The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Film review by: Witney Seibold
In the last Narnia movie, Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) left behind a magical horn that, when blown, would summon her and her three siblings, previously kings and queens of Narnia, to the aid of the blower. In the opening scenes of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” the titular prince (Ben Barnes) escapes the schemes of his wicked step-father Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), and stumbles into the woods, into the den of some kickass dwarves (Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis). He blows the horn, and, back on Earth, the four Pevensie siblings, Susan, little Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Peter (William Moseley) are magically whisked out of a London train tunnel into Narnia.
A year has passed for them since the last film, but 1300 years have passed in Narnia, and it’s now overrun by Italian-looking Telmarines. Narnians – that is to say talking animals, centaurs, Minotaurs, fauns, and the like – are thought to be extinct. Aslan the lion is long gone.
This is an ingenious approach to a sequel, and it was wise of the filmmakers to skip straight to the fourth book in the Narnia series, where real developments have taken place. The story is fascinating, and the action is swift and solid. “Prince Caspian” is a much better-assembled film that “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The first seemed too eager to please, and wasn’t able to fully reconcile its action to its subtle and widely talked-about (and not-so-subtle) Christian imagery. The second has some truly excellent action set pieces (the silent castle invasion is exhilarating), and a pace that never drags for the film’s first 100 minutes.
This, sadly, also means that “Caspian” has much less on its mind that “Lion.” The first film served (in a benign sort of way) as an allegory for spirituality and the power of Christian beliefs. Aslan was resurrected and served as a savior figure. “Caspian” has no images, not even subtle ones, that relate back to spirituality at all. This doesn’t just mean that it’s a typical secular thriller (which would have been fine), it also means that it has no real themes at all. It’s just – like “The Lord of the Rings” before it – a huge spectacular action fluffiness. Even after the film has its climax and everything seems to have come to a conclusion, it continues to drag onward for about 30-40 minutes, tacking on a cameo by Tilda Swinton, an evil vulture-person, and a completely useless overwrought battle sequence with fighting trees and the appearance of a spectacular (but baffling) water god.
Not helping things at all is Barnes in the title role. He’s a very, very handsome man, but seems to have attended the Johnny Utah school of acting. That his performance invokes the depths of Keanu Reeves-ian thespitude is no good thing. The four leads are all very good, though, especially the two boys, and Popplewell seems to be in the early stages of babehood. Eddie Izzard also has a small role as a cocky fighting mouse. The special effects are much better this time around, too.