Background: It's not discussed much any more, but I'm still curious as to what sparked the countless fantasy novel film adaptations at the turn of the millennium - The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, Twilight, The Hobbit and so on. What was the catalyst, since a number of these were written so long ago? Maybe technology...anyway, the most recent installment is The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which follows up The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and precedes The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, due out in 2010. Andrew Adamson (Shrek and Shrek 2) is directing the trilogy, the four Pevensie children are played by the same young actors (William Moseley as Peter, Anna Popplewell as Susan, Skandar Keynes as Edmund, and Georgie Henley as Lucy), and Aslan is again voiced by Liam Neeson. Joining the cast are Ben Barnes (Stardust) and Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral). Prince Caspian was filmed in Prague, Slovenia, New Zealand and Poland.
Synopsis: We're back in Narnia, thirteen hundred years after the Pevensie children laid down their royal crowns and returned home. Narnia has been ruled with an iron fist by King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) since the Telmarine people arrived and took over with brute force, banishing the few surviving Narnians to live in exile in the woods. Like all Telmarines, Prince Caspian (Barnes), current heir to the throne as Miraz's nephew, is told that the yarns about Narnia's Golden Age are fantasy, and not history. Caspian is an unassuming young man, however, and is perhaps a little too curious and a little too innocent to continue the Telmarine's dark rule. When King Miraz bears a son of his own, then, he naturally sends his guards to kill Caspian, who makes a daring escape to the woods, where we meet Trumpkin (Dinklage), Nikabrik (Warwick Davis), Reepicheep the Mouse (Eddie Izzard), and Trufflehunter the Badger (Ken Stott). Desperate, Prince Caspian blows the magic horn (formerly Susan's) that dispatches the Pevensie children back to Narnia (it's only been a year in their lives since they left, don't try the math). After finding Caspian and reuniting the remaining Narnians in the woods, the film can naturally only go in one direction: all out battle between the Narnians and the Telmarines. While there are several symbolic incidents and speeches, Aslan sightings, flirting scenes, White Witch sightings, and silly arguments, better than half the film is made of up violent combat. Duels, ambushes, stabbings, and even a suggested decapitation. As you might expect if you've read this far, good (and God) trumps evil...for now.
+ The terrific special effects, which are so easy to take for granted when we see them in every movie. Some of these sequences would have blown away audiences just 10 years ago.
+ The musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams, who also just happened to make his acting debut (in his 66th film) as the voice of Pattertwig the Squirrel.
+ The centaurs. You don't mess with centaurs.
+ Ben Barnes' Mediterranean/Spanish accent. Got me with it.
- The unnecessary long 147-min. running time, cluttered up with repetitive action and stale "after school special" scenes.
- The unbearable, juvenile flirting between Susan and Prince Caspian. Yeah, I realize 14 year-olds might be the target demographic for this, but I didn't think I'd be watching the CW or whatever channel plays that stuff.
Writing - 7
Acting - 8
Production - 8
Emotional Impact - 9
Music - 5
Significance - 5
Total: 42/50 = 84% = B
Last Word: I have to admit some bias toward The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, as it brought to life my favorite (and best remembered) of the Narnia books. I thought the film was a totally appropriate adaptation (if not as pure as the BBC version), with the right mix of charm, action, and humor. Unfortunately, Prince Caspian only delivers the action, and in such great volume as to outweigh anything else in the film anyway. Worse still, it's not even original action - frequently I was reminded of similar scenes in Braveheart, Gladiator, and any of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings films. Am I saying the fighting was out of place? No. This is meant to be a much darker film, and to that end it's quite successful. The themes revolve around betrayal, revenge, greed and power, and the body count is through the roof. All this combines to make Prince Caspian a war epic disguised as a PG-rated adventure movie for kids. I didn't slip into my 10 year-old self very easily, but I still found myself cheering on the Pevensies and soaking in the beautiful scenery of Narnia, and I suppose that's a good enough reason to spend several hours in front of the big screen.