The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

  • Review: *** (out of ****)
  • Starring: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, Pierfrancesco Favino
  • Director: Andrew Adamson
  • Screenplay: Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (Novel: C.S. Lewis)
  • Length: 144 min.
  • MPAA Rating: PG for epic battle action and violence.

When the first film in The Chronicles of Narnia series came out, disappointment was clear. The film lacked the depth and darkness of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and suffered in comparison. With Prince Caspian, it appears director Andrew Adamson is keen to take the film series in a new direction, albeit one less focused on reality than its original source material.

The opening scene of the film positions the Pevensies as more mature than the previous incarnation. With four years between the original and its successor, that's not at all surprising. However, it's their ennui with the mundane world that really sets them apart. Even the doubting Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) long for a return to Narnia. In true fantasy style, their arrival in the mystical land is soon delivered and they arrive on the beach not far from a ruined city. It's there they discover that many years have passed since they left and they are about to be embroiled in the turmoil that grips the land. Skandar Keynes is far worse an actor than when he first took on the role of Edmund Pevensie, but Georgie Henley, as Lucy, has more than grown into her role and delivers the better of the film's young performances.

The Telmarines who had long ago laid siege on Cair Paravel have been in control since shortly after the departure of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. Miraz, leader of the Telmarine council plans to kill the kingdom's only heir and thus allow his own son to take that honor. Fleeing his likely assassination, Prince Caspian X (Ben Barnes) escapes the castle and finds himself lost in a world of dwarves, centaurs and other magical beasts as he attempts to convince them he is not their enemy. It's his blowing of the magical horn that has summoned the Pevensies. When he blows the magical horn with which he has been trusted, the Pevensies

The kids aren't the only ones turning in less than stellar performances as most of the adult cast fails to create more than superficial characterizations. The sole exceptions are Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis as the film's central dwarven characters Trumpkin and Nikabrik respectively.

The film doesn't update many of its visual effects, though several scenes, including the film's climactic battle sequence, have significant improvements. However, the effects are a far cry from the best of the non-Lucas Arts production houses. The costuming and art direction are still top notch and the story is a bit more dark and political than in the first film.

One shouldn't expect much from the franchise since the books were clearly written for children's minds, but there are metaphorical and thematic concepts that have been largely ignored in the series. Prince Caspian does a better job exploring the themes of war and betrayal while decreasing the overt religiosity of the books. My hope that the parallelism with World War I would be a little more richly detailed, but we're left with only minimal imagery of the era quite early in the film.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is more energetic and exciting than the original and the battle sequences are a notable improvement, becoming tense and edgy as opposed to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe's more staid and stodgy scenes. I was easily more entertained with this outing, but remain worried that Adamson will be unable to improve in later outings, eliminating all hope that we'll have more tonally dark narratives akin to those featured in Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, two infinitely better fantasy spectacles.