Quint visits the PRINCE CASPIAN edit bay and sees 45 minutes of the movie!
Published at: April 3, 2008, 9:32 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Is there any place I can start a petition to erase Chicago O’Hare off the face of the world?
Seriously, this airport has fucked me over so many times (even when I’m nowhere near it… I once had a flight cancel on me when I was on the East Coast trying to get back home to Austin because my Austin plane originated from O’Hare)… can’t we open up a new airport and demolish the horror show that we call O’Hare?
I was supposed to fly into London to meet Andrew Adamson in the edit bay for PRINCE CASPIAN, the next NARNIA movie. That’s a long flight, but it was an exclusive so why not? My flight to Chicago was delayed long enough so I would have missed my connection, so they had to rebook me for the next day. That meant I was due at the edit bay about 3 hours after I got off of 14 straight hours of travel instead of getting a night to rest up.
I had a 6 hour layover in Chicago on the way and I needed every second of it as my rebooked flight was delayed over 4 hours. Chicago tried to fuck me twice, but I was victorious in the end.
After a nice shower and a quick, and massive breakfast (boy the English love huge portions at breakfast time) at a pub down the street from my hotel, I was picked up by a hired car driven by a huge Croatian. This dude looked like he moonlighted as muscle for whichever foreign mafia paid the most. His name was Predo and he was decked out in a nice suit, sunglasses and a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. But when you actually got him talking he was a really nice, teddy bear of a guy.
I ended up in some edit bay near Soho, three flights up a Vertigo inducing spiral staircase. In the room was Andrew Adamson, his editor and a couple producers, including Mark Johnson who came out to BNAT to show some animatics from the movie.
I’m a little surprised they showed me as much as they did. I saw maybe 40-45 minutes of the movie in chunks ranging from 15 minutes to three or four minutes from throughout the movie.
At one point, after watching a giant castle siege battle sequence, I was wondering why they didn’t just show me the whole thing. I’m not sure if they meant to show me as much as they did, but what I saw was good, so I won’t complain.
I’m not a fan of Adamson’s first outing to the world of NARNIA. To me THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE felt like it had very little personality. Everything was new and bright. There was no atmosphere to any of the Narnia stuff. Granted, the bombing of London was pretty cool, but the creatures, clothing and swords all felt like they were just pulled off an assembly line and that hurt my ability to give myself over to the movie.
I’ve seen some animatics and footage from this film at Comic-Con and at BNAT and the footage gave me hope that the new movie would have a little edge to it, some atmosphere and just an overall lived in feeling that was missing from the first film.
I brought that up to Adamson and he said that with the first Narnia his idea was that it was set in the spring of this world’s existence. Aslan had created it only a couple hundred years before, so he wanted everything to be bright and new feeling.
PRINCE CASPIAN takes place thousands of years after and is a much darker world, thankfully.
We start off with a bright star in the sky (I’m assuming that’ll be the transition between the Disney logo and the movie) and go over some really nice Weta model work of a dark castle and into a room, drawn in the screaming of a woman. She gives birth and a servant runs to tell the king of Telmarines that he just had a son.
The King is bearded like Leonidis in 300. He smiles and tells his servant to follow through on some order we don’t know about yet. Cut to young Caspian sleeping in his bed. He’s woken by his teacher, a chubby, spectacled wizard looking dude with flowing robes and a long white beard. There’s not much time and the teacher leads Caspian through a secret passage (via the wardrobe, of course) as the Telmarine guards enter the room and shoot an assload of crossbow arrows into the draped bed.
Caspian arms himself and is sent out on horseback by his teacher, but not before he is given a special item wrapped in cloth. Caspian asks what it is and the teacher only responds by saying he is to use it only in when he needs help and there is no other alternative.
He is told to go through the forest, something Caspian is definitely not all that hot on doing, but his teacher insists he will not be followed into the woods.
So begins the opening credits, which play over Caspian being closely pursued by the castle guards. I actually really like this credits sequence… You’re thrust into action right away with the credits playing over a chase. It reminded me of classic live-action Disney for some reason.
Caspian hits the edge of the clearing and his horse charges into the forest. His pursuers stop at the boarder. Their captain catches up to them and calls them superstitious cowards and shames them into continuing the pursuit.
With a good lead, Caspian lets his guard down a little and as he checks behind him he doesn’t notice a giant tree branch hanging over the path. The horse clears under it, but poor Caspian doesn’t. He’s knocked off the saddle, but his foot is still in the stirrup and he’s dragged for a little while.
He gets untangled and he’s now alone in the woods. Or so he thinks.
Out from the foliage pops two dwarves. They aren’t very happy to see a human, let alone a Telmarine (keep in mind the Telmarines invaded Narnia and kicked all the animals and fantasy creatures out).
Scared, Caspian unwraps his package and we find the horn that Father Christmas gave the Pevensies in the first movie. The dwarves see it and eyes go wide. Caspian blows it as the dwarves look on. The Telmarine guards hear the horn and close in. The dwarves pull out swords and run up on them, protecting the boy and killing them some bad guys.
The next sequence was our re-introduction to the Pevensies. All the original actors come back for the movie. We see Lucy first. She races across a busy London street and almost gets hit by a car. She apologizes, but doesn’t slow down. Lucy runs into an underground entrance, passing a lion statue being sandbagged by British troops (as seen in the trailer).
The reason for her hurry becomes evident soon enough. There’s a fight going on. You can’t tell who’s fighting because there are a few dozen kids surrounding the brawlers, cheering them on. Lucy breaks through and we see it’s Peter, the eldest boy, in fisticuffs with another boy. He’s not really doing all that well.
Edmund and Susan run up and Edmund doesn’t think twice before assisting his brother, tackling the other boy. It’s not long before the fight is broken up by a couple of soldiers. As it dissipates, the girls ask what started it all. It’s pretty clear that Peter wishes he was important again, someone to be loved and respected. He doesn’t say as much, but it’s pretty obvious. He went from King to child in war-torn Britain overnight.
They move from the tube’s stairway into the tube itself. It’s there that the horn calls them back, the windows of a passing subway train flashing glimpses of a Narnian beach (again, as seen in the trailer).
And poof! They’re in Narnia (via a beautiful New Zealand beach). All the gloom lifts and they run to the beach, playing in the water… childlike glee on each of their faces once more. Then they see ruins and are troubled. They didn’t realize it’s been so long in Narnia time and come to find that those ruins were once their glorious castle.
That was the first bit.
Adamson and I talked about Reepicheep and how much I’m looking forward to seeing what Eddie Izzard brings to the fan-favorite violent sword-swinging mouse. Adamson said that he didn’t really find the character of Reepicheep until Izzard came in to record his dialogue. He had an idea, he said, but he came to find that he had subconsciously lifted a lot of his character for Puss N’ Boots when doing SHREK 2.
So, he couldn’t lock down a character that was different from Puss until he heard Izzard give his voice. Then things began clicking.
Adamson then showed me Reepicheep’s introduction. It doesn’t seem to be long after we last saw Caspian. He’s joined by a badger as well as the dwarves… the badger was completely CGI and not much more than a 3-D grayscale most of the scene.
They’re chased by more Telmarine warriors, arrows flying. Caspian drops the horn and the badger doubles back for it, even though Caspian screams at him to leave it. The badger grabs the horn, the guards dangerously close and turns to run. He doesn’t get very far before an arrow hits him in the calf, grounding him.
Caspian and the dwarves run to his aide as the guards close in. Suddenly the foliage begins to move around them and something pulls the guards under with the sound of metal on metal until all of them are gone.
After a beat, Reepicheep jumps out, attacking Caspian. He’s called off by the other Narnian creatures.
Izzard’s voice. It’s not shouting Izzard or “I’m serious” Izzard, but somewhere in-between. Izzard’s a weird guy. I love his stand-up, I love him as a personality, but he hardly ever works on film… at least for me. I thought his bit in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was awkward and not at all funny, he also didn’t have much to do in MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND… Maybe he just hasn’t gotten his right part yet.
At any rate, Izzard’s voice is still his own, but it fits nicely within the world. I was worried for a bit that we were going to get a crazy hip sidekick character or something, but Izzard never went over the top… at least not in the sections I’ve seen.
There were a couple of scenes that introduce the Pevensie children to Trumpkin, the Dinklage character. He’s been through some shit I haven’t seen, captured by the Telmarines who decide to just dump him, bound and gagged into a deep river.
The kids intervene, demanding his release. The warriors dump him anyway and get a couple arrows from Susan’s quiver in return.
There’s an underwater sequence with poor Trumpkin sinking like a stone, but retrieved and brought to shore.
He’s a grumpy bastard. He’s almost pissed that he got rescued. Then he realizes who the kids are and he cools a little as they’ve been built up as deities. However he soon realizes that deities they may be, but they’re hardly infallible.
He asks the kids some hard questions they couldn’t answer. Why did they let Narnia fall? Why did they abandon their subjects in their time of need? That’s some pretty heady spiritual questions to be bringing up in a kids movie. This dwarf has known of their legend his entire life and now that his gods are before him he finds they are only children.
There’s one sequence where Lucy sees a bear and approaches it. In her last Narnian experience the animals were intelligent and she expects nothing has changed, but in the time that they’ve been away many of Narnia’s creatures have gone wild.
The bear rears up as she tries to talk to it and charges. Susan is forced to shoot it down before it can kill her sister.
Both of those two scenes play toward the darker aspects of the film, but the darkest sequence I was shown was the entire castle raid sequence, a big action set-piece that happens in the second act.
Caspian is determined to free his teacher, now imprisoned in the very castle he helped the child escape from at the beginning of the film. The main motive, though, is to overthrow the Telmarine king and free Narnia again.
All the remaining Narnia creatures that still hold their intelligence make one big push… all or nothing. This is spurred on by Peter, whose over-confidence has crossed over into cockiness. He’s King here. He can do anything.
It’s a nighttime attack and there’s a fantastic opening where Edmund rides in on the back of a griffin. A squadron of these creatures fly silently above the castle and take out the guards without raising alarm.
Everybody is involved, as I mentioned earlier. Reepicheep leads a band of sword-wielding mice. It’s pretty harsh… there’s even a sequence when this little mouse glides silently down a piece of string behind one guard. When the guard turns, Reepicheep slits his throat with a quick slash.
Trumpkin is in, too, killing him some guards.
After Caspian gets his teacher, who protests strongly that Caspian was stupid enough to come back to the castle, Caspian holds everyone up, insisting on challenging his step-father to a duel.
Of course, this doesn’t go well. And the Narnians are caught within the castle. A huge battle erupts and the Narnians hold their own until the Telmarine king shows up along the walls with a hundred archers.
A retreat is called and the Pevensies just make it outside the castle before the gate goes down (thanks to a sacrificial act by a minotaur, who was able to hold it long enough to let the kids and a few creatures escape). While on the other side, the Pevensies turn and look through the gate, seeing the majority of their attack party slaughtered.
Not only do we see the arrows rain down on these creatures, we also get a flyover of the carnage as Edmund takes in the sight of the dead bodies from the back of a griffin.
Peter argues with Caspian, blaming his delay for the death of their comrades, but Caspian in turn blames Peter for being so cocky in the first place. It’s a staggering lesson in humility for Peter.
There was one more scene, a mano y mano swordfight between Peter and the Telmarine king. They fight on the ruins of the stone circle, surrounded by both armies. The two kings fight supposedly to the death.
Peter takes a great brunt of pain, including broken limbs before it’s over. This fight alone is more brutal than anything in the first movie.
As someone who really didn’t care for the first film, I was impressed with the footage they showed me. It’s difficult to judge the whole as you can take any movie and remove sequences that play better out of context. However, I saw enough to be confident that the tone is much more appealing to my own personal sensibilities.
For the most part the kids still aren’t very good actors. Caspian will be a heart-throb in all the teeny bopper magazines, for sure, but what I saw of his performance didn’t exactly blow my socks off. Of the kids, my favorite was Edmund (played by Skandar Keynes). I thought he was the best part of the first film as well. He has a natural quiet manner that most of the others don’t have.
Alright, a final wrap-up of my thoughts. I liked the tone and the more challenging ideas floated in the story. I like that there are real, heavy consequences to the decisions the kids make. The little boy in me loves seeing these young teens and CG creatures wantonly killing hundreds of soldiers. Only in a fantasy movie can kids kill adults and it still be perfectly okay. I liked the look of the creatures, who were more detailed and natural looking, specifically the minotaurs. The Dink is also awesome, adding a real level of class to the film. He definitely doesn’t phone in his performance and his cynical smart-ass character is a good addition to the sickly-sweet world of Narnia.
The only real drawback I got from the footage was the lack of growth in the acting in the Pevensies and the standard performance from Ben Barnes as Caspian. They all have a natural charisma, so it’s not painful, but I did notice some weak performances in the footage. Maybe it’ll smooth out in context in the final product.
Fans of the first one will like this flick, I think, and it’ll also earn new fans thanks to its more adult content and better level of effects quality. That is, of course, contingent on the whole living up to the footage I saw.
Thanks for sticking with me all the way through the report, squirts. Got a few more biggies on the way, including a few set visits and a big to-do in New York going on in a few days. Keep an eye peeled!