Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movies: Price Caspian

This post is no joke; I did actually see this movie. And yes, I do watch some real dreck, but for this new low, there's absolutely no excuse. But I'm not to blame.

Agreeing to watch "that Narnia movie" as my friend called it was my part of a cinematic suicide pact, in which, in exchange for my slow death at the hands of four children, a talking lion, and a magical land, my friend would suffer equally while watching the romantic cavorting of "sensitive frat guys" in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I wanted to see. What a ridiculous double feature. Also, it was one of those weeknights when there's absolutely nothing else to do, and nothing else to see. The kind of night that convinced me, back in high school, to agree to watch movies like Deep Impact and Stigmata. At least the argument can be made that, without such nonsense to compare it to, one can't truly appreciate the look-mom-no-hands approach of Godard.

Anyway. I never read C.S. Lewis books as a child. I tried and got perhaps halfway through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but found it both absurd and unbearably boring; it's not that I hadn't any patience for magic (some of my very favorite books, in fact, were the Edward Eager books from the late 1950s (Half-Magic, Magic or Not?, Seven Day Magic, etc.), written only a few years after those of C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, and also featuring two boys and two girls each), but the Eager children were bookish and clever, while the Narnia children were, I don't quite remember. . . rather bland, I suppose. All that I do remember is something about Turkish Delight, and not knowing what it was, and then, finding out, deciding that Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy were equally cloying; over-sweet and over-chewy.

But onto the movie. I can't judge it against the book, which I've not read, and I can't judge it against the previous Narnia films, which I haven't seen. I can't judge it against the alternative magical children's film of the moment, The Golden Compass, because I haven't seen that either (phew!) The most recent children's film I've seen is Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, whose brilliant Edward Gorey-meets-Tim Burton art direction made up for any more unfortunate aspects of the film (like the plot), and which puts Price Caspian, a poor-man's Lord of the Rings, to shame. Having seen all three Rings movies in the theater, in fact, I can only describe the PG Caspian as gently surreal; violence necessary to the battle between good and evil is softened: we see the blow, the fall, but never the corpse, and there is no blood. The weapon of choice is a tidy bow and arrow. There is also a magical elixir that brings the most-loved fallen character back to life. If there are any children out there in movieland enjoying this nonsense, let it be said that they are a sorry assortment of dorks, geeks, and dweebs (nerds, thanks to their powerful intellect, are above a film this inane). They are the kinds of children that beg their parents to take them to Renaissance Faires, and then, once at these fairs, beg their parents to buy them complete Renaissance outfits (which, by the way, are far more Anglo-Saxon than appropriate. . . didn't the Renaissance bloom in Italy? The only Renaissance in England was that of brewing.)

The actor playing young Prince Caspian puts on the accent of Antonio Banderas. I'm not certain why. Tilda Swinton, perfectly icy but by now above such movies, reappears as The White Witch. The four child actors who play the school-children-turned-ancient-kings-and-queens all have trembling blue eyes and big pink lips, the older two wholesomely sexualized in their adolescent struggles ("King" Peter one of testosterone-fueled competition with Caspian, "Queen" Susan one of estrogen-fueled desire for same). If the film has any redeeming qualities, and anything to offer young people, it is the depiction of these timeless struggles (although Susan's ultimate chaste kiss with Caspian can only be mocked by her American peer-group today, who protect their virginity by engaging in anal sex, upstage their frenemies by hosting rainbow parties, and pass around syphilis, never mind mono.)

But you can't expect anything real from Disney anymore, purveyors of Hannah Montana, JT, and the tragic Britney Spears. They have always brought us a wholesome fantasy. It is only recently that the fantasy frays from the tugging of our real lives.

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