Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Prince Caspian -- looking for Aslan
A woman is in childbirth in a castle. A son is born, a portent of a new age. A prince hides in a wardrobe, only to surreptitiously see soldiers turn his bed into a shower of feathers with crossbow bolts. And this wardrobe, which has a secret passageway, is his way of escape out of the castle to a magical forest. Chased by soldiers intent on killing him, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) falls from his horse and blows the magical horn before falling into oblivious unconsciousness. Thus starts Prince Caspian.
Andrew Adamson directs this second movie of The Chronicles of Narnia franchise as a less spiritual and more traditional Hollywood offering. The four Prevensies are now in London, not the country. Peter has not transitioned well back into adolescent life and is mixed up in fights with other kids. He carries himself with an air of superiority, of arrogance. (Susan asks, "Why can't you learn to walk away?" to which Peter replies, "I shouldn't have to.") Perhaps this is appropriate for a high king, but not for a high schooler. But the horn summons them back to the magical land of Narnia. This time, however, it is not winter but it is 1300 years later, and things are different. Narnia is more savage. The magical creatures are hidden, no longer living openly, due to the efforts of the neighhboring Talmarines, who have sought to exterminate them, as they would vermin.
After rediscovering their chests of clothing and weapons in the ruins of Caer Paravel, they save the life of a dwarf, the crabby Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage, who appeared in Death at a Funeral). With him tagging along, they go off in search of Aslan in Narnia. But Peter (William Mosely) leads them the wrong way. Lucy (the wonderful Georgie Henley) sees Aslan standing across the gorge, but no one else does, and they mock her. "Would you please stop talking to me like you're grown-ups? I don't think I saw him, I know I saw him." When asked later why she alone saw him, she says it may have been because no one else was really looking for him.
Eventually the Pevensies meet Prince Caspian, and, along with the centaurs, the bears, talking mice (Reepicheep, voiced by Eddie Izzard), etc, form an unlikely force to combat the evil Talmarines. Initially, Caspian voices his concern, "You're not exactly what I expected." And this is sometimes how we approach God's answers to our horn-blowing prayers for help and deliverance. But God answers our cries in surprising ways. Sometimes we are confused, sometimes we are concerned, but God is not. He provides answers to his children who call out to him in their time of need (1 Pet. 3:12).
With Peter taking the lead, and the animals and peoples of Narnia following him as their liege, he arrogantly plans a raid on the castle in Talmarine, where Prince Caspian's wicked uncle has his usurped the throne, rightfully belonging to the Prince. This first battle is exciting, but fraught with problems. Indeed, Susan (Anna Popplewell) asks Peter, "Who exactly are you doing this for, Peter?" It seems in his arrogance he has forgotten Aslan. He is looking for his own honor. His motives are mixed. And forgetting Aslan, forgetting Christ, is a recipe for disaster, in this case ominous defeat.
Seeing so many friends helplessly slaughtered does something to humble Peter, but not enough. It takes a strange encounter with the White Witch (Tilda Swinton, fresh off her Oscar win), encased in an ice prison. Without the help of Aslan, the other choice for power is to turn to the dark side, in this case the "white side." As Caspian is almost seduced to free her with a drop of Adam's blood, it is Peter who stands transfixed, ready to call on her. But Edmund (Skandar Keynes), the deceived in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, becomes the deliverer here, with a swift swordthrust.
The final battle between the forces of dark and light is inevitable. With dear Lucy sent to look for Aslan, as she is the only one who has seen him since their return, Peter takes his stand as King against the overpowering number of Talmarines. In a thrilling mano-a-mano swordfight duel against the wicked King, he buys time for Lucy.
And it is little Lucy who finds Aslan, absent for too long in this movie. Aslan, powerful and dangerous, never tame, is the deliverer that Narnia needs. With his people in dire need, and Lucy looking in his large eyes, he re-breathes spiritual life into the trees, even the river, bringing restoration to the land. With forces of nature on the side of good, no evil can withstand the Narnians.
Prince Caspian is not perfect, but is an entertaining movie. Three of the four Prevensies (not Lucy) are irritating, and the dialog is too stiff at times. Yet, the animals bring welcome comic relief, especially Reepicheep the mouse and Trufflehunter the badger. In all, it is more developed and darker than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Though less Christ-focused, it highlights several important spiritual principles. Two stand out.
First, the fact that only Lucy can see Aslan is witness to the need for a child-like faith. Jesus himself said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
Secondly, to find Aslan, to find Jesus, we must be truly seeking, looking. He will reveal himself to the humble, not to the proud. As High King Peter sought victory for himself on his own terms, Aslan was not ready to help. When Peter was humbled, with nothing left for victory, staring defeat in the eye, he was ready to find Aslan. How often do we look for Jesus when we are really looking for our own victories? How often do we miss out because we have become proud and haughty? Peter, the biblical apostle not the high king, says "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5).
Copyright 2008, Martin Baggs
at 7:00 AM