Some movies are improved by having read the source material before seeing the movie. If you have, like my wife, then the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian should leave you entranced and very satisfied. As in my case, if you have not then this movie may not mean quite as much to you and may feel more than a bit formulaic.
Granted, I did see the first movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe back in 2005 and really liked it. The same actors playing the Pevensie children are back for the sequel, yet in the intervening three years they naturally look quite a bit older. At the rate they turn out these movies, the actors may mature long before their characters do in the books. All are competent actors for their young ages, but not always totally convincing in their parts. I found Anna Popplewell, who plays Susan Pevensie, disturbingly attractive, with her dark hair and eyes and gorgeous lithe figure. Susan can give Legolas a contest with the bow and arrow, and at least Anna Popplewell can act, unlike Orlando Bloom. I looked up Popplewell’s age in IMDB and she is above the age of consent, so I can feel good about lusting for her.
Sequels rarely live up to the original and that is the case with this movie. It is several hundred years later in Narnia, and the residents have grown complacent. Narnia is now mostly a myth and a council rules the land, since Prince Caspian is apparently too young to ascend the throne and his father is dead. Caspian, played by the boyish and devilishly handsome Ben Barnes, becomes a marked man the moment his aunt gives birth to a son. He is hustled out of the castle by Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass), a sort of Professor Dumbledore-lite because his evil Uncle Mirax uses the birth of his son to try to kill him and to put himself on the throne. Out in the woods Caspian meets the thought to be extinct creatures of Narnia. He blows a magical horn given to him by Doctor Cornelius, which has the effect of summoning Lucy, Edward, Peter and Susan back from London during the Blitz to Narnia. It is just as well for they have been itching to get back to Narnia anyhow. I guess dodging all those V-2 rockets isn’t exciting enough for them.
It takes them a while to realize the Narnia they left is largely gone and that many hundreds of years have elapsed. It is not too long before they encounter Narnia’s oppressed creatures and Prince Caspian, although there are the usual suspicions and fights you might expect as they straighten out the new pecking order. Aslan, the mysterious God-like largely benevolent lion seems to be absent. Only little Lucy sees him at all, and the others discount her sighting as the product of her overactive imagination. Uncle Mirax uses Prince Caspian’s departure to consolidate his hold on power and become the evil King Mirax.
Overpowered by his forces, the marginal forces of Narnia, led by King Peter, launch a night attack on the King’s castle. It is only partially successful and leads to many deaths. The Narnians are forced to retreat to a catacomb deep in the woods, but their eventual defeat of course seems inevitable against King Mirax’s superior army. Their only hope is for King Peter to challenge King Mirax to a dual to the death. Naturally, this tactic proves reasonably successful as King Mirax feels he must show his superior skills to his people.
So there is much swordsmanship, profuse sweating, battles mixing real and animated participants, glorious CGI and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is pretty clear that with the book having its source in a series of Christian-oriented children’s books that good will triumph over evil somehow, if only the good residents of Narnia can show their moxie. Okay, I will spoil the plot: somehow, they do win against all odds. Aslan does show up at a rather anticlimactic point toward the end of the movie. Prince Caspian, aided by all the other youthful kings and queens around him, finds his courage and eventually claims his kingdom. The Pevensies get to return to London.
Still, the movie is not that much worse than its predecessor. In my opinion, you cannot film too many movies in glorious New Zealand. The acting is mostly competent all around. In addition, there are a number of new characters that add a lot of fun. One of them is Reepicheep, a swashbuckling mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard. Yet, the movie is at times confusing. Aslan when he appears speaks mostly in mystical mumbo jumbo. Considering the odds the Narnians faced, couldn’t he have arrived a wee bit sooner?
If you are a fan of the books, see the movie. If you have never read them, you will find this movie reasonably engaging, if predictable. Bring the kids, particularly if you want them to grow up with good Christian values. It is at least gloriously realized.
3.1 on my 4.0 scale.