The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Movie Review

In Clerks II, uber-slacker Randal described the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a series of endless walks. Nothing but nonstop, pointless treks. One has to wonder what his reaction would be to the overwhelming ambulation in the two Chronicles of Narnia films. While The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had origins and mythos to highlight, Disney's latest entry in the franchise, Prince Caspian, requires a more minimal setup. All returning director Andrew Adamson has to offer as a result is more shoe to footpath action, with the occasional CGI-sparked battle to break up the constant strolling.

It's been a year since Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie have been to the magical land that they once ruled as kings and queens. However, 13 centuries have passed in Narnia, and a race of humans known as Telmarines have overrun the kingdom. They have systematically killed off almost all the creatures, and rule by blood and violence. Within the court, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), brother of the late King Caspian IX, has taken over and threatened the life of the true, titular heir (Ben Barnes). With the help of the returning foursome, Prince Caspian will rally the remaining Narnians, leading them to victory over their evil oppressors.

There's no denying one simple truth -- if you loved the first installment in the cinematic realization of C. S. Lewis' veiled religious allegories, you'll adore Prince Caspian. It has all the same amicable elements that helped make the initial journey to Narnia superficially satisfying. It's clear that the House of Mouse believes that more of the same will secure another box office winner, and while the species have changed (dwarves in place of fauns, mice instead of beavers), the same ambiguous moralizing and good vs. evil pronouncements exist. Like a greatest hits package offered up before another album of fresh, quality material, Caspian simply sticks with the common and the crowd pleasing.

When it doesn't however, Prince Caspian goes strangely catawampus. In an unusual, off-putting choice, every Telmarine speaks with a thick Spanish accent. While the screenplay suggests a rationale for this as part of their heritage, it makes one feel like they've stumbled upon Cortez and his Conquistadors. Odder still, the arrival of additional humans really exaggerates the strained, Renaissance faire quality of the setting. We keep waiting for the Narnian equivalent of a leather mug merchant and the wine wench to show up and start spouting some Old English. Creative cracks like this wipe the luster off of Caspian's capable veneer.

Naturally, the battles win us over, though Adamson won't earn any awards for his busy, frequently flashy camera trickery, with too much obvious animation in the fray. The eventual cameos from the White Witch and Aslan do manufacture the kind of ephemeral magic that the vast majority of the movie is missing, but let's face it -- any film that can reduce the great Peter Dinklage into the kind of cutesy stereotype his career has tried to avoid is idling on aesthetic cruise control. Perhaps if our heroes (including newest party member Barnes) were more compelling, we wouldn't notice the dearth of vision.

Indeed, the main problem with Prince Caspian is the lack of true transcendence. All great epics find a way to take the traditions and truisms that define their premise and amplify their meaning and sense of universality. As viewers, we suddenly recognize, and feel the innate power in, such small virtues. On the page, The Chronicles of Narnia thrived on such fiery faith-based fantasy. On film, said belief is rendered bland.

He slices, he dices, he juliennes.

Comments

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 2008

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