Movie Review for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

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Review #645 of 365
Movie Review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) [PG] 147 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 16 May 2008
Time: 3:40 pm
DVD Release Date: 2 December 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: There is nothing after the credits.
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: Download now from Harry Gregson-Williams - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack)
Audiobook: C.S. Lewis - Prince Caspian: The Chronicles of Narnia (Unabridged) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Andrew Adamson (The Chronicles of Narnia: L, W, & W)
Screenplay by: Andrew Adamson (Shrek the Third) • Christopher Markus (You Kill Me) • Stephen McFeely (You Kill Me) based on the novel by C.S. Lewis

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Ben Barnes (Stardust) • Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia: L, W, & W) • Skandar Keynes (The Chronicles of Narnia: L, W, & W) • William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia: L, W, & W) • Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia: L, W, & W) • Castellitto, Sergio (Arthur and the Invisibles) • Peter Dinklage (Underdog) • Warwick Davis (HP: Order of the Phoenix) • Vincent Grass (Astérix et les Vikings) • Pierfrancesco Favino (Night at the Museum ) • Cornell John (Kidulthood) • Liam Neeson (Seraphim Falls)

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Co-writer / director / and co-producer Andrew Adamson has been said to have described his second installment in the Walt Disney Pictures / Walden Media adaptations of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series as a darker, more grown-up, summer film. He's correct on all three counts. In fact, there's probably a need to remind parents and guardians of young children that despite the plethora of toys and product tie-ins no doubt pitched at little kids, the Chronicles of Narnia and the two recent films are not really. These are battle-driven films with lots of scenes of kids in peril or fighting at advanced levels with swords and daggers. Granted, care has been taken in ways that are quite obvious and significant to downplay the violence rather than glorify it, but it is there nonetheless. Some have said the film is to be appreciated most by the 'tweens' (those children in the age between little kids and teenagers sort of the 10-12 range) and above. Certainly, that is the case insofar as the 10-12 year-old in your family can differentiate real from fantasy violence and mayhem.

As far as the film goes, it does bear some fruit to dispatch comparisons with the first chronicle adaptation:(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe straight away. If you haven't seen the first, you simply must see it on DVD before you see the second. It's not so much that the second cannot stand alone, it might well, but just like with the Harry Potter films, seeing them out of order just doesn't sit right. The first thing noticeable about the second film is that the kids are visually older. Which is to be expected, they are a year older in the book. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and especially Edmund (Skandar Keynes) have shot up a bit in height, not so much for the two older children Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) who were closer to their adult heights in the last film. But, this height difference, while seemingly small, has a great effect on the second film as it really adds a bit of unexpected realism again, especially for Edmund, who no longer looks like a little schoolboy but a strong young man. He's nearly taller than Peter now, and while not completely rid of the anger in his face derived from resentment of his older brother who still finds it difficult not to boss, it's becoming easier to picture him as the leading character in the next film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

See it on the biggest screen you can…not meant to be seen on a television screen at home.
Other than this, the leading four actors have reclaimed their characters with the ease of getting on a bicycle put away for the winter. Next, while no one will ever be able to forget the villainous White Witch so adeptly portrayed by Ms Tilda Swinton in the first film, the second lacks both a villain and an actress of her caliber. The villain in the second is really an entire group of people called the Telmarines—descendants of Mediterranean pirates whose shipwreck opened the passageway for them into Narnia which they quickly conquered in the absence of the true Kings and Queens who had unexpectedly and inadvertently left Narnia via the wardrobe at the end of the first book. The Telmarines goal was to rid Narnia of all Narnians and rule the land themselves in a feudal system of lords and a high King Caspian. They are established quickly as an unforgiving people, but still never match the terror of the evil enchantress, the White Witch. This story, then because the backstory has been provided by the first film, focuses its 147 minutes on plucking the Pevensie children, former Kings and Queens of Narnia, from London and plunging them back into their roles in Narnia to lead the epic battle for peace and restoring the harmony in Narnia for the Narnians. Of course, what the Pevensie children won't realize right away is that while it's been only a year in time for them in their world, it has been 1300 years in Narnia. Fortunately, what ever magic is at work during the transfer between time and place, when they arrive in Narnia, they arrive in their present form and not in the forms from which they left Narnia the first time as one might recall they had all grown up. Instead of talking beavers, this film employees a talking Badger and a platoon of talking, sword-wielding mice the leader of which bears some resemblance in both appearance and manner to the infamous Antonio Banderas-voiced Puss 'n Boots from Shrek 2. Also, unlike the first film, this film introduces a new hero, Prince Caspian X (Ben Barnes), heir to the thrown of Narnia, whose bitter Uncle who slew his father King Caspian IX, and attempted the assassination of Prince Caspian X on the night of the birth of his own son with the goal to ascend his brother's throne and start a new line of kings, has fled to the haunted woods on advice of his tutor Dr. Cornelius (Vincent Grass) where he can find safety. It is here that Prince Caspian X discovers that Narnians are real and he blows the horn Dr. Cornelius gives him to use only in a real emergency. It is that horn blast that penetrates into a London Tube stop and opens the rift through with the Pevensies are then able to return to Narnia after a year away from a lifetime and place they had grown to love far more than their dreary lives in war-torn England. The story, as has been alluded, is similar to the first in that Narnia has been overtaken by forces that enslave or kill the Narnians, and battles will have to be fought to restore the order. This time, however, it is all Narnians vs. the Telmarines, not Narnians vs. Narnians. This time, also, Aslan will not play a deep role in the conflict until, as Georgie puts it, the children have proven themselves worthy of his help. This time, all four children will play a more active role in the battle and major plot points in fairly equal share, along with that of the new Prince Caspian X.

possesses all of the grand elements and special effects of the first.
What remains odd is that it will be the "sons and daughters of Adam" who rule the Narnians and even the Narnians believe they are better off only when ruled by such not a Narnian him or herself. Chronicles 2, if one will excuse the abbreviation, possesses all of the grand elements and special effects of the first film. There are inescapable mythological similarities between some of the scenes and both the Harry Potter films and the all time classic Trilogy: LOTR, however unavoidable, they do less slightly their possible impact to a commensurate degree. The addition of the character of Prince Caspian X provides a new hero and a mild love interest for Susan. Overall, the two films actually compare quite favorably, though the second, of course, as is often the case, does not captivate to quite the same degree—neither did the second book to be quite honest looking back on my own distant memory of reading the Chronicles in 7th grade and prior to tacking the infinitely superior LOTR trilogy. What the Chronicles 1 & 2 have going for them in these film adaptations is the incredibly likeable and believable young cast. The second film allows them to let down their guard a bit more, joke around, have a bit more fun as the circumstances seem a bit less dire on the one hand, and wrestle with their hormones and the impending adulthood of Peter and Susan.

In the end, Chronicles 2 is very good, not quite as good as the first simply because it lacks the epic story. The young actors are better having had one hugely successful film under their belts, but the story as detailed above, is not quite as profound. Therefore, the film is less impacting in some ways, though the ending is mystical, magical, and very poignant (bring tissues). The film begins in the dark chambers and castle of the Telmarines and the attempted assassination of Prince Caspian X, and it takes a while to brighten up. Even then, it's fairly dark from then on even with the arrival of the Pevensies who unfortunately succumb to the realization that this is no longer the Narnia they new. All of this darkness without much dawn can be a little taxing. Whereas in the first film, Aslan, provides the sparks of hope and there is a scale of adventure in just getting to the climatic battle, this second film lacks both spirits. Therefore, on the whole, while Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a very good movie, it is not quite as good as the first, and because it is not a bridge film between chapters 2 and 3 like the HP or LOTR films, that dimension cannot be blamed. This is not to say, however, that people who loved the first shouldn't see the film nor that they will necessarily be disappointed. This is a different film, it dilutes the focus on the adorable Pevensies with that of Prince Caspian. It holds what some will find to be disappointing news about the upcoming story, especially for the screaming fans (myself included) of William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. Ben Barnes, despite being a bit older than the part calls for, did an admirable job both in joining the cast and in filling the might shoes of this prince soon to be king. Aslan seems less magical and more zen in this film uttering an occasional non-sense line about how things never happen twice and such. Plus the climatic battle of Telmarines vs. Narnians lacks the epic scale from the first film with one army looking rather boring. On the bright side, William Moseley takes Peter to the next level as a character torn between youthful enthusiasm and the responsibility of adulthood combined with the struggles between blind faith and reason. The young actor has incredible promise, but he sorely needs first a comedic role followed by an incredibly powerful dramatic one to both advance him in the craft and to showcase the talent bubbling up through his soulful eyes and quivering chin. Likewise, Skander Keynes has grown up well into a tall and dominating figure who either has a career of portraying fantastic commanding leaders or devilish villains ahead of him. The verdict might still be out on both Ms Popplewell and Ms Henley as their roles as was the case in the previous film, still prevent much of their acting abilities to be showcased.

See this second film knowing that, in some ways, it will be the last. Enjoy it for what it's worth, and understand that you may find the ending too sad (in a sentimental way) or cheesy. Recognize that this is, as Andrew Adamson said, a darker, more grown up film. See it on the biggest screen you can though because this film and its predecessor were not meant to be seen on a television screen at home.

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Cast Members
Ben BarnesGeorgie HenleySkandar Keynes
William MoseleyAnna PopplewellCastellitto, Sergio
Peter DinklageWarwick DavisVincent Grass
Pierfrancesco FavinoLiam Neeson
Andrew Adamson
Andrew AdamsonChristopher MarkusStephen McFeely
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Original Book

Review-lite The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) [max of 150 words]
While darker and less poignant than the first Chronicles film, Prince Caspian possesses all of the grand special effects and wonder of the first. William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgis Henley are back as Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy called back to Narnia to help the rightful heir to the throne, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) ascend to his throne in a Narnia now ruled by invaders called the Telmarines, descendants of Pirates whose ship wreck on an island opened a portal into Narnia through which they invaded. Not quite as good as the first film due to the lack of a sense of epic adventure in a whole new world, nonetheless, the likeable young cast once again treats us to a very good film with some disappointing news, however, for fans of William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. Ben Barnes is a great addition adding a fresh dynamic and love interest for Susan.

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1 comment:

patrick said...

the makers of Prince Caspian kept to the original story better than i would have expected... i had heard they were going to make it into a silly pure-action flick, but thankfully this was not so much the case