways both big and small, and the liberties they take with Prince Caspian;which echo but go far, far beyond the liberties they took with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe;both help the film and hurt it. They help because you can sense that co-writer and director Andrew Adamson is finally making the big epic fantasy battle movie that he really wanted to make the first time around, and his devotion to that vision holds Prince Caspian together and makes it a more consistent, and consistently entertaining, sort of film than Wardrobe was. But in steering the film closer to his own vision, Adamson steers it away from Lewis's, and so it loses some of the book's core spiritual themes.

Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian

The basic storyline is still there, though it has been re-arranged somewhat. Instead of beginning in England, with the four Pevensie children sitting at a train station, the film begins in Narnia, with a woman giving birth and a man, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), being woken in the middle of the night and told that he must flee for his life. It turns out the woman in question is Caspian's aunt, and she has just given birth to a son, and this gives her husband, Lord Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), the opportunity he needs to seize the throne that has been vacant ever since Caspian's father died. But first Caspian has to hide;in a wardrobe!;from assassins with crossbows who enter his room only to find that he is not in bed. And then he has to ride, ride, ride into the night while being pursued by several of Miraz's soldiers.

Meanwhile, back in England, the four Pevensie children are getting ready to go back to school. One year has passed since their adventures in Narnia, and they are still getting used to the fact that they are no longer grown-up kings and queens of some far-off magical land but, rather, children who still have to deal with kids their own age. Peter (William Moseley), in particular, resents the fact that he is no longer High King, and he is all too eager to get into fights with other boys; fights that he apparently cannot win until his younger brother Edmund (Skandar Keynes) steps in and bails him out. But then, far away in Narnia, Caspian calls for help by blowing on the magic horn that once belonged to Queen Susan (Anna Popplewell), and suddenly the four Pevensie children find themselves whisked away to their former castle. (It's worth noting that this time, they're whisked from an underground tube station, rather than from an "empty, sleepy, country station," as in the book; a change which Lewis scholar Devin Brown finds problematic.)

Sergio Castellitto as King Miraz

However, while only one year has gone by in our world, over a thousand years have passed in Narnia, and so the castle that once belonged to the Pevensies is now in ruins. What's more, it turns out that the humans who now rule Narnia, a race known as the Telmarines, have driven the magical creatures of Narnia so deep into hiding that many people simply assume that the minotaurs, centaurs and other creatures are nothing more than "fairy tales." Even the Narnians themselves have lost their magic. One of the things this movie gets very right is the dismay Lucy (Georgie Henley) feels when she realizes the trees no longer "dance" the way they used to, or the way Susan, who had difficulty believing in talking animals in the first film is now caught off-guard by the sight of a bear that doesn't talk.

Moments like these hint at the themes that Lewis explored in his book. For Lewis, the modern world was a lot like the world that Caspian had grown up in, a world that had cast aside myth and magic and reduced the world to little more than a collection of parts. (In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace declares that stars in our world are nothing more than flaming balls of gas, and he is told that, no, even in our world, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.) Lewis wanted to give his readers—including Christians who had unthinkingly bought into modernity, a taste of the spiritual realm that animates our physical world. And since he believed that the pagan, pre-Christian man had a greater aptitude for the spiritual realm, and was thus easier to convert, than the secular, post-Christian man, Lewis wrote the Narnia books to introduce his readers to a "baptized" form of paganism. Nowhere is this more explicit than in the original book version of Prince Caspian, in which the Christ-figure Aslan literally dances with the Greco-Roman god Bacchus.

Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin

But Adamson and his co-writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, show no interest in that particular theme. Gone from this film are any and all references to Bacchus, Silenus or the Maenads, figures as important to this story as Father Christmas was to Wardrobe, and gone too are the scenes in which Aslan and his followers trash the schools that teach Narnian children not to believe in myths and fairy tales. And because those scenes are missing, the divine lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) has very little to do. Indeed, Aslan is almost entirely written out of the movie altogether. His first appearance, an actual encounter with Lucy in the book, is here heavily abbreviated, and quickly revealed to be a dream. It is only in the film's final reels that Aslan indisputably steps onto the stage and takes action.

Because Aslan is so remote from them, the Pevensies are forced to figure things out for themselves, with varying results. Peter's hunger for power and glory leads him to act just as rashly in Narnia as he had been acting in England, but since he is leading armies into battle now, his rashness has lethal, devastating consequences. What's more, he is strongly, strongly tempted to make a deal with the devil, as it were, to achieve his goals. (This may be the biggest, most potentially controversial change to a once-noble character since Faramir felt the lure of the Ring in Peter Jackson's version of The Two Towers.) However, some important and powerful themes do emerge, as Lucy reminds Peter that they need to actually look for Aslan and be faithful to what they already know of him, if they are ever to actually see him.

Aslan and Lucy (Georgie Henley)

The supporting characters, including the pessimistic dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and the amusing but lethal warrior mouse Reepicheep (voice of Eddie Izzard), are nicely handled; Reepicheep has one encounter with a cat that is even funnier when you recall that Adamson co-directed Antonio Banderas's Puss in Boots in Shrek 2, and the battle scenes include at least one brilliant tactic that I don't think we have seen in any of the other recent ancient or medieval war movies.

As a director, Adamson is still borrowing from Jackson and other filmmakers: note the flying-arrow shot lifted straight out of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but his direction is also more assured this time, perhaps because he gives himself greater freedom to change things as he sees fit. It helps that Prince Caspian, as written by Lewis himself, is a more complex story, with political intrigue among the villains and a deeper sense of Narnian history. Some oddities still creep in, though, from the abundance of crossbows, which everyone brandishes as though they were as easy to use as automatic weapons, to a flirtation between Susan and Caspian that seems to come from out of nowhere late in the story. (Popplewell told the fan site NarniaWeb the film did have a romantic subplot at one point, but most of it got left on the cutting-room floor.)

And then there is the swordplay, which is so pervasive that it begins to get a little tiring. (I found myself thinking of The Matrix Reloaded, and how the characters there seemed to get into extended martial-arts scenes simply to say "hello.") But on a summer-popcorn-movie level, it all works. Prince Caspian is a reasonably enjoyable and diverting bit of entertainment, and it may satisfy people who have been waiting for a worthy successor to the movie version of The Lord of the Rings but felt the previous Narnia movie wasn't quite it. And if it lacks Lewis' message, oh well, with any luck, it will turn people on to the book, which is where the real magic lies.

From Entertainment Weekly:

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

BROKEN SPELL Prince Caspian (with Ben Barnes, pictured, in the title role) is a darker, battle-heavy sequel that just can't match the charm of its Narnia predecessor


Release Date: May 16, 2008; Rated: PG; Length: 132 Minutes; Genre: Fantasy; With: William Moseley

In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, one of the rare sequences of untrammeled wit and fun and light arrives when the valiant, shining-eyed Caspian (Ben Barnes), having assembled a motley army out of the scruffy woodland creatures of Narnia, infiltrates the castle of King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), the evil uncle who has usurped his throne. (We know what a bad guy Miraz is from one look at his ugly, pointed beard. No facial hair should be this sculpted.) The forces of Narnia — spitfire dwarfs, towering centaurs, and other misfits — are the underdogs, but when it comes to sneaking past the royal walls, they have advantages.

The castle itself is impossibly tall — it looks like a collection of mighty elongated chess rooks — and so it helps to have a few griffins soar over the edifice to deposit key fighters. There is also a swashbuckling mouse (blithely voiced by Eddie Izzard), who could almost be a prankish cousin to Puss in Boots from the Shrek films. (Andrew Adamson, director of Prince Caspian, codirected the first two Shreks.) He wriggles up a pole and leaves a castle kitty cat bound in knots. And then there's the hulking humanoid ram: just the thing to give an enemy soldier a start.

As amusing as this can be, the attempt by Caspian to win back his lost kingdom is really about all there is to the film — which is to say, this is a movie that showcases battle. Lots and lots of battle. As the soldiers pick up their broadswords and begin to slash and plunge, Prince Caspian seizes, and holds, your attention, yet it begins to look like any other mystically righteous clang-of-metal war movie. Creatures or no creatures, we’ve seen it before.

Like the C.S. Lewis novel it's based on, Prince Caspian follows a tradition of darkening sequels. In pop-fantasy cinema, the trend was more or less set in motion by The Empire Strikes Back, which ripened the underlying foreboding of Star Wars, and it was then followed by the playfully (some would say perversely) demonic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It took the Harry Potter films an extra installment or two, but that series got gravitas as well — all to the benefit of its hellzapoppin Victorian toy-shop aesthetic. Prince Caspian, taking on a similar spirit, is a fierce and somber battle epic. It features soldiers in pewter armor lined up in rows like a sinister marching band against the Narnians, who stand there with their bows and arrows, trembling bravely at the odds against them. Yet make no mistake: This is also a Disney film, and so there's nothing too twisted, ignoble, or bloody about it. The real reason Prince Caspian is darker than 2005's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that it leans so much more heavily on medieval hardware than mysticism. What's changed is the ratio of combat to enchantment.

From the start, you feel a comedown in magic. Instead of the wardrobe they employed before, Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) and his fresh-faced siblings now journey to Narnia through a London subway tunnel, landing on a sunny beach with rock formations that look a lot less wondrous than they're supposed to. Peter, along with Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Susan (Anna Popplewell), has been away for a year, but in Narnia time, 1,300 years have passed, and so has the glorious revolution over which they presided. The creatures of Narnia are now exiled to the woods, and as Miraz, leader of the brutish Telmarines, plots his nasty takeover, Caspian and the Pevensie kids gather the disparate Narnians into that hopeful and collective thing...a fellowship! After the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I realize I'm in the minority in finding the gathering of a fellowship to be a rather blah excuse for the plot of an adventure film. In this case, the doubling up of noble young heroes doesn't help. As Caspian, newcomer Ben Barnes has pouty lips, an anonymous European accent, and long hair that glows like something out of a teen-shampoo commercial. He comes off like the second coming of Orlando Bloom.

In total effect, Prince Caspian feels a lot more earthbound than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At least, that's true until a surprise figure shows up, his giant sculpted liquid face rising out of the waves of an aqua green river. Will viewers agree on what this face is? Or will they debate it the way that certain devout legions do when it is spotted, mysteriously, in the shadowed folds of a potato chip? B–

From Crosswalk Movies:

"Prince Caspian" Is the Narnia We’ve Been Waiting for

Jeffrey Huston Contributing Writer

Release Date: May 16, 2008
Rating: PG (for epic battle action and violence)
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure, Adaptation
Run Time: 147 min
Director: Andrew Adamson
Actors: Ben Barnes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, voice of Eddie Izzard

The first film based on The Chronicles of Narnia book saga—The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe—did little to inspire hope for the second. A rote adaptation realized with bland execution, about the best thing that could be said of it was, “Well, at least they didn’t screw it up.” Though faithful to the book’s narrative, the tone was flat, characters lacked distinction, and the aesthetic—while impressive—was generic.

With that as context, this can now be said: in every way that Wardrobe tried (or didn’t) but failed, Prince Caspian succeeds. What was originally slavish adherence to the source has now become inspired cinematic faithfulness. Characters and relationships that lacked emotion and complexity now come to life with camaraderie and depth. And most importantly, the Aslan-as-Christ metaphor that seemed to be drawn merely out of obligation is now fully embraced. Prince Caspian is a major step forward and finally represents the Narnia we’ve truly been waiting for.

Unlike the book, the film opens in Narnia as we see Prince Caspian flee for his life. Long considered the heir to the throne (a seat his father held until his mysterious death), he is now threatened by the power-lust of his uncle Lord Miraz whose wife has now given birth to a son—an heir that Miraz schemes to take Caspian’s place.

Fearful and desperate, Caspian uses a magical Horn to sound an alarm that legend says will call back the ancient kings and queens of Narnia. That royalty (as we know from the first story) is the Pevensie siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—school-age Londoners who once ruled and brought restoration to Narnia, and the Horn belonged to Susan herself. Through the magic of its call, the Horn’s alarm brings the Pevensies back to Narnia.

Upon their return, the Pevensies soon realize that while only a year has passed in their world, over a millennia has transpired in Narnia. Now in ruins under the rule of Telmarines (invader humans led by Miraz), the kids must reclaim their positions as kings and queens and help Prince Caspian take the throne that is rightfully his.

The prospect of Prince Caspian succeeding seemed dubious as director Andrew Adamson has returned for this second installment. One has to wonder if he spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how Peter Jackson got The Lord of the Rings trilogy right, because many of its successes are true here. Not only is there more visual flair (both in natural production and visual effects), but it also serves as a great example of how to adapt a work of literature to film.

While C.S. Lewis’s book works as a solid basis for an action-adventure, to script it out literally (given its storytelling structure and brief action scenes) would not translate well to the language of film. Adamson and the other writers recognize this by weaving the book’s first two separate acts seamlessly together. The script’s extra-canonical liberties (magnifying the presence of Lord Miraz, staging battles that aren’t even referenced in the book, etc.) all fit squarely into the spirit and tone of the novel rather than feeling like an opportunistic distortion of it.

The same can be said of the characters. When we first see Peter in London, he’s in the middle of a physical fight with a fellow student. Though not in the book, this one moment instantly establishes Peter’s warrior nature more distinctly than any scene from the first film. There is added depth as Peter’s courage is textured with arrogance, giving his character (and all the relationships) an edge that ultimately must be humbled.

Similar gravitas is brought to the other characters—heroes, villains, and comic-relief alike (Reepicheep and his rodent platoon are brilliantly conceived)—at such a level that not only do themes resonate more profoundly, but emotions are felt more deeply. And Aslan, along with his challenging wisdom and air of mystery, is finally depicted in a way that creates legitimate chills.

Early on, the dwarf Trumpkin tells the Pevensies that Narnia may be more savage than they remember it. The same could be said to the viewers of the first film; here the tone is darker, the action more intense, and the substance more demanding. Where Wardrobe pulled punches, Prince Caspian packs, throws and delivers them.

Lord of the Rings-lite” was a fair characterization of the first Narnia film and the same applies here, but the difference is that before it was a criticism and now it’s a compliment. To put it simply, though one viewing of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is enough, I can’t wait to see Prince Caspian again.

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None.
  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Innocent romantic chemistry between Prince Caspian and Susan. One brief kiss.
  • Violence/Other: Medieval combat violence (swordplay, kills, etc.) with visual allusions to decapitations (but doesn’t actually visualize it), all set in a fantasy world.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prince Caspian on Film: A Victorious Return to Narnia

Stephen McGarvey Executive Editor

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This feature contains a few minor plot spoilers.

At some point near the completion of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the film’s director Andrew Adamson made a crucial phone call to his producer Mark Johnson. “It was the middle of the night when my phone rang,” says Johnson, “without introduction Andrew asks me, ‘Are we really ready to do another one of these?’”

Making a movie is certainly exhausting business with millions of struggles and details to handle. One could certainly understand why on the heels of his first cinematic journey to Narnia, a weary Adamson would be hesitant to go there again. Backed by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, they set out to make not just a movie; they had to make a huge movie that realizes a fully fictional world inhabited by completely imaginary characters. One that satisfied both the rabid fans of C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia, but also a large segment of the movie-going world that was not familiar with these books.

Fortunately for us, their success almost three years ago with the first Narnia film and their love for these popular stories drove them to bring the second book in the Chronicles of Narnia to life: Prince Caspian. But like the second movie in any series, the filmmakers knew that Prince Caspian could not just be as good as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it had to be better. Also like any book adaptation on film, Johnson, Adamson and the film’s screenwriters had to make some changes to the original work. Yet the structure of the novel Prince Caspian provided some unique challenges to the adaptation process.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is so revered by so many people, you got the sense that if you tampered with it, your were doing so at great risk,” says Johnson. “With [Prince Caspian] when we first read it … we knew it was going to be really tough.”

What Johnson and the others discovered, was that even though millions have read and enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, far fewer readers had also read Prince Caspian and the rest of the Chronicles. “So we didn’t feel quite the same pressure, as we did on the first movie,” confesses Johnson, “The success of the first gave us a bit more leeway to make some changes to the second. We were very much aware of what these books mean to so many people and want to stay true to each one them.”

Going Forward 1,300 Years

In this second part of the Narnia story, we return to Narnia 1,300 years into the future. The land is ruled by an ignoble race of men called the Telmarines, and their power-hungry ruler Miraz. The magical creatures of old Narnia have all but disappeared in the face of this human tyranny, and have not been seen in years. Upon the birth of his son, the wicked Miraz attempts to murder his nephew Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne. During his escape from Miraz, Caspian discovers the old Narnians in hiding and joins with them to take back Narnia from the Telmarines. Caspian also finds himself in possession of a magic horn—familiar to those who remember the first film—and blows it in his “hour of great need,” pulling the Pevensie children, the famous “kings and queens of old,” back into Narnia.

Narnia purists will note this slight departure from the book (which has Caspian using the horn after a long argument with the rest of the Narnians about how appropriate using the magic horn would be). Since most of Prince Caspian’s story in the book is told in flashback, the filmmakers knew that they had to change this bit of structure for film.

“Structurally [Prince Caspian] is not a movie,” says screenplay co-writer Stephen McFeely. “It’s a 180-page book. When the kids get [to Narnia] and they meet a dwarf who tells them a 60-page flashback they are not involved in, about a kid they’ve never heard of named Prince Caspian. And they say ‘it sounds like he is in trouble ... we better go do something about that.’ So we wrote a memo when [co-writer Christopher Markus and I] first got the job that said what we have to all agree on is that somebody is blowing that horn really, really early—much earlier than the book—because the kids have to get here and meet Caspian.”

For the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan Edmund and Lucy, who returned to England from Narnia at the end of the first story, only one year has passed. So their return to a Narnia that is more than a thousand years older is quite jarring.

“Because they’ve been to Narnia before they feel like they know Narnia better than anyone else,” says Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy Pevensie in both films. “They come back to a completely different Narnia… they don’t cope with that well until the end [of the film.]”

Prince Caspian the film also examines what life in England must have been like for these children who had formerly been rulers of the magical land of Narnia. Lewis, McFeely notes, did not investigate this part of the story. “What happens if you are a king or queen of Narnia for 15 years, and then you walk back through the wardrobe,” asks McFeely. “You are a kid just like when you left and you have to go back to school for a year… before you were signing treaties and defeating giants. Now you have to go back to doing homework. We wanted to show the tough times. …”

Making Adjustments in Different Worlds

It is the character Peter, who seems to have the most difficulty adjusting to both life in the real world and returning to a Narnia where he is no longer the high king. The movie thoughtfully examines his inner struggles with pride and the tensions between “king of old” Peter and Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne.

“Peter feels very self-entitled, and his ego gets the best of him,” says William Moseley about the character he portrays. “He was the High King and then he got back to England and nobody had any respect for him. Then he got back to Narnia [and again] nobody had any respect for him…”

Much like younger brother Edmund in the first film, it is Peter who now has the most profound personal journey in Prince Caspian. And with Caspian now in the picture Moseley feels that Peter learns a great deal of humility in this film. “I think leadership at the end of the day is about serving other people, and serving your country and not serving yourself. Peter had to learn that valuable lesson…. Peter has to pass Narnia on to Caspian. There is a strong leadership journey for him portrayed here.”

This strain between Caspian and Peter ups the film’s tension. “It doesn’t feel like they hate each other, they’re just at each other’s throats a bit because they’ve been through all this stuff together,” says Ben Barnes who plays Caspian in the film. “I was pleased the way it came out.”

Adamson concurs: “For Peter [the return to Narnia] was a chance to reassess himself, to prove himself… So he didn’t really want Aslan’s help because that would mean he NEEDED someone’s help. He wanted to prove that he really was the high king. So [that’s why in the story] he is sort of the last one to come around to saying ‘ok, I need help.’”

“[Edmund] is always looking out for Peter and he doesn’t really get the credit he deserves…” say Skandar Keynes of his character Edmund. “One of the recurring themes is how he is helping Peter out and Peter is just kind of ignoring him.”

And with Edmund’s character arc so severe in the first film, the writers struggled to figure out how to handle his character in this second film.

“We were always worried about Edmund because … he fixed the most about himself in the first movie,” says McFeely. “So it would be unfair to him and the audience to make him a little crud muffin at the beginning of this movie. So then what do you do, you start with a character that’s pretty noble and has a good head on his shoulders?” Edmund instead of being a character in need of redemption for his treachery, becomes a great little action hero. In addition to getting a key role in the main action sequence, Keynes gets several fun bits of comic relief that prove him to be both witty and endearing.

Breaking Up the Action

It is the humor of Prince Caspian that breaks up the intensity in an action heavy film. Several of the Narnians, many of them completely rendered on computer, provide some welcome comic relief in the midst of all the intense action and character growth. “I was actually pleased at how much the audience laughed,” says Adamson of the test screenings he sat in on. “Reepicheep the mouse is a great character in the book, and any time you have a mouse say something it instantly becomes funny.” Trumpkin the dwarf, portrayed by actor Peter Dinklage, displays a cynical sense of humor that also works to ease the film’s tension.

Like most books adapted for film, what’s more important than the details are the themes of the story. Prince Caspian not only contains the amazing special effects and action choreography you would expect in a contemporary fantasy epic, it also includes a poignant emotional journey for the characters. According to Mark Johnson, a film should always be about characters and story telling … “are [the viewers] going to be compelled to follow these characters...? It’s not about ‘does this explosion work’ it’s about ‘do we care?’

Added to the story, which will no doubt cause a good deal of discussion, is an action sequence where the Narnians attack Miraz’s castle before he has a chance to attack them.

“In the book Reepicheep suggests raiding the castle and going after the Telmarines; [it’s] not something they do in the book but something worth expanding on. I read to immerse myself in what the book was and see what came out of it in the writing process. And it evolved toward a more action-driven film [than the first],” says Adamson.

“The raid is a huge failure,” says screenplay co-writer Christopher Markus. But we wanted to give Peter that [scene], so he can come across as stiffly heroic … we really wanted to test his mettle and break him a little bit so he could build himself back as a person.”

By all accounts, C.S. Lewis’ step-son and guardian of the Lewis estate is pleased with this second film, telling Christianity Today in a recent interview that although Prince Caspian is a poorer book than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it ended up being a better movie.

This success is largely due to Adamson, Johnson, et al and their reverence for the themes of the source material.

Going Back and Moving on

“I grew up in Papua New Guinea and that’s a country that has gone through an awful lot of change in the last 22 years," says Adamson. “I’ve never gone back there in part because I know the place where I grew up doesn’t really exist anymore. So [like the Pevensie children] I related to the sense of loss of not being able to go back to something that you grew up with. Like the old saying 'you can’t go back to your childhood.' That’s what [the Pevensie children] are going through … going back to a place that doesn’t exist and having to accept it and move on. So as much as I wanted connection I wanted the audience to feel that sense of loss as well.”

Any additions or structural changes to the story support the themes of the book nicely, including making one famous sequence with Aslan, rendered here potentially in a dream. Says Adamson: “There is a problem there that you can get away with in the book because the story is told in retrospect … Aslan is there and he doesn’t do anything. But we had a problem with that cinematically because once you show Aslan, if you don’t have him do something people are going to ask ‘Why is all this happening? Why doesn’t he do something.’ It became really hard to see how this magnificent creature came along and hung out with the kids, and not do anything to stop all this carnage.”

At its core, Prince Caspian is about belief verses doubt, a theme familiar to those who know the work of C.S. Lewis. The Telmarines don’t believe in Aslan and the old Narnians. Lucy sees Aslan but her siblings don’t believe her at first.

“You believe, then you see,” says Will Moseley about Narnia. “The analogy is there that Aslan represents God. People say every day ‘if God is there why can’t I see him.’ Peter, Susan and Edmund say the same thing, ‘why didn’t I see him, he is an unbelievably huge lion why can’t I see him?’ Because they don’t believe. When Peter feels remorse about his sins, then the magic starts to happen. Almost like you open yourself up to believe, then you can see. I don’t think it has anything to do with aging … it's more to do with your strength in belief.”

Starring Peter Dinklage, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Prince Caspian opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, May 16, 2008. Click here for more information. Interviews Narnia Stars!

Interview with Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian)

Interview with Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, and William Moseley (Pevensie Siblings)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Andrew Adamson Chronicles "Narnia" Again - Interview

Director Andrew Adamson is in the business of chronicling `Narnia,' this time in `Prince Caspian'

by Clint O'Connor / Plain Dealer Film Critic
Wednesday May 14, 2008, 7:48 AM

Andrew Adamson is Mr. Blockbuster. He's had a hand in four of the top 35 grossing films of all time. None of his movies has earned less than $260 million.

That's Lucas-Spielberg territory.

The 41-year-old New Zealander directed "Shrek 2" (No. 3 on the all-time list, and the most successful animated film ever), was a producer on "Shrek the Third" (No. 18), directed and co-wrote "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" (No. 29), and directed one of the most entertaining films of the 21st century, the original "Shrek" (No. 35).

Apparently the guy likes the pressures of spitting out sequels. He's back with the second Narnia film, "Prince Caspian," which opens nationwide today. This time, the four Pevensie children return to Narnia where more than 1,300 years have passed, and must help Caspian defeat an army of Telmarines. The second film from C.S. Lewis' seven-book series is lengthy (140 minutes), darker, and more battle-heavy than the first.

We caught up with Adamson on the phone from London to ask about his Narnia redux.

You've become Mr. Epic. Do you ever long for a small budget, a hand-held camera, and a crew of three?

That's where I wanted to go in the beginning and ended up being steered in this direction by accident and incident. I'm actually stepping back from the next one of these. Michael Apted will direct ["The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"]. I'm planning to go off to New Zealand and develop some smaller projects.

The first time around you took a beloved book to the screen, now you have to top the first film. How do you deal with that pressure?

You can't think about that too much because you start second-guessing your own decisions. I can't really make a film for somebody else. I can only make it for myself and hope that other people approve of my taste. Once you try to guess what's cool for a 13-year-old boy, you can pretty much guarantee you'll miss. And they'll know that you're false.

With "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" a lot of attention was paid to the Christian aspects of the story -- Aslan dying willingly and being resurrected. Did that affect your approach to those themes this time?

Not really. A lot of people, particularly in the U.S., made a big issue with the allegorical lion. Certainly it's something C.S. Lewis would have been irate about, because he never intended him to be allegorical, though he certainly wrote from his own belief system. The last film had a resurrection story, obviously a very strong representation of the resurrection story of Christ. But it also exists in a lot of other cultures and a lot of other religions. I think that's why the book has been so accepted across the world, and why the movie was as well.

The film is rated PG. With all of the sword fighting and battling I assumed it would be PG-13. Were you surprised by the rating?

There's a lot more action in it, it's a bit more of a boys' film, and a bit more intense. But in the last film, with Aslan being killed, I don't think there's anything darker than that. That was very terrifying for children. The thing I learned was it's okay to go there and it's okay for kids to be sacred, as long as you don't leave them in that state, and as long as you're not gratuitous.

How old were you when you first read the books?

I was between the ages of about 8 and 10. I read them a couple of times over. I do feel comfortable with that age group seeing the film. I would say for younger kids, parents should definitely go with them. You want somebody who can hold their hand during the scary bits.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 12, 2008 Interviews Andrew, Ben, Peter, Georgie, William, and Anna!

Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew of the latest Narnia installment, Prince Caspian

By Tara DiLullo Bennett

With the massive success of Andrew Adamson's cinematic adaptation of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005, it was really only a matter of time before the next novel in the beloved fantasy series would get its chance to shine on the big screen. Three years later, Adamson and almost the entire original creative team from the first movie are back with their interpretation of the much-less-read story of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

A year after the Pevensie children's inaugural adventure in Narnia and their unexpected return to 1940s wartime England, their former realm beckons them to return once more. Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are all magically transported back to a Narnia that has now aged 1300 years. Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) the dwarf reveals to them that the land of Minotaur and fauns, dwarves and talking animals is but a pale shadow of itself, with the magic spirited out of most of the inhabitants that still exist. Narnia's whole existence is under threat of siege and extinction by the evil King Miraz of Telmarine and his massive army of humans. More mature and more resolved than ever to save their former home, the Pevensie children unite what is left of Narnia's creatures and, along with the help of the Telmarine outcast and ally Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), they align to fight once more.

Adamson's Prince Caspian is even more epic than the first film, with jaw-dropping sets, more impressive visual effects and a timeless story that revolves around the power of faith and redemption. SCI FI Weekly recently ventured to New York City to catch up with Adamson, Moseley, Popplewell, Henley, Dinklage and Barnes.

Andrew, with the original film successfully under your belt, was Prince Caspian easier to create?
Adamson: It should have been easier! You always think "I have done it before, so it will be easier," but because of that there is the natural tendency to put more challenges in front of you. Then there are the expectations that "the last film was this big, so the audience is going to expect at least that," and then it expands from there. It became logistically a very challenging film. There is a lot more action. We have a lot more extras, with the whole Telmarine army. There are a lot more locations, which was very deliberate, so all those things added up.

Unlike The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, you created a very different script structure for Prince Caspian compared to the book. Were you concerned fans would get upset?

Adamson: The first book was very cinematic, in an almost five-act structure that was quite linear. In this book a lot is actually told in retrospect by Trumpkin, who is telling the kids what happened after they left. And there are scenes like them following Aslan through the gorge in the book that don't work cinematically. We did have to come up with a very different structure, and getting the story and script right was the hardest part.

There always is concern about fans, although one of the Narnia Web site fans was [at the screening], and he was speechless with enthusiasm, so I take that as a good sign! And I actually read the book again on the plane on the way over here, because after you work on something for two and half years you can't remember what was there and what you made up. I was really pleased that in reading the book, even though the structure is very different, it felt like I was reading the same story. What I set out to do with both of these was "if this really happened and C.S. Lewis wrote a book for small children about the events and then I make a movie of the real event, I need to stick to the key points."

Do you prefer directing animated films or live-action films more?

Adamson: This is like doing both. You do the live-action part and then you have to do the animated part with all animated characters. It's largely like the difference between a sprint and a marathon. The intensity is the same, but the duration is different. In animation you get a lot more chances at things. You can refine over and over again. In live action, when you have 500 people looking over your shoulder you don't have as many opportunities to do things over. The nice thing about doing it combined is that you don't necessarily have to reshoot stuff; you can give lines to animated characters six months down the track. In both films, I repurposed scenes and added lines later on with animated characters that make the live-action parts work better.

How did you find Ben Barnes, who plays Caspian?

Adamson: The net was cast around the world. I wanted to make the Telmarines of Mediterranean descent, with the whole thing about them coming from pirates. I started casting in Italy, Spain, France and Central America. Ben came as a surprise when Gail sent us his tape. He got the nuance in the script in one of the scenes he decided to audition that I hadn't seen any of the other actors get. By this time it was very late in the game, as I was already prepping in New Zealand. I arranged for him to fly to L.A., and I met him there. He's charming, and he looked the part. I wanted someone who looked very different from William. He was a very accomplished young man who still looked like he was 16 years old.

Ben, what kind of man is Prince Caspian?
Barnes: Caspian is an earnest character. He's a bit of a lost soul. He hasn't been parented and has been brought up by someone [Miraz] who essentially doesn't care about him at all and is just waiting to have his own heir so he can get rid of him. That's not a very loving environment to be brought up in. The closest thing he has is his professor, and that was probably only a couple of years. He's an interesting character, and I'm excited to see how he develops. But in the next film [Voyage of the Dawn Treader], he won't suddenly become this macho, musing, quipping king.

How was it assimilating into this tight-knit clan of actors?

Barnes: When I got the part I got [The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe] DVD and watched all the DVD extras and listened to Georgie [Henley] say, "Oh, Will is like my brother, and Andrew [Adamson] is like the dad when my dad's not there, and it's all lovely." I just thought "Give me a bucket. I don't believe you." Then I walked into the production office on the first day and they were playing table tennis with each other and sitting on each other's laps and sharing ice cream. It was like something out of a Disney film ... boom, boom. [Laughs.] It really was like that, and it was a very family atmosphere on set.

Peter, did Warwick Davis [Nikabrik] give you any tips on how to act with the makeup for your character, Trumpkin?
Dinklage: Ah, Warwick is an old pro on these fantasy films. Even if you don't know it's Warwick, it's probably Warwick underneath a lot of makeup. I had done one film for Disney the year before, Underdog, where I was in some makeup but not anything like what he has done or what I did with this movie. It's a whole other level of craziness. I was in the makeup chair for three hours. But when you are complaining or you have a bad day and you are hot with the yak hair and everything, you just look at him, and he's such an old pro it makes you mellow out. Warwick had more makeup than I did. It's funny, because on a movie like this with the Narnians, you see people more in makeup than you see them out of makeup, so it was always almost a shock seeing him sometimes at the end of the day and he was 500 years younger!

Georgie, the Pevensie siblings have such a genuine rapport on screen. Why do you think that is?
Henley: I think the reason we have this bond is because in my family I am the youngest. I have two older sisters, so I am the baby. In Will's family, he is the big brother. It's like in all of our families we just swap in. I love it, because I have two sisters and no big brother. Having Skandar [Keynes] and Will around is like having two big brothers. Especially Will is always there if you want a cuddle on set, which is lovely because whenever you are feeling down, Will is always there and happy. Why we all have this chemistry and bond is because we've basically grown up together, almost. We've spent years together.

William, you really outdid yourself with the stunts and impressive fighting in the various battle scenes. Was it more fun this time around?
Moseley: Yeah. The physical aspect I completely immersed myself in and embraced. On the first one, the battle armor was quite rigid and I felt like I was a robot. In this one, they really freed it up and made it more agile for me so I could do these crazy stunts. I worked really hard on a one-to-one level with stunt coordinator Allan Poppleton. I was running eight miles every other day and working out in the gym for a couple hours on top of that. I was just thinking my body was in such good shape last year!

Anna, was this film easier to do that the first one?
Popplewell: It wasn't necessarily easier or harder, it was just different. This one was bigger. When you're dealing with a Telmarine army and a Narnia army, suddenly there are 300 extras training in one area and a huge prosthetics tent in another and you are catering for a thousand people. Even having experience with the huge scale of the first movie, I was surprised by how big everything was. I wasn't involved in any of battle stuff last time around, so to be the only one on the battlefield in a skirt is interesting. I made sure I did twice as much horse-riding training before I got to New Zealand as the boy, because I didn't want to get left behind. Of course, I pretended I had no training whatsoever, so I just looked like a seamless professional.

How was it adding new cast, like Ben Barnes and Peter Dinklage, to the mix?

Popplewell: Ben is really lovely. From the other perspective, because the four of us are so close, we were nervous about the new characters in the movie and who we were going to be spending this amount of time with. You want to have a good time. I was completely delighted when I met Ben and Peter. They are such fun people to be around, and they have amazing senses of humor.

At the end of Prince Caspian, Aslan tells Peter and Susan that they won't be returning to Narnia again—which means this is the last film where you will all be together. Was it hard saying goodbye?

Henley: It's weird, because I finished filming a bit earlier, as I wasn't in some of the battle. My last shot was one of the last scenes in the movie, when we are actually saying goodbye. It was quite hard for me. But I knew it wasn't goodbye forever. I did have a bit of a cry, but I wasn't that sad because I knew because we had grown up together. You can't break that bond as easily as just saying goodbye to someone.

Moseley: It was a really emotional moment, and it was the very last shot that we did. It was a battle scene where all the Narnians are running, and it was a really empowering moment. It sounds weird, but the sun was setting with this beautiful sunset in the Czech Republic, and the whole cast was running down the hill, and it just felt like we were bound for this very last moment, and it immortalized our experience together. It was sad, but it felt like I was ready to move on.

Popplewell: It's bittersweet, the fact that Will and I won't be involved next time. I had my first audition for this when I was 13, and I'm 19 now, so it's been a big chunk of my life. I don't want to play the same character seven times. I think people would probably get bored of it. I don't know if I could spend seven times seven months doing it, so it's been wonderful, but it will be nice to move on, too.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

CT Movies Interviews Andrew Adamson

The Weight of Story
Director Andrew Adamson, whose latest Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, releases to theaters next week, fully feels the burden to get it just right.
by Mark Moring | posted 05/06/08

Why'd you change this? Why did you leave out that? How come you didn't

Andrew Adamson has heard all those questions, and then some. When you're trying to adapt some of the best-loved children's books of all time into big-screen movies, there will be plenty of naysayers and nitpickers, and Adamson fully expected it.

The director sizes up a scene

Already an acclaimed director for the first two Shrek films, Adamson stepped into a whole 'nother world, literally and figuratively, when he took on the first two Narnia films—2005's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and the sequel Prince Caspian, which opens in theaters May 16.

We recently chatted by phone with the 41-year-old director, who was working on final edits and polishing up special effects in a London studio. His wife and daughters (Isabelle, 4½, and Sylvie, 2½) were living with him in London—sort of a home between homes for the New Zealand natives. After living in Los Angeles for more than a decade (making the Shrek and then the Narnia movies), Adamson will take a break after this one, moving back to his home country for some R&R and extended time with his family.

And he'll pass the Narnia torch on to Michael Apted, the veteran British director behind such films as Amazing Grace and James Bond's The World Is Not Enough. Apted is directing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, slated for a 2010 release—and Adamson, who will stay on as a producer, assures fans that the franchise is in good hands.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was one of the top 30 movies of all time internationally. What kind of pressure does that put on you?

No additional weight that wasn't already there with this property. The beloved nature of the book—and how much import I place on staying true to it—has already put a load on me, and I feel it. Certainly following up a successful film, you feel like you have to live up to expectations. But to some degree, I went through that with Shrek, where the first one was a bit under the radar, and the second one, you had a lot more people watching you, and you didn't want to disappoint them.

With The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, so many fans of the book already had high expectations. And that's something you're very conscious of when making a film—and it's hard. There's always an adaptation process. Things do change from book to screen, and you ask, "Did I make the right changes?" The other thing I do is refer to my memory—I zero in on the things I remember from reading the book as a child. Those are the things it's important to be true to.

Douglas Gresham [Lewis's stepson and a producer/consultant on the films] told us he doesn't think Caspian is as good a book as Lion/Witch, but you've ended up with a better movie. Would you say that's accurate?

Hard for me to say. Definitely the adaptation was more difficult in Prince Caspian, because the story of Lion/Witch was already very cinematic with sort of a five-act structure. In Prince Caspian a lot of the story is told in retrospect, with Trumpkin telling the kids what happened when they were gone. So I restructured it to make it more linear. It's a challenge, but sometimes the limitations you face actually create more interesting solutions. And that's what I think makes this movie feel like a bigger movie, a more complex and interesting movie.

Narnia devotees are going to nitpick your every single decision. Would you say that Doug Gresham is the biggest nitpicker of all?

He is a nitpicker, but it's very rare that we have bumped heads on anything because we both have the desire to be true to the books. But there were times in the first film we did come to blows (laughing)—no, come to conflict, I should say—with things like Susan [Pevensie, one of the children in the books]. This was where C. S. Lewis had a feeling about women's role in the world that differed a lot from mine—particularly with Susan getting to use her bow.

Adamson on the Caspian set

Moving on to the title character—why is a 26-year-old [Ben Barnes] playing the role of a 13-year-old?

Caspian is not 13 in the story. I've made him more about Peter's age, 17-18. [Some Narnia fans support this, because the book Prince Caspian says Peter saw Caspian as "a boy about his own age."] Ben doesn't look like he's 26; he doesn't look a day over 20. But I think we were lucky to find someone with really good acting experience. He understood an element of Caspian's character that not everyone got, and he was great in the auditions. Charming. He's a genuinely sweet young man.

Do you tire of all of the nitpicking questions from the diehard fans, including me?

It's a mixed blessing. You get positive things, and you get the negative too. But it's inevitable, and you can't tackle something like this without accepting that it's going to happen—and you're not going to make everyone happy. Even if I stayed true to the book word for word, I don't believe I could make a movie that would make every fan happy. I talked to [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson about this, and asked, "How true did you stay to the books?" And he said, "I'm getting credit for staying true to the books, but I changed a lot." He said you can change stuff, as long as it's good.

Christian readers are among the most devoted Narnia fans, and Lewis is revered in evangelical circles. Do you feel any sort of responsibility to the Christian audience?

I feel my responsibility to C. S. Lewis's fans is just being true to the books, and letting people take from it what they will. What you take from it depends on your belief, and how much interpretation you place upon it. I think by staying true to the book, I'm staying true to what any fan gets from the book.

Michael Apted will soon be taking the Narnia torch from you to direct Voyage of the Dawn Treader. What are your thoughts on that?

Obviously, he's a tremendous filmmaker [Apted directed Amazing Grace, The World Is Not Enough, and the Up documentaries]. But mainly for me, it was watching him with the children who play the Pevensie kids. One of the main reasons I did this film after the previous one is because of my responsibility to the children. I felt like I dragged them from their normal British lives and dragged them all around the world, and I felt a responsibility to all four of them.

Anything else you want to say that we didn't cover?

I think your readership is very happy in general with what I did with the last film, and will feel similarly about this film. But I think you can also take Doug Gresham's word for that, because he is really coming into it as much as an audience member as a producer.

We showed it to an audience for a first time recently, and it went very well. Doug had this huge smile on his face, because it was the first time he'd seen the film intact. You never know how somebody that's grown up with this—that loves every word of the book—is going to react. So that was a huge reassurance to me.

To read the interview in full, click here.

© Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More Action in "PC"


Action speaks louder in 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'

The sequel takes battle scenes and spectacle to higher heights.
By John Horn
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 4, 2008


IT WAS the crowning battle in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," but as the scene played out in a Soho dubbing theater, it wasn't yet crowning enough. Huddling with half a dozen editors in mid-March, director Andrew Adamson was racing to complete the film's sound mix, looking for any opportunity to make "Prince Caspian's" final battle just a bit more powerful. "The Telmarine army is a chatty bunch," the 41-year-old director told the mixing team after reviewing the buildup to an epic clash between the occupying Telmarine troops and the sympathetic Narnians, led by Caspian (Ben Barnes) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley). "I couldn't really hear the hooves of their horses. So let's make it less chatty, more stomping."

Adamson and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have labored to bring that precise instruction -- action, not talk -- into every frame of the second film based on C.S. Lewis' seven-part allegorical fantasy series, which opens May 16. It's as much necessity as invention: Audiences, particularly in the summer, demand bells and whistles, and yet there's hardly any overt spectacle (not to mention driving narrative) in Lewis' 1951 book.

Caspian appears just a bit more in the novel than Godot does in Samuel Beckett's famous play, and the concluding battle that fills a good chunk of Adamson's movie is recounted in the space of just a few paragraphs. Yet as "Prince Caspian's" creative team conjured up more conflict and peril, they also had to remember the millions of elementary-school-age moviegoers who flocked to the first film nearly three years ago.

"I think it's a bit darker, and I think it's more complex. It's a much more sophisticated movie," says Mark Johnson, who produced "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian." "There are a lot more liberties that Andrew and Markus and McFeely had to take than they did in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.' "

As the filmmakers ratcheted up "Prince Caspian's" stakes, they had to be mindful of the PG rating they were contractually obligated to deliver to Disney and Walden Media. At one point late in the game, Adamson had to add a few frames to make it clear to the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings board that a helmet lolling on the ground didn't really have some unlucky person's head in it.


ADAMSON, WHO also directed the first two "Shrek" films, wasn't sure he wanted to return to Narnia, even though the first film was acclaimed by critics, embraced by families and has grossed more than $748 million worldwide. But he looked into the eyes of the then-10-year-old Georgie Henley and changed his mind.

Henley plays Lucy, the youngest of the four Pevensie children who enter Narnia's timeless world. When Adamson was directing Henley in the first film, she couldn't cry when he needed her to, after the lion Aslan's death. Henley had always wept watching "The Lion King," so Adamson cued its DVD up, but that didn't work, either. Running out of ideas, the director shared with Henley his doubt that he would direct the next film. The tears finally came.

Months later, with the first film completed, Henley sidled up to the New Zealand-born director. "When you said you weren't going to do the sequel, were you saying that just to make me cry or because you really didn't want to do the sequel?" she asked Adamson. "That made me want to do it," the director says. "When you look into those eyes, you can't say no."

If that was an easy enough decision, wrestling Lewis' succinct book into a movie was far more problematic. In Lewis' telling, some 12 months have passed since the four children left Narnia, but it's 1,300 years later in the lands where the White Witch once ruled.

In the intervening centuries, as a dwarf named Trumpkin relates to the children, the Narnians have been driven underground by the usurper Miraz and the Telmarines, descendants of pirates. Caspian, the son of the rightful (but slain by Miraz) King Caspian, has had to flee before he too is killed. With the Telmarines massing for battle, the Narnians need the eldest Pevensie boy, Peter, and Caspian, who have their own rivalry, to somehow save their race.

It sounds more exciting than it reads. Four consecutive chapters are told in flashback, and Caspian vanishes from the story for dozens of pages at a time. While the book may be a classic of children's literature, it doesn't scream movie.

Adamson and his collaborators steered the book's characters toward three concurrent story lines: Caspian's flight and ascension, the children's discoveries and maturation, and Miraz's implicitly genocidal campaign against the Narnians and their rightful king.

At the same time, Adamson says, "I was trying to find the emotional reality" of the movie. If the first "Chronicles of Narnia" was a fable of faith and sacrifice, the second became a parable of loss -- how the passage from childhood to adulthood inevitably means that as you take on something new, you must abandon something else: Innocence is replaced by doubt, trust by suspicion, comfort by insecurity. It's an idea shaped in part by Adamson's experiences in Papau, New Guinea, where he lived as a child. He could never bring himself to revisit it as an adult, he says, "because the place that I grew up in had completely changed and I couldn't confront that loss. . . . But you don't want to create a movie that's a bummer, and our first draft was pretty cynical."

That cynicism has been replaced by mounting (and sometimes made-up) conflict; it's clear from "Prince Caspian's" first frenetic frames the book is more guide than bible. Lewis writes that when Caspian fled Miraz's castle, "All night he rode southward . . .," and that's about as nail-biting as it gets. In Adamson's opening sequence, it's a pounding chase filled with peril. When Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) later tells the children, "You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember," he isn't kidding.

"I've really tried to stay true to the major themes of the book, the major events, and also have some invention," Adamson says back in his London postproduction suite, where eight assistant editors are frantically cutting in special effects shots (the first film had nine months in which to finish after photography wrapped, while "Prince Caspian" had about seven). Close readers of the book will notice that one of the movie's biggest departures is how quickly Caspian and Peter join forces.

The scale of the film also is noticeably grander. The opening sequence alone includes footage shot in the Czech Republic, Poland, New Zealand and Slovenia. "I think it's a much more beautiful movie," says Oren Aviv, Disney's production president, "just in terms of the scale and the scope of the locations." Even with unfinished effects, "Prince Caspian" tested better in a research screening than the first film.


WITH only a few weeks left to lock the movie, Adamson, in the Soho scoring stage, had asked composer Harry Gregson-Williams to move up a scoring cue by a few frames.

Adamson made the decision around 2 p.m., and by 4 p.m. at Abbey Road Studios (yes, that Abbey Road), Gregson-Williams already had made the change. Nervously chewing at the stubs of his fingernails, the composer in the next few days would assemble a 119-voice choral group. "I still have the whole battle scene to do," he says. If the film has approximately two hours of score, Gregson-Williams still had 30 minutes of music to finish.

Adamson isn't worried, though. The second movie may have been trickier at every turn, but it nevertheless was coming together. In Narnia, magical things happen.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Christianity Today interviews Douglas Gresham about "PC"

'A Poorer Story, but a Better Movie'
So says Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis's stepson and producer of the upcoming Prince Caspian, in comparing it to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
by Mark Moring posted 04/08/08

In late 2005, Douglas Gresham was nervously looking forward to the theatrical release of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the film adaptation of the first book in the beloved Chronicles of Narnia.
Gresham had a dual interest in the film's success. Not only was he one of the movie's producers, but he's also the stepson of the books' author—C. S. Lewis.
Gresham needn't have worried. LWW would go on to be a box office smash, earning $745 million at the box office worldwide—a figure that has soared well past $1 billion with DVD sales.
Now he looks forward to the May 16 release of Prince Caspian, the second film in the series, in which the four Pevensie children—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—return to Narnia and find quite a different place than they'd left behind. They encounter a helpful dwarf, a corrupt king, and a young prince looking to take his rightful place on the throne—and to restore order, justice, truth, goodness and joy to the magical land.
We recently chatted with Gresham, 62, who had just seen a rough cut of the film—which he says might be better than LWW, even though it's adapted from what Gresham calls a "poorer" book. Gresham spoke to us by phone from his home in Malta.
What has kept you busy since The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?
Douglas Gresham: We started thinking about Prince Caspian the day of the premiere of Lion/Witch. We had a short respite, and then really got into Prince Caspian. And we're already in preproduction on Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
I understand you recently saw a rough cut of Caspian. Your thoughts?
Gresham: It's a fabulous film. I'm very, very pleased. It's a film that portrays probably even more strongly than the book the essential message of Prince Caspian, which is a return to truth and faith and honor and justice after a millennium of corruption in Narnia. I almost hate to say it, but I think it's a better movie than The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Prince Caspian started with a poorer story than Lion/Witch, but has worked out probably to be a better movie.
Why do you think Caspian is a poorer story?
Gresham: The book doesn't have the power of the story The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which is based on the greatest story ever told. You can't really top that. Prince Caspian, when you look at it from a filmmaker's viewpoint, is a story basically about a long walk in the woods with a battle at the end. As a movie that doesn't really work.
We had some difficulty figuring out how to make Caspian work as a film. In the book, the children arrive in Narnia, and they all sit down around the campfire and Trumpkin tells them the story of Prince Caspian—which means that the four Pevensie children vanish for half of the book. If you made it into a movie that way, your protagonists wouldn't be in half of the film. And that just doesn't work as a movie.
But Trumpkin's story makes for a thrilling flashback. Are you saying you didn't want to leave the Pevensie children while telling Caspian's backstory?
Gresham: The problem would be that you would have two entirely separate storylines going on, in separate timescales. You'd wind up with half a movie that's Prince Caspian's story, and all of a sudden you've got the Pevensie kids crashing back into the film. We had to find some way of integrating the Pevensies and Caspian together in a way that works for the story, and I think our scriptwriters did a wonderful job managing to do that.
So do they actually meet up with Caspian earlier in the movie than in the book?
I'm not going to give too much away at this stage.
I understand. But would it be accurate to say …
Gresham: I tell you what to do. Go see the movie when it comes out. Take all your friends and take your friends' friends. Take your enemies as well, because you're supposed to love your enemies. Take your enemies' friends. And then you can tell me if you think we've done a good job with it.
Many fans thought Lion/Witch was nice to look at, but that it was too much spectacle and missed some of the story's subtleties. Many also felt the film didn't capture the awe and majesty of Aslan—that he was far too "safe" of a lion.
Gresham: I haven't heard those criticisms. All of the people who talk to me about Aslan were awestruck by him in the movie. I don't know how I'd react to that criticism, because for me he's an immensely powerful figure in the movie—and I'm probably the severest critic in the world.
When the team first started looking ahead to Caspian, what was discussed?
Gresham: We were on a bit of a high after the success of Lion/Witch. So the big danger was that we might get the slightest bit complacent, and we had to make sure we didn't. We were all conscious of having raised the bar pretty high, and we knew we had to do better next time around. I'm glad to say that I think we've done that.
In the book, Caspian is a young teen, but Ben Barnes will be almost twenty-seven when this film comes out. Why wasn't a teenager cast for the role?
Gresham: We didn't think Caspian should be too young in this movie. Although Ben is older, he plays about 17 and does it very well. But we also need Caspian to be a bit older for the next movie because he becomes the master of The Dawn Treader, and to do that at the age of 17 or 18, with a crew of soldiers and sailors unto you, is not very believable. So I think he needs to be a bit older than he is in the book for the next movie. It was hard to find the very best Caspian, and we decided on Ben largely because of his amazing talent.
In the trailer, he looks so confident and in charge, and I think of a terrified kid running for his life from King Miraz. Does Ben capture that side of Caspian, too?
Gresham: There is a scene in which he flees for his life and he goes through some rather frightening experiences, but I'm not going to give too much away.

I'm not asking for the details. I'm just saying that the trailer depicts this sexy, handsome stud who has it all together. And I think of Caspian, at least at first, as a scared kid, and I wonder if that's conveyed in the film.
Gresham: He does go through that kind of experience, yes. But he does grow emotionally, intellectually, and, to some extent, physically very quickly during the course of the story and the movie. But of course that's what this movie is all about, the change in Caspian's personality.
When NarniaFans interviewed you, they asked about the fate of Miraz's son in the film. You replied, "There's global warming, worldwide recession, dental cavities and facial blemishes and all sorts of things more meritorious of anxiety than the fate of Miraz's son." They asked you why another change was supposedly made from the book, and you replied, "Why not?" Your answers sounded a bit flippant to people who really love these books …
Gresham: They are a little bit flippant. People do take these things sometimes too seriously. This is, after all, when all is said and done, only a movie. But I know that when the fans see the scenes, they will understand immediately why we've done what we done, and they will also love it. So I'm not going to go into lengthy descriptions of why we made the decisions we made. I'm going to let the fans make up their own minds.
I understand. But I think the fear is …
Gresham: What do you do in a circumstance like that? All you can do is come up with something as amusing as you can, I suppose.
You said, "After all, it's only a movie." But if you said, "It's only a book," you would get a lot of hackles up because to a lot of people, including me, these are not "only books." I guess I'm trying to give you the opportunity to say, "Hey, I'm not really being as flippant as I might come across."
Gresham: I think anyone who knows my history will know that I've spent the last almost thirty years dreaming, hoping, striving, working and fighting to get these movies made. To suggest for a second that I don't take it seriously would really be rather ludicrous. But when you're backed into a corner and someone asks you a question you don't want to answer for their own sake, I think the best way to approach it is to be as amusing as you can. Not to say, "Mind your own damn business," which would just be rude and insensitive. You must be aware of the fact that I probably take the Narnian books more seriously than any other human being in the world.
Are you surprised that people ask you all these nitpicking questions?
Gresham: Not at all. I expect them to. But I'd also expect them to understand why sometimes I'm a little bit reluctant to answer. I just say, well you know, worry about global warming instead. I don't want to give away spoilers, but I don't want people to think I'm being nasty about it. As I say, it's for the fans' own sake when I refuse to answer a question. Instead, I answer it rather humorously rather than straightforward.
How has your role changed from Lion/Witch to this film?
Gresham: I'm playing pretty much the same role. I'm getting more involved as time goes by, and I understand more of how to do things. I hope sincerely that I'm becoming of more use to the production team rather than just being someone who sort of stands and watches and says, "Oh, we can't do this and we can't do that" or whatever.
What is your official title?
Gresham: Co-producer. But there isn't really any particular title that describes what I do, because I'm in a unique circumstance of being involved in all facets of the film and everything ancillary to it. I'm involved in the scriptwriting, the merchandise, the marketing—all facets. I think [producer] Mark Johnson put it well when we were filming in Prague, and I was introduced to the American ambassador. The ambassador said, "What does Mr. Gresham do for the project?" And Mark said, "Oh, he's to blame."
That's funny, but seriously, that must also mean you must be feeling enormous weight and responsibility to get it right.
Gresham: That's true. I do feel it's a huge responsibility. I feel that I've inherited almost a sacred trust, and it's up to me to do the very best I can with it. But I have been carrying this particular task for the better part of 25 or 30 years in the C. S. Lewis Company, with the books themselves, trying to ensure everything Jack wrote is constantly kept available to the public.
As the representative of Jack and the Lewis estate, how often do you find yourself on the set or in the editing room asking, "What would Jack do?"
Gresham: That's not a question I ever ask. The question I ask is, "What would Jack have me do?" And, "What would the Holy Spirit have me do?" Jack, of course, is not alive today, but I sincerely hope he would be thrilled with what I've done with his Narnian stories in film. But I can't put myself in Jack's mind and say, "What would Jack do now?" It's "What would Jack have me do under these circumstances?" And more important—and Jack would agree—is, "What would the Holy Spirit have me do?"
When we talked before Lion/Witch, you were reluctant to use the word "veto power" in your role as a producer …
Gresham: I would still be reluctant to say that. We work very cooperatively; it's almost always a consensus decision. In both movies, there have been things I have disagreed with. So we've all sat around the table and talked until we come up with a decision. I am fairly powerful in personality and I put my point strongly, and I think people honor that. But we try to come up not with any one person's particular viewpoint, but with the very best solution for the sake of the film, the book, and the audience.
So it wouldn't be a matter of you saying, "No, we're not going to do that," but more of, "Let's try to reach some sort of compromise."
Gresham: It's not exactly a compromise. If there is something which I know simply cannot be in the movie, I will say so and I will say why.
Can you give an example?
Gresham: I can't remember one. I don't think there was one in Lion/Witch. And I can't remember one on Prince Caspian either, but that's what would happen if it came up. I'm dealing with people who know the material and who know the background to it. Everybody gets the impression that the Hollywood filmmaker's an ignorant kind of no-nothing individual. This isn't the case in my experience. The people I deal with on these films are extremely sensitive to the material and knowledgeable about it.
What about the transition from Andrew Adamson, who directed the first two Narnia films, to Michael Apted, who'll direct Voyage of the Dawn Treader (due in 2010)?
Gresham: I think I'm going to enjoy enormously working with Michael. Of course I'll miss Andrew, but I understand exactly why he's doing it. So while I'm losing someone I've worked with for six or seven years, I'm going onto another director who's going to be equally great. And I have high hopes that we'll have an even better film—though Andrew would probably hit me over the head for saying it—with Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
What's your understanding of why Andrew is leaving?
Gresham: For one thing, he's tired. Andrew has been working for us for a long time, and he has been working exceptionally hard. These aren't simple productions to make. These are hugely complex, extremely detailed, and demand absolutely everything a director has to give. When Andrew first joined us he was a young, newly married man with no children. Now he has two growing daughters, and he wants to spend more time with his family.
When I interviewed you in 2005, you said you used to be an Edmund but that you were working on being a Lucy. Does that still apply?
Gresham: Yes, I think it does—certainly spiritually. Lucy is the character I always have most admired, but Edmund was the character I was for a long time. I'm still working at trying to get to the stage of faith that Lucy has.
I read somewhere that you "completely surrendered" your life to Christ in 1990. How would you describe your journey? Had you walked away from the faith and then come back to it?
Gresham: The problem is you have to define what you mean about "faith." We use that term
much too loosely. I always believed in God and in Jesus Christ, but so does the Devil himself. Faith in that sense is not sufficient to make you a Christian. I think the faithful Christian is the one who lives out his or her duty to God and to Christ, and demands a certain submission to the will of God.
My problem for many years was that although I believed in God and Jesus, I didn't want to submit my life to the authority of anyone but myself. And therefore, in a sense, I was worshiping myself and, therefore, had a fool for a deity.
What changed that in 1990?

Gresham: I tried to help someone, but because I was living my life based in my own intellect, I got it very badly wrong and a lot of people were hurt. I was forced to take a good, long, careful look at myself. And I realized that what I was really doing was living my life in arrogance, conceit and pride, and that I wasn't qualified to run a human life. So I realized I'd better hand it over to someone who is. And who better qualified to run a human life than the Person who designed it in the first place?
Movie images from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media

Labels: , ,