“You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember,” barks the dwarf Trumpkin. He isn’t kidding.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” probably features about thrice the action of its charming predecessor in this surprisingly violent
second installment. Luckily, it doesn’t lose sight of its characters or plot in the fray, and manages to, at the very least, match “The Lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe.”
The film fires into action with a surprising and sweeping opening sequence, introducing us to the films namesake, Prince Caspian. Caspian
is the true heir to the throne of Narnia, but his uncle, Miraz, has eyes for his throne. I’m sure you can see where this one is heading, and
before you know it, Caspian is on the run.
As two of the more notable additions to the cast this time around, Ben Barnes as Caspian and Sergio Castellitto as Miraz both turn in
Barnes hits all the right notes as the sympathetic exile, while Castellitto makes a fantastic villain. I can’t imagine anyone would turn their
back to this guy and not expect to be stabbed.
Peter Dinklage also adds a lot to the film as the rough-edged dwarf (Is there any other kind?), Trumpkin.
Like the first film, the supporting cast probably outdoes the stars of the show, the four Pevensie children. Now, granted two of them are
very good. Georgie Henley is once again the heart of this story as little Lucy, and Skandar Keyes is quite good in the somewhat thankless
role of Edmund.
But the two oldest of the kids, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell, still seem a bit stiff. They are certainly not bad, but they just don’t
match the level of acting that surrounds them.
This isn’t as big a problem this time around because the film contains so much more action and forward motion.
The original film basically contained a couple of small action sequences and one large battle. This film contains several large action
sequences, and all of them are quite accomplished. Director Andrew Adamson has clearly built on the foundation of the first film. In only
his second live action film, Adamson’s action sequences are surprisingly focused and unquestionably thrilling.
Aiding in these spectacular sequences, and the movie as a whole, are some superlative visual effects. We’ve certainly seen CG animals
before, but where “Prince Caspian” excels is in its animation. The best example has to be the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep. There is
something irresistible about cute little characters that slash peoples’ throats.
Complimenting both the action and the drama is Harry Gregson-Williams’ score, which is once again very good. It could certainly be argued
that he overuses his themes from the original film, but it still makes for an undeniably great backdrop to the film.
Even though there is much more action this time around, you would have to be made of stone to not feel for these characters by the end of
the film. The bittersweet and emotional ending hits the perfect note.
“Prince Caspian” certainly has a few notable flaws. The children aren’t all great actors and the film certainly lacks a bit of the charm and
wonder that the original had. Although I guess that’s to be expected in a darker sequel. Also, despite the quality, perhaps there is just a bit
too much action, especially in the second half. Nevertheless, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” is a film that lives up to its
predecessor and establishes “Narnia” as a legitimate film series. This will be director Andrew Adamson’s last film in the series. Let’s hope
the new guy can live up to his fine work.
* * *
(out of four)
|THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA:
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Written by: Andrew Adamson & Christopher Markus &
Starring: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes,
William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto
Cinematography by: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Released: May 16, 2008; 140 Minutes