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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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

* * *

Director: Andrew Adamson
Starring: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley

I find myself in a difficult position as I try to sum up my feelings about Prince Caspian, the second chapter of The Chronicles of Narnia series. From an entirely objective standpoint, I can see that it’s a perfectly fine movie, one that’s well put together both in terms of story and production; but I found myself disengaged from it, its charms for the most part lost on me. As a child, I loved the books by C.S. Lewis. As an adult, I never quite got around to seeing the first film of the series, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and have, perhaps, been spoiled by the recent onslaught of films which take place in magical realms. Watching this film, it was sort of like “Been there, done that.”

The film begins with the attempted assassination of Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) by his uncle, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). He flees into the woods where he is rescued by what remains of the supposedly extinct Narnians, whom he will convince to join with him to take back his kingdom and finally bring peace to the realm. Meanwhile, the Pevensie children – Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – have been summoned back to Narnia and will eventually unite with the rag-tag Narnian guerrilla army.

The drama in the film plays out on both an epic level and on a smaller, more personal level. Peter, especially, has a well constructed arc as he learns that, despite being High King, he isn’t perfect and occasionally needs the help and advice of others. There’s a poignant moment in the film when he witnesses the slaughter of some of the Narnians following a failed attempt to take Miraz’s castle – a plan he insisted on carrying out despite Caspian’s reservations. He learns the hard way that his actions can have harsh consequences not only for himself, but for others as well.

My problem with the film basically comes down to two things. First, I found the character of Caspian to be less than inspiring and lacking in the necessary charisma, especially when directly compared to Peter, who is a much more fleshed out and fully-realized character. From the outset Peter and Caspian are set up as rivals and their attempts to out-macho each other drives a lot of the inter-personal drama. Next to Peter, Caspian seems a little two-dimensional, a little lacking. The other thing is the ratio of talk/exposition to action. The action in the film is very well crafted, top-notch in every respect, but there’s so little of it and this is supposed to be an epic adventure film. I found myself growing impatient waiting for the plot to move forward as the characters waded through dialogue that largely harkens back to the events of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or fills in the blanks between the two films, which take place 1,300 years apart Narnian time.

So, while I recognize that Prince Caspian isn’t a bad film, I have to admit that it just wasn’t for me.

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