Prince Caspian (Film Review)


FILM REVIEW: Prince Caspian: C.S. Lewis Goes To New Zealand

Once upon a time Walden Media teamed up with Disney to make a film version of C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s tale: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Despite this cumbersome title, the film quickly became Walden Media’s biggest grossing movie of all time.

And if there is anything Hollywood likes, it is a good sequel, especially when there’s money to make.

Now, the four Pevensie kids are back in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the second installment in director Andrew Adamson’s attempt to recast the Narnia stories as “Lord of the Rings lite” for a slightly younger audience. The film is long, clocking in at 145 minutes, and bereft of anything but the barest whisper of a plot, so, for those of who care about such things, let’s quickly review the storyline.

In Narnia, 1,300 years have passed since Peter (a dour William Moseley), Susan (a full-lipped Anna Popplewell), Edmund (a pragmatic Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (the ever-sprightly Georgie Henley) left Cair Paravel and their four thrones behind. Yanked in full dress school uniforms from a London tube station, the four arrive back in Narnia to discover that the land now lies under the control of the Telmarines, led by the evil Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who has murdered the uncle of young Prince Caspian (a well-coiffed Ben Barnes) and usurped the throne. Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) and the White Witch (the deliciously scary Tilda Swinton) make (too?) brief appearances.

But the film really belongs to two major actors. One is the New Zealand landscape, which steals the show from the opening minutes. “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson thrice put “down under” on the map as visual spectacle, and director Adamson follows Jackson’s lead, with an opening scene at Cathedral Cove that is simply breath-taking, and forest and landscape shots that make you want to call your travel agent immediately.

The other group celebrated here are the various centaurs, badgers, giants, and other creatures of the forest who spring to Caspian’s aid. The dwarf actor Peter Dinklage (last seen as the gay lover in Death at a Funeral) does dour due diligence as Trumpkin, and Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard), the swashbuckling rodent of Lewis’ invention, dominates the screen as a sort of “Puss In Boots” meets “Ratatouille” ur-sidekick, but he’s not on the screen enough to matter much.

And here’s the odd thing about this film. Strangely, the human actors are almost incidental, relegated to running through the forest and engaging on one battle scene after another, to the point where the whole story starts to blur. There is the barest quiver of frisson between Susan and Caspian, but mostly she spends her time launching arrows at the enemy, while the tension between High King Peter and Prince Caspian fizzles almost as soon as it gets started. Aslan appears long enough to deliver a small helping spiritual advice to Lucy – “things never happen the same way twice” (or something like that) – and drown the Telmarines, Moses-like, in a nearby river (with the help of a CGI-driven Neptune-like creature).

Maybe I’m getting old, but I’d like to think that a film based on one of the most popular children’s series of all time might have a bit more depth and complexity. Or maybe I should just give in to the mindlessness that makes up the summer blockbuster movie season and enjoy the ride. Go see it and give me some advice.