Will you please stop putting some of your best work in National Review! Think of the children!
Good News For Narnia - Ross Douthat: As I put it in my NR review:
The movie plays up ... every tension it finds in Lewis's novel, and invents several more, creating rivalries (between Peter and Caspian), generating romances (between Susan and Caspian), adding battles (particularly a long set piece in the movie's middle, in which the Old Narnians launch a raid on Miraz's castle), and doubling down on the political intrigue in the Telmarine court. For the most part, the additions serve their purpose, transmuting a somewhat slight children's adventure into a gripping medieval war picture: Braveheart with more magic, or Tolkien with talking squirrels.
But this achievement comes with a price-namely, the evisceration of Lewis's major theme. If The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a story about rebirth and renewal-Aslan resurrected, and spring cracking the ice of an enchanted winter-then Prince Caspian is fundamentally a story about re-enchantment, and the glorious return of the supernatural forces that the Telmarines have repressed. Little of this survives in Adamson's adaptation; it's been pruned away to make room for battles and arguments and longing glances and one-liners. The book's climax, in which the trees and rivers come to life and a wild pagan rout overruns the sterile secularism of Telmarine society, is reduced to a brief battlefield intervention that rips off not one but two scenes in Lord of the Rings. Aslan, too, is reduced to a walk-on role, sweeping in once the body count has climbed and the CGI budget been exhausted to roar a halt to the proceedings. He murmurs about faith, in the voice of Liam Neeson, but he feels less a Christ figure than a strikingly flimsy plot device: Leo ex machina.
The bad news for Narniaphiles is that this may be the only way that C. S. Lewis can plausibly be adapted, given the economics (and biases) of contemporary Hollywood-with the metaphysics downplayed and the Generic Epic elements accentuated, the better to justify the price tag that comes attached to any fantasy film ... But judging from Caspian's middling box-office showing to date, it might be worth considering something different for Voyage of the Dawn Treader and (one hopes) its sequels: half the budget, perhaps, and a little more fidelity to the elements of theme and plot that make Narnia something more than an entertaining but two-dimensional imitation of Tolkien's Middle Earth.