Cover Story

Return of the Lion

"Return of the Lion" Continued...

Issue: "Return of the Lion," May 17, 2008

In the first film Adamson neatly sidestepped this issue by having Father Christmas tell Susan not to use her bow in combat because all war is ugly. In Caspian, the line between the Susan of the book and that of the movie is a bit more stark. Whereas she was "Susan the gentle" in print, on screen she is a warrior princess, leading the charge and commanding men (or at least male Narnians) on the battlefield.

Asked about his decision to deviate from Lewis' description, Adamson doesn't equivocate: "When the issue of Susan not participating in the fight for Narnia was introduced in the first film, I rejected it then. I was like, 'Well, if she's just gonna make sandwiches then give her a plate and a knife.' It's something that I don't agree with so I wasn't going to make a movie like that."

But Adamson doesn't necessarily feel that his depiction of Susan does Lewis' work a disservice. "You have to remember," he argues, "these books were written in a different time and place by somebody who I think evolved in his views over the years. By the time he wrote The Horse and His Boy, he had a very strong female character. But in the beginning of his stories, although Lucy was strong as a character, the women didn't tend to be assertive."

Adamson said he had long discussions with Doug Gresham (Lewis' stepson and one of the film's co-producers) about it: "Because when you start going away from an author's viewpoint, you do wonder, 'Is this the correct thing to do?' And the way I justified it to him was that I think C.S. Lewis evolved after meeting his mother, and that's why you start to see stronger female characters in his later books."

Markus adds that he believes Anna Popplewell's strength as a performer would have made a Susan who sits on the sidelines feel inauthentic: "In Anna you have an actress with such authority, that person is not sitting back and going, OK, you guys fight."

Whether they meant to or not, the filmmakers' other major shift away from Lewis' depiction of a character could cause many Christian moviegoers to find stronger spiritual connections with the film. Rather than happily arriving in Narnia and turning over his kingship to Prince Caspian, Peter Pevensie struggles with his own pride and control. His unwillingness to yield to Aslan's plan for his life results in dire consequences for loved ones around him.

Peter's internal struggle isn't part of the novel, but Adamson says his idea for it grew out of the situation Lewis created for Peter. "One of the things I wondered about when I read the book initially was how Peter would respond to being a king and then having to go back and do homework. He's not going to adjust well to that," laughs Adamson. "So I thought that Peter coming back to Narnia might mean a chance to prove himself, to reassert himself again. He wouldn't really want Aslan's help because that would mean that he needed help. And he wanted to prove that he was the High King."

While working on the script, Christopher Markus saw the same potential for conflict with Peter. "I don't know about theological themes," he says, "but I know that as a character Peter would be dealing with pride. He'd be asking himself, who am I and how do I prove it? And that raises a huge failing on his part. And we really wanted to give him a failing because he can come across [in the books] as sort of stiffly heroic. So we really wanted to test his mettle and break him a little bit so that we could build him back up into a real person."

The themes resonated strongly enough that William Mosely, the young actor playing Peter, seemed to pick up on them readily. "I think my character learns a very important lesson about humility," Mosely says. "He learns that leadership at the end of the day is about serving other people-serving a place or a country and not serving yourself. And Peter had to reinstate his trust in Aslan to learn that lesson."

In fact, Johnson feels that changing the character of Peter allowed them to stay more true to the heart and spirit of the novels than if they had filmed the oldest brother as written. "Much more so than an event or dialogue, the themes are the most important thing to maintain," Johnson says, "so we had to continually ask: What is this movie about? If the first one was about discovering faith, then this one was about losing faith and regaining it. And with the character of Peter and what his hubris does, I think we captured that."

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