Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

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Mildly Successful, but mildly disappointing too

Nov 16, 2009 (Updated Nov 16, 2009)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Visuals, story, Dinklage, Davis

Cons:Human characters, performances, Neeson

The Bottom Line: A solid, visually appealing, but slightly underwhelming film version of the classic fantasy tale. Fails to make its human characters interesting or engaging.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

The Pevensie kids (William Moseley, Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell, and Skandar Keynes) are one year-removed from the events of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, but when they are once again magically whisked away to the land of Oz…er…Middle Earth…er…Narnia, they find that 1300 years have passed over there, and the land has much changed. And not for the better, either. The land is now ruled by the Spaniards...er...the Telmarines, led by the usurping Sergio Castelitto, who has taken the throne from his own nephew Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). Caspian has been forced to flee (his uncle wanting him dead and all) to the forests where he finds traces of Old Narnia, i.e. The native Narnian creatures and animals, and a small resistance, led by dwarf Trumpkin (the wonderful Peter Dinklage). It appears that it is Caspian who has summoned the ‘Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve’ back to Narnia to help rid the land of evil once and for all. But what of Aslan? He has apparently been MIA for centuries, and yet little Lucy (the unfortunately charmless Henley) claims to have caught a brief glimpse of him.

This Andrew Adamson fantasy-adventure is the second in the series of “Narnia” films based on the series of books of the same name by C.S. Lewis. I grew up on the books, loving them, and whilst slightly underwhelmed, I was relatively satisfied by the first film “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (which, by the way, is the second book in the series), from the same director. Most of the problems I had were somewhat nitpicky (or hard to correct), and so I was quite interested to see this film. And for the most part, this film works quite well. It’s the kind of old-school medieval-style fantasy aimed at the under 16 crowd that I grew up on, and still enjoy today to some degree (Think “Ladyhawke”, “The Beastmaster”, “Dragonheart”, and maybe “Red Sonja”).

The film looks superb at any rate, if a tad blue-looking, and the CGI animals (which I generally liked in the first film) are even more impressively rendered this time around (although I did sort of tire of the talking mouse, voiced by Eddie Izzard, despite one great bit where he and his pals tie up a cat! Otherwise, the character’s a bit silly even for me). You really can’t have enough minotaurs in a movie, in my opinion, and although I thought he looked fine last time, Aslan looks even better this time (Liam Neeson’s mellifluous voice, is another matter entirely. He still seems an ill-fit. An actor with a more booming, dynamic voice was really needed). The best visual moments (aside from a reaction shot by a wincing bear, which was hilarious) would have to be; 1) a scene involving some moving trees and seemingly alive rose petals that is just about the most stunning thing I’ve seen in a film of this sort, it’s really beautiful. 2) Also rather cool were the giant eagle-like creatures carrying dwarves armed with bows and arrows- a D&D geek’s wet dream, and 3) A fantastically-rendered, God-like water creature, seen towards the end of the film. This is actually a really, really, gorgeous film to look at, and the second half in particular is quite entertaining stuff. The battles, featuring masses of creature armies, whilst paling in comparison to the “Lord of the Rings” films, are in their own way greatly enjoyable- I mean we’re seeing minotaurs, centaurs, and all sorts of awesome creatures doing battle!

Special mention must be made of Dinklage and Warwick Davis, particularly the former, whose dry wit is easily the most entertaining part of the early stages in the film. The latter, meanwhile, is just good to see in a role outside of a malicious Irish fairy for a change. Tilda Swinton, in a mere cameo, is once again outstanding and memorably evil as The White Witch, so effectively nasty that, unfortunately, she makes the film’s biggest flaw stand out all the more; The human characters just aren’t very interesting, nor are they largely well-played. The somewhat Spanish-seeming villains headed by the singularly dull Castelitto, are a pretty boring lot, and in the all-important title role, Barnes seems to fade into the background as the heroic Caspian. So uninspiring is he (with his bizarrely inconsistent Italian...er...Spanish...er...British accent) that he truly makes you appreciate just how damn good Orlando Bloom is at this sort of thing (Yeah, I said it!). And then we come to the Pevensie kids. Still played by the unappealing actors of the first film, they are a pretty forgettable lot, and that’s a major problem with this series. As I said with the previous film, these characters in the books could get away with being un8derdeveloped or somewhat interchangeable, because they acted merely as the embodiment of the reader, they helped put us into the story, and once immersed, one didn’t care that Peter, and Susan were especially dull and forgettable. But a film is not a book, it is a slightly less interactive experience for the most part, and so to throw these rather dull kids (played by forgettable actors) into this (admittedly fascinating) world, the experience (an experience well over two hours by the way, not a good thing unless your name is Peter Jackson!) is not the same as in the book, because we are not seeing our visualisation of Narnia as readers, but the filmmaker’s own interpretation, populated by actors in characters who just aren’t fully-realised or distinguishable enough to care about and make up for the difference between the book experience and film experience. Of the aforementioned kids, only Keynes’ slightly dark Edmund shows any interesting personality quirks, but he has a lesser role here than last time.

Anyway, I actually did enjoy many things about this film, especially it’s look, and it is a genre I am especially fond of. But it is for that very reason of fondness and familiarity that I am being a tad harsh on this series. It has so much to live up to (particularly competing with the “Lord of the Rings” series of films that have pretty much set the benchmark for the genre), and it is only mildly succeeding thus far. Must do better next time!


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12


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