After The Lord of Rings trilogy, the fantasy genre has definitely been revived. Tons of studios try to start their own franchises; many failed to deliver. While the Harry Potter series is brewing the sixth instalment, The Chronicles of Narnia is back with the second movie in the Walt Disney franchise — The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
It had been one year since they left Narnia, and the Pevensie siblings were having a hard time adjusting to their lives in WWII Britain. The sound of the magic horn brought them back to the fantastic land, where a thousand years had passed. The once nonexistent humans were hostile to the Narnians, so the talking creatures went into hiding. The young Prince Caspian wasn’t so lucky himself. After his own heir was born, his uncle, Miraz, drove him into exile. As the kings and queens of Narnia, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy must find a way to help Caspian reclaim this throne.
The first movie of a series often tends to be a little dull because it needs to lay down the groundwork of the alternative world. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was good at introducing the interesting character and painting the magical kingdom. This time around, the production team turned it up a notch, and the battle scenes were improved enormously. They were exciting and engaging. Both the action and landscape were very enjoyable. I no longer found myself snicker at the children trying to lead a tenacious army to save the world.
Edmund (Skandar Keynes) was so annoying in the last movie, which maybe speaks to the acting skills of Keynes to make himself despicable. He was surprisingly the one with more courage, wisdom and composure this time around. Peter (William Moseley) was the one calling the shots, but his power also led to regretful consequences. Susan was tougher, and I was glad to see her playing a more significant role in this movie. Lucy was cute as ever, bringing the delightful innocence with her that lit up the screen. Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) was the leading man in the marketing campaign and was clearly designed as the heartthrob for the young audience. Frankly, I was bothered by his fake accent and was not impressed by his acting. It remains to be seem how long he will go in Hollywood with his good looks (hey, it didn’t stop any of his predecessors).
I also especially liked Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), the grumpy but ultimately virtuous dwarf. He came to trust the Pevensies and proved himself a good friend and ally. Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) was your typical villain, who made the conspiring General Glozelle and Lord Sopespian look more evil. It showed that political power is more destructive than weapon and force. Nonetheless, I missed the cold and merciless White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Fortunately, she made a brief appearance in Prince Caspian, too. That was one of the most important scene in the movie, showing every character’s personality and mentality effectively and efficiently.
The saviour Aslan the lion (voice by Liam Neeson) was missing in action for a great part of the story. While some remained faithful, many felt abandoned, stopped believing in Aslan, and started to take matters into their own hands. Just as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the biblical subtext was quite obvious. Although the storyline was spiced up by close combats, large battles and romance, it was still a little preachy for me. I wonder how religious groups have reacted to the franchise, which features witches and magic, but really promotes Christianity at its true core. Many people screamed rip-off during the turn of tides in the final battle due to a similarity to The Lord of the Rings. It’s interesting to note that the author of the series, C.S. Lewis, was actually an atheist until his good friend, Tolkien converted him. They could have compared notes while writing their respective masterpieces.
The studio obviously made changes to the story to make it a summer blockbuster. Caspian was a handsome and worthy love interest instead of a little boy like in the books. Romance and an invasion was added. All in all, Prince Caspian was an upgrade from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The pace was faster, the battles were more thrilling, and the characters developed into people we could invest in emotionally. In the absence of hobbits and a young wizard named Harry, the fantasy genre is alive and well , thanks to four brave siblings, a handsome prince, and a mighty lion.
NOTE: All photos © 2008 Walt Disney Pictures