In 2008, the second Disney film adaptation of C.S. Lewis's much-adapted Narnia series appeared in theaters. It takes greater liberties with the plot than the first, and features more violence and at least as much spectacle. Like the first, it begins in London, England during the Second World War.
The Pevensie children return to Narnia to find that centuries have passed and the land has fallen on dark times. Prince Caspian, rightful heir to the throne of the kingdom that has blighted the land seeks their help to restore Narnia, and the faith of a child must, of course, lead them.
Director Andrew Adamson has clearly studied Peter Jackson, and he fills his film with visual wonders. The combination of sets, CGI, costumes, make-up, and real locations creates a dazzling world. I particular applaud the frequent use of locale; CGI still cannot match the power of appropriately-chosen (if cinematically enhanced) locations. This isn't quite Jackson's version of Middle Earth, but it impressed me more than recent big-screen excursions to Hogwarts.
The film features some impressive battle sequences, made with an awareness that multispecies war looks simultaneously wondrous and ridiculous. The storming of the Telmarine castle, with centaurs, minotaurs, dwarves, griffins, wild animals, valiant rodents and armed children amounts to perhaps the most insanely impressive cavalry charge in cinematic history.
The presentation and production represent the film's strengths, though they are not perfect. The cloying pop song that invades the soundtrack at the film's finale may be the single worst directorial misstep in a fantasy film since Peter Jackson gave Kong an interlude on ice.
The story, too, presents some problems.
Prince Caspian has been adapted from a children's story with deliberate Christian overtones, and must be viewed in this light. The plot's logic reflects its origins. In other words, prepare yourself for frequent narrative cheats. Susie, for example, makes a leap of faith to find an important path that seemingly might have been located with a bit of careful poking about. This minor contrivance from early in the film precedes more serious ones, and they reflect both the story's themes and the book's original audience. Likewise, the final
leos deus ex machina strikes me as both annoying and dramatically disappointing, though I understand, from a thematic and theological perspective, why it occurs. The conclusion has been mandated by Lewis's Christian perspective. The world is fallen, and we must fight the good fight against darkness. However, in the end, we will be saved by faith alone. It doesn't matter what I believe or any other viewer or even the filmmakers believe-- Narnia must work that way.
Generally solid actors do well with some memorable, but underdeveloped, characters. Character development is always a problem when you have an army of characters in play and only a couple of hours to play them. Nevertheless, certain actors really shine. Diminutive Peter Dinklage is excellent as Trumpkin, and Eddie Izzard squeaks out a fine Reepicheep. The brief appearance of the White Witch has been effectively, creepily staged.
Other performers fare less well. The Pevensies continue to be good, but not consistently engaging. The inconsistent Mediterranean accent of the Telmarines proves downright irritating. The failure to really develop characters (or use the more interesting ones to best advantage) minimizes the movie's emotional impact.
I can recommend this film to its intended audiences—- though it will be too violent for younger children. It lacks the power of the first, however, which has a stronger story, better-developed characters, and a more effective use of World War II as a frame. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian will entertain its audience. Despite its theological intentions, those seeking a truly enlightening fantasy may want to look elsewhere.
Director: Andrew Adamson
Writers: Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely.
Based on the novel by C.S. Lewis
Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian
Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie
Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie
William Moseley as William Pevensie
Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie
Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin
Sergio Castellitto as King Miraz
Warwick Davis as Nikabrik
Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep
Ken Stott as Trufflehunter
Pierfrancesco Favino as General Glozelle
Alicia Borrachero as Queen Prunaprismia
Vincent Grass as Doctor Cornelius
Harry Gregson-Williams as Pattertwig the Squirrel
Shane Rangi as Asterius
Tilda Swinton as the White Witch
Liam Neeson as Aslan