Every once in awhile, a movie improves on the book on which it is based. In my bold opinion, Prince Caspian, the second Disney film drawn from C. S. Lewis’s beloved Chronicles of Narnia, is such a movie. Criticism of C. S. Lewis is rightly taboo, but facts are facts: Prince Caspian, the book, is a dud.
It was the second to be written in the series, and it’s rushed and thin. You’ll remember from the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that the four Pevensie siblings find their way into the land of Narnia through a mysterious wardrobe. In Prince Caspian they are called back to Narnia again, where they must help young Prince Caspian claim his rightful throne. Unfortunately, they land nowhere near Caspian, so most of the book is occupied with the Pevensies’ struggle to cross mountains and rivers to get to him. (The action also pauses for four chapters so that a dwarf can fill us in on Prince Caspian’s life so far.) When they finally meet Caspian there is a brief battle and a happy ending, and before you know it you’re running into the opening pages of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (a much better book).
Prince Caspian, the movie, fixes all this. It knits a whole lot more story around that spare frame, and the plot gains traction while the characters gain complexity. The movie is just plain better than the book.
How often does that happen, I wonder? I sent an e-mail to a long list of friends, family, and e-mail acquaintances, inquiring about book to movie transitions. From a flood of nominations for books that fare better as movies, these ten made it to the top: