- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
rince Caspian,” the second installment in C.S. Lewis’ seven-part series dubbed “The Chronicles of Narnia,” might just be the most violent PG movie ever made. Children wage war by shooting and slashing their way through armies of men, while little CG mice slit the throats of their enemies with the ease of a paintbrush stroke. It’s all pretty dark stuff, which seems to be the unspoken rule in making a sequel these days, and it ultimately results in a trade-off that sees storytelling take a backseat to action. Unlike the other fantasy series that “Narnia” has drawn comparisons to, however, “Prince Caspian” is an inferior follow-up that fails to recapture the magic of the first film.
It’s been a year since the Pevensies left Narnia, but it’s been 1300 years on the other side. In that time, a human race known as the Telmarine have overtaken the land, forcing the Narnians into hiding while they await the return of their saviors. When an especially devious Telmarine named Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) plots to kill Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in attempt to overtake the throne, Caspian escapes into the forbidden forest where he is frightened into blowing a magical horn that transports the Pevensies back to Narnia. When they arrive, they’re surprised to discover their former home in shambles, but when Caspian fills them in on the current situation, the Pevensies jump back into action – along with a cynical dwarf named Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and a chivalrous mouse named Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) – to reclaim Narnia from the Telmarine and restore it to the land they remember.
Apparently, Narnia is facing some sort of Spanish Inquisition, because the Telmarine look like they just waltzed out of an Elizabethan period piece. King Miraz has clearly been modeled after the real-life King Philip II, and the whole political takeover subplot is, quite frankly, too adult for a kid’s movie. The action, meanwhile, isn’t quite as prolific as the trailers might lead you to believe, but in the spirit of “The Two Towers,” the entire final act is a full-fledged battle. Oh yeah, and in case you needed another reason to compare the “Narnia” series to Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, this battle features an army of fighting trees too.
Similarities aside, the biggest reason why “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” didn’t feel like a complete “Lord of the Rings” rip-off was because it allowed its child stars to develop their characters. They’re not so lucky this time around, as director Andrew Adamson clearly has his hands full introducing the new inhabitants of Narnia. Edmund (Skandar Keynes), who played a major role in the events of the first film, is practically a background extra this time around, while Susan (Anna Popplewell) channels her inner Legolas for much of the story. The only sibling to get a fair shake is Peter (William Moseley), who’s been given a Harry Potter complex so that he’ll butt heads with Caspian over their conflicting leadership roles. And then there’s poor Lucy (Georgie Henley), who plays the part of the Good Little Christian in order to cram as many religious ideas down the audiences throat as possible. Lewis’ Christian influences aren’t necessary to the story, however, and when a God-like water element appears in the final battle, you can’t help but feel like you’ve just been forced to sit through a 140-minute church sermon.
“Prince Caspian” isn’t all Christ and killing, though. The inspired casting of Peter Dinklage gives the Pevensie kids a veteran actor to interact with (unlike, say, a duo of CG beavers), and though he disappears for much of the final act, he nearly steals the whole show. Instead, that honor goes to Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep, a swashbuckling mouse who could have easily been replaced with Puss in Boots from Adamson’s own “Shrek 2.” It’s characters like these that make the film worth seeing, but if the “Narnia” series continues to get worse with each installment, Disney would be better off just finishing the trilogy and calling it quits.
Three-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
One of the major advantages of Blu-ray is that it can hold up to ten times the amount of a standard DVD, so why in the world does the HD edition of “Prince Caspian” need three discs? Granted, the third disc only contains a digital copy of the film, but it still seems a bit like overkill to me, especially when there aren’t that many extras to begin with. Disc one is highlighted by an audio commentary with director Andrew Adamson and his cast that isn’t great, but sufficient considering those involved, while the Blu-ray exclusive “Creating the Castle Raid” offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the different departments involved in that sequence. Disc two, meanwhile, houses a bulk of the material including the comprehensive making-of featurette “Inside Narnia” and production featurettes on set design (“Sets of Narnia”), location shooting in Slovenia (“Big Movie Comes to a Small Town”), and the filming of the final battle (“Secrets of the Duel”). Rounding out the set are deleted scenes with introductions by the director, a short blooper reel, a character featurette with Peter Dinklage (“Becoming Trumpkin”), and a cool behind-the-scenes look at a typical day for Warwick Davis (“The Man Behind Nikabrik”).