Back to Narnia
Yes, it's an epic adventure filled with brave characters, amazing creatures and incredible special effects, but The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian still failed to live up to my expectations. After being fascinated by the first film adapted from the Christian fantasy works of C. S. Lewis, I worried about whether or not the second offering would give me the same sense of wonder and excitement. My concern seems justified now. Prince Caspian may be a bigger, wilder cinematic experience -- but a serious casting flaw and uncomfortable pacing cannot be ignored.
However, the four Pevensie siblings -- played effectively again by Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and William Moseley -- make the story personal as well as spectacular. Their mission? To help Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) save Narnia from the tyranny of an evil uncle, Lord Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). Although only a year has past since leaving Narnia and going back to their real lives in London, the Pevensies discover itís been over 1,000 years in Narnia time. When they return to this magical kingdom, everything has changed. Gone is the Golden Age of Narnia. Itís only legend now. There are no mythical creatures in sight. Aslan the Lion (Liam Neesan) hasnít been heard from for ages, and Miraz reigns over a group of humans called the Telmarines.
How do the Pevensies react to being called back to Narnia? Peter (William Moseley), the eldest, experiences a bit of an ego trip. Heís stubborn and has trouble relating to Caspian. After all, remember Peter is Narniaís High King. Susan (Popplewell) becomes more action-oriented this time, especially as an expert archer. Edmund (Keynes) is now loyal to the max, and little Lucy (Henley) appears braver than ever. With the assistance of two extraordinary dwarves (Peter Dinklage & Warwick Davis) and a talking mouse (voiced by Eddie Izzard), the Pevensies work together to restore Narnia to its former glory, but only after facing many dangers.
Although the fantastic creatures from the first movie have been living in hiding, we eventually see plenty of them, including fauns, centaurs, satyrs, minotaurs and gryphons. Kudos to the make-up artists for their remarkable work in making everything seem so real. Those centaurs, in particular, are magnificent!
Of course, Narnia films simply must feature exciting battle scenes. This sequel boasts three impressive ones: Peterís swashbuckling fight with Lord Miraz; the suspenseful Narnian invasion of Mirazís castle; and a climactic clash between the Narnians and Mirazís fierce army.
Acting honors go to Henley again. She continues to remind me of the great Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Projecting a combination of vulnerability and spunk, Henley endows Lucy with all the characteristics we love to see in a heroine -- courage under fire, concern for others and the strength to do the right thing. Runner-up would be relative newcomer Barnes, whoís about as photogenic as anyone has a right to be. Even more important, this young actor definitely makes us care about what happens to Prince Caspian.
On the other hand, Castillitto as Miraz, the main villain of this piece, frightened me about as much as a fire in my fireplace -- which causes a glaring problem. We want our fantasy bad guys to project super EVIL. How I miss Tilda Swinton as the seductively sinister White Witch! She shows her icy face in only one short Prince Caspian scene -- but, believe me, itís a stunner.
Despite his fine work directing most of the Prince Caspian sequences, Andrew Adamson, who helmed the first Narnia adventure so brilliantly, falters in creating a second film thatís totally compelling and entertaining. Some of this sequel drags along so drearily that many audience members became extremely restless during the screening I attended.
In Prince Caspian, Aslan the lion says, ďThings never happen the same way twice.Ē Perhaps heís warning fans about those five additional Narnia sequels in store for us. But, always the optimist, I canít help expecting even greater things to come.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media; rated ďPGĒ for epic battle action and violence.)