Prince Caspian – Adapting the Book into the Movie

Over at the Chronicles of Narnia blog, the script writers have posted an interesting discussion on adapting Prince Caspian from book into movie form.

As writers, the biggest challenge we faced was connecting the Pevensies’ story to that of Prince Caspian. In C. S. Lewis’ book, they’re essentially two separate narratives which only come together near the end. While this is perfectly entertaining to read, it makes for a strangely structured movie where your favorite characters are absent for long stretches at a time.

Consequently, we decided to weave the two plots together early, bringing the Pevensies into Narnia near the start and giving them a greater role in Caspian’s journey. This not only helped on a structural level, it also allowed us to take advantage of the alliances and antagonisms that would evolve when we tossed three kings and two queens together into the same room — or underground chamber, as the case may be.

This reminds me a little bit of the movie adaptation of Tom Clancy’s A Clear and Present Danger. Jack Ryan, the main character, doesn’t appear in the book until almost halfway into the story. Of course, for the movie you couldn’t really have Harrison Ford not show up until halfway through, so they adapted the storyline accordingly. The result? I thought it made for a better movie than if they had stuck strictly to the book’s progression.

What do you think about adapting books into movies? How are books and movies different, and how does that affect the adaptation? Do you have any favorite movie adaptations or any real groaners to share?

Related post:  How Will the Prince Caspian Movie Be Different from the Book?

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11 Comments

  1. Rachael says:

    If they’re going to change it, the BETTER make it good!
    If they mess up the story…it won’t work.
    ~Rachael~

  2. DAVID says:

    Nothing tells a story like a book. Words can convey a certain depth of characterization that movies cannot. Many movies consist of a string of caricatures, cartoonish and two-dimensional personalities who float lifelessly across the screen, merely to fulfill the requirements of a particular scene.

    Have you ever watched a movie with the music taken out? I took a film class at Berklee College of Music and watched various movie scenes with and without the music. The film score adds the necessary “third dimension”, without which watching a movie is remarkably dull. (Even the old “silent films” had a live piano player in the theater to provide dramatic music and compensate for the dullness of the film medium.)

    Matt and I have enjoyed reading the Inheritance Trilogy by Christopher Paolini (well, the first two books anyways, the third has yet to come out.) Although Paolini was a teenager when he started writing this series, he managed to create some very unique and interesting characters. We both were excited to see the movie Eragon, based on the first book. What a disappointment. This movie was so dreadful as to the point of being laughable (except it ruined a great story and that is certainly not humorous.)

    Eragon employed a few interesting special effects, but miserable character development meant that I was “laughing at the bad guy” rather than quaking as I did when I read the book. Of course, movies today are especially dependent on special effects. How much fun would Spiderman 3 be without a giant CGI Sandman wreaking havoc?

    Yes, I have enjoyed such CGI movie wonders as Spiderman and Star Wars, but reading books changes me in a way that movies do not. Taking in a movie with the family is fun, but so is taking them to Barnes & Noble to pick out some new books!

    I think it’s a shame that reading literature is on the decline. Check out the NEA study at this link to read about this disheartening trend.

    http://www.nea.gov/news/news04/ReadingAtRisk.html

    More recently, there has been a big hullabaloo about newspapers dropping book coverage. Here is the link to the New York Times article on this interesting development…

    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60613FE3B5A0C718CDDAC0894DF404482

  3. DAVID says:

    Link correction: The NY Times link doesn’t work anymore. Here is a similar article in the LA Times.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-connelly29apr29,0,3550610.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Rachael,

    I don’t know if you have read or seen the Lord of the Rings books and movies, but it occurs to me that they had to do something similar with the adaptation of The Two Towers. In the book, Frodo and Sam’s story is set aside for a long time while another part of the story is developed, but in the movie they developed the two stories simultaneously. And that seemed to work for the movie. But I agree with you – they better not mess it up!

  5. Bethany says:

    Hi David – Are you a fellow Times Select reader? Definitely worth the $50 a year, as they’re rather clever about putting the best articles on Times Select, rather than the free site.

    I agree with you totally on books vs. movies. Our family rule (mostly followed) is always book first, or they can’t see the movie. This inspired Jack, our 12-year-old to read all the LOTR books just so he could watch the movies, but it also inspired in him a love for reading, so the “rule” had an added benefit. Occasionally we’ll go straight to the movie (Holes was one example) but we try to be consistent.

    On a side note, I’m tutoring a high school student and had to read The Crucible to be able to discuss it with her. I broke my own rule and watched the movie first and wish I hadn’t as now while I read the book, I’m basically re-living the way the movie did it, instead of imagining it for myself. Rats.

  6. Rachael says:

    Your right Pastor Ray about lord of the rings, even though they changed it, it was really good. I guess I’m a little more worried Narnia because in the Lion witch and the wardrobe the stuff they added, (example: the Fox) was ok, but didn’t really add anything good (At least in my opinion) to the movie.
    But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

    ~Rachael~

  7. Hullaboo says:

    Look, I loved the Narnia books as a kid when I was growing up on the streets in New York. I saw things in the preview for this movie that simply aren’t in those books. That disgusts me and makes me want to read the books again instead of watching this trash. COME ON!

  8. Ray Fowler says:

    Hullaboo – Well, I don’t know if I would call it trash. There were some changes they made in the first movie I could have done without, but all in all I thought they did a great job. I hope they do the same with the second one!

    By the way, this post is about a year old. If you want a more up-to-date report on potential changes in the movie, follow this link: How Will the Prince Caspian Movie Be Different from the Book?

  9. jaket couple says:

    Yes, i agreed about your mind. the movie and the book usually doesn’t same. i think when we read, our imagination more powerfull, but when the story going to movie, our imagination will be limited, that’s why the movie version and the book version were different. i more likely read than watching on movie.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Caspian Interview with Devin Brown at Challies at Ray Fowler .org
  2. How Will the Prince Caspian Movie Be Different from the Book? at Ray Fowler .org

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