May 21, 2008

REVIEW: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (B)

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.

I Loved:
+ 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.

I Liked:
+ The centaurs. You don't mess with centaurs.
+ Ben Barnes' Mediterranean/Spanish accent. Got me with it.

I Disliked:
- The unnecessary long 147-min. running time, cluttered up with repetitive action and stale "after school special" scenes.

I Hated:
- 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.


  1. Cannot wait to see this one {I have to wait until 6 June}.

  2. Do you remember the book well, Nick? There's no question you've read it - you should start a book blog with the number that you read.

    Well 6/6 is only a couple of weeks away, and then you'll have all summer to get your Narnia on. Speaking of which, I'd like to reread the entire series in chronological order according to the story, which is actually different than their publishing order. Apparently "The Magician's Nephew" is the first one. Also, I think I read they're only going to make films for four of the seven.

  3. Daniel - I really didn't like this film all that much. It felt like a LOTR: The Two Towers knock-off--all battle and no wonderment. I greatly prefer the first film, and I haven't even read the series. It tracked better with the "background" story--World War II--and that gave its foreground story strength and gravity. I simply had nothing to hold on to in this second installment.

    I actually thought the flirting was quite understated. You register it but it isn't until the end that it takes a more direct turn, and by that time, who cares?

    PS--I think your review is missing a sentence or two at the beginning of the synopsis section.

  4. Aargh, thanks, Marilyn. Blogger kills me sometimes. Throws around text like a hot potato.

    Anyway, glad you agree that the first film is superior. I thought it might have just been because of my dear memories, but if you can make that call - book unread - then I'm reassured.

    I think part of the reason the story is sidelined a bit more in Caspian is because we're supposed to feel the same sense of loss (faith) and/or uncertainty as the characters do. Just keep fighting and arguing and hoping that Aslan will show up. By the time he does, I've almost checked out. This did not need to be nearly as long as it was.

    Like you, I thought the battle scenes were distractingly familiar, but I guess there aren't many other ways to go about showing it. ***SPOILER*** The collapsing field trick was pretty cool, though.

    Regarding the flirting, uggh. You're right that it picks up at the end, but I thought even too much effort was made to show them making eyes for the last hour and a half.

  5. It's hard to feel that loss of faith after what the children had been through in the first movie. OK, so Peter doesn't see Aslan and feels that he has to make the decisions. That actually is in accordance with the free will doctrine of the Church. I just didn't feel the despair. After 1,300 years, you'd expect some changes - Narnia is a pre-Christian place, so with Aslan's sacrifice and rebirth, a new order of men was bound to take over. These themes could have been brought out more, but instead, we have the ancient kings and queens swaggering around like the human beings they are. It just wasn't very profound.

  6. I totaly disagree!!! That movie was amazing and I liked how Prince Caspian and Susan liked each other. I just wish they could see each other again and live happily ever after. I also thought the music was very good and fit the scene. I can't wait till the next movie comes out!!

  7. I took a bathroom break and missed the awkward flirting scene. Caught it at the end though. It seemed forced.

  8. Daniel,

    I'm curious... have you read all seven books?

  9. No Dan, I barely remember it.

    I have not read them all, but I want to, I think I will do just that; "I'd like to reread the entire series in chronological order according to the story, which is actually different than their publishing order."

    Yeah, totally.

  10. Good points, Marilyn. I believe the book explored the faith aspect to a greater extent, and I think one of the weaknesses of the film is the way it tries to balance implicit and explicit referencing. On the one hand we have hints at faith and temptation, and on the other hand we have ***SPOILER*** God himself showing up from Aslan's call. Viewers could be confused, I think, especially because the first film seemed to make consistent and clear references, as the book did, to Aslan as Christ. Prince Caspian wobbled a bit.

    Anonymous - well, haha, I love your enthusiasm even I don't share it.

    Matthew, you're forgiven for not making it through 147 minutes without a break! The romance really was a little awkward for how it ended up.

    Nayana...well, I know for sure that I have not read "The Last Battle," but I'm pretty sure at some point in my childhood I flipped through the rest of them. I've definitely read The LWW, however, more than the rest of them combined. I'm assuming you're well-read in them? I know you were pretty excited about this one, so...I'll wait for your review.

    Looks like we need to make a trip to the library, Nick.

  11. haven't seen Prince Caspian yet but definitely looking forward to it... i'll have to look over the book one more time just to remind myself how the original story goes

  12. Did you know that I never leave the cinema during a movie, not even for a bathroom break, ever. I am so weird.

    And, luckily Dan, my little sister is really into the Narnia books, so we have them all right here, I will try read Prince Caspian again, at least, before the film opens.

  13. Nick, I'm the same way. But this was a rare case where if I didn't go right then I was going to explode. First time I've taken a mid-film bathroom break in years.

  14. Good idea, Patrick. I didn't want to because I thought I would just be thinking about the book the whole time, but it might have helped clarify some things.

    I'm with you guys, Nick and Matthew. Never leave my seat - except for a rare emergency. I don't understand how some people can do it so willy-nilly at every movie.

  15. Excellent review about an excellent movie !!!!!! I loved this movie and have watched it over and over with my sister on DVD since we first saw it in the cinema. Its really awesome. Now i have a link to watch this movie. You wanna watch it then go through the link and Download Free The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Movie and with this enjoy the time.

  16. Thanks, Frite13. I'm glad these old reviews still have some life left when the movies are released on DVD. As I told you or one of your compatriots on my Kung Fu Panda review, however, I don't think I'll go the downloading route this time around.


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