Two weeks ago, the MTV Movies Blog asked for input from fans of the “Narnia” series, giving them a chance to voice what they hoped was in the new film, “Prince Caspian.”
The idea was that we’d take these comments to the cast and crew to discuss how they chose what to include. For instance, how did you bring Reepicheep to life? Or what went into the duel between Edward and Trumpkin?
Only, the very first comment posted on the blog wasn’t about what a fan wanted to see in the film, but rather what she didn’t.
“We don’t wanna see the kissing scene between Caspian and Susan,” commenter Star wrote almost immediately after the article was posted, alluding to a controversial scene in the trailer in which our new hero locks lips with the eldest Penvensie sister. “It’s just disgusting.”
Well, Star, we have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that the scene still ends the film — an exclamation point after a minor romance throughout. The good news? You’re not alone in your trepidation.
“[The romance] sat very uneasily with Anna [Popplewell, who plays Susan Penvensie,] and I as well, ’cause we had both read the book, and obviously it’s not in the book,” star Ben Barnes admitted. “We thought, ‘You can’t just stamp this on top of it. It’s ridiculous.’ ”
Ridiculous at face value, maybe, but actually quite natural and subtle, director and co-screenwriter Andrew Adamson insisted, defending his choice to include the subplot.
“Our kids are growing up. Susan is 17, 18 years old — Caspian’s a very fine-looking young man. Why wouldn’t there be some romance? Just look at the two of them,” he asserted. “It seemed more unnatural not to have the attraction than to have it. I don’t think it’s over the top.”
“I think fans are worried that they’re going to see some teen romance,” Popplewell echoed, championing the subplot’s delicacy. “There’s no love scene in this film. It’s very much a question of looks here and there.”
“They’re in their adolescence,” Barnes added. “People shouldn’t be embarrassed or upset about it because it’s not on Page 79 of the book.”
No matter how delicately and spontaneously the subplot is handled by Adamson and others, however, the addition of non-canonical material always begs the simple question of whether it’s necessary, particularly in regards to Susan. While Lewis’ “Narnia” novels end with “The Last Battle,” Susan’s character arc ends here, save for various brief mentions in a few of the upcoming novels. The character, effectively, is never seen from again (SPOILER ALERT!), as she is the one Penvensie sibling unwelcome in Narnia at the end, uninvited by Aslan the Lion into his literal biblical paradise. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations,” Jill Pole says of her at the very end of “The Last Battle.” “She’s always a jolly sight too keen on being grown up.”
The noted, pointed exclusion of Susan from Aslan’s Country (heaven), on grounds that some (including J.K. Rowling) have deemed sexist, has long been controversial to readers of Lewis’ novels.
So by changing her story, even slightly, in “Prince Caspian,” is Adamson also effectively changing our view of Susan as she appears (or rather, doesn’t appear) in “The Last Battle”? In light of where she winds up, what does the romance say of Susan?
“Susan’s story is that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. And that applies to Narnia. She was the last one to accept Narnia,” Adamson sighed. “It makes the goodbye even harder.”
Head over to the MTV Movies Blog to discuss the problem of Susan and whether the romance adds anything to her ultimate character arc.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”
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