A year has passed for the four Pevensie children – Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edward (Skandar Keyes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – since their trip through an enchanted wardrobe to the land of Narnia, but 1300 years have passed there. In that time, Narnia has been invaded by humans called the Telmarine, forcing Narnia’s magical creatures into hiding in the forests. As the decades and eventual centuries passed, the invaders began to regard them as nothing more than myths and fairy tales. But the Pevensie children find themselves summoned back to Narnia to not only liberate the magical races of the land but to help secure the Telmarine throne for the young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) from his scheming uncle, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto).
If you liked the first Chronicles Of Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, then you’ll probably find much to enjoy here. If you found fault with some the first film’s flaws, rest assured that there is some improvement in this second installment, Prince Caspian. However, it is not enough to save it from being anything other than just a passably good movie.
First and foremost, the quartet of young actors playing the Pevensie siblings are markedly better here than they were in the first film. While they aren’t given too much dramatic meat, they handle what they have to do well. The visual effects also show improvement, especially when computer generated characters interact with flesh and blood actors. The computer animated mouse character Reepicheep adds just the right amount of comic relief to counter the film’s darker tone.
Director Andrew Adamson has also shown improvement in choreographing action sequences. As opposed to the first film, Prince Caspian showcases battles between armies that exhibit a sense of geography and tactics, not just two groups of computer generated characters charging pell-mell at each other.
Some elements are a mixed bag. The sets are for the most part wonderful, though one cave setting is very obviously studio bound based on its remarkably flat and level floor. Many of the talking animals are created in nearly flawless, photo-realistic computer animation. While some of these characters, like Badger, walk on their hind legs, those who are supposed to move naturally actually move in somewhat stiff, unnatural and distracting manners. Although he tries to do his best, English actor Ben Barnes’s faux-Spanish accent is unconvincing. This is not really his fault though, as it is a choice forced on him by dint of the film’s production design to decision to model the Telmarine army after the Spanish Conquistadors.
Unfortunately, there is still much about the film that hurts it.
The film conveys no real sense of wonder for the fantastic sites and magical creatures of Narnia. Sure, this is our second cinematic trip there, but 13 centuries have passed and it is essentially a new world, with new things to explore. Instead, Adamson presents things, from the Pevensies siblings’ transportation to Narnia to the film’s climactic riverside battle matter-of-factly. Only the sword duel between Peter and Miraz comes off as truly exciting and engaging.
Structurally, the film is awkward at best, though I suspect that the fault may lie in the source material more than in anything else. It takes the children nearly an hour of wandering through the Narnian countryside before they finally meet up with Caspian and the plot, leaving the film’s second half to carry most of the plot. Cram into that two battles and the aforementioned sword duel, one suddenly realizes that there is not room for much more in terms of characterization or story. With time in the second half at a premium, one has to wonder why they wasted it on a scene involving the temptation to bring back the previous film’s villain, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton, returning for a cameo), when it adds absolutely nothing to the proceedings.