a critiQal film review The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: The Pevensie children are once again enlisted to join the colorful creatures of Narnia in combating an evil villain who prevents the rightful Prince (Barnes) from ruling the land.

992 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 57s)
  • ...the magic of Narnia has faded a bit - both onscreen and off.

Having been fans of the C. S. Lewis series since we were kids, we were excited back when the first film, hit theaters. Going in with high expectations, we had expected to be disappointed – only to have the film meet and even exceed our expectations.

Would The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian be able to keep this film series going strong, or has the magic faded in Narnia?

While William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley all return from the first film, the main focus of Prince Caspian lies with newcomer Ben Barnes. Looking much older than the 4 Pevensie children, Ben Barnes – complete with a European accent – does his best to live up to expectations, but can’t compete with the bond the audience formed with the 4 children in the first film.

As mentioned above, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley return to reprise their roles from the first film, and are welcomed by the audience with open arms. Unfortunately, this is actually somewhat of a bad thing for the film, because until they arrive on screen, audiences aren’t as into the film, simply biding their time until the 4 show up.

Right from the start, the film aims to be a bit darker than the first. With an assassination attempt and a desperate race to escape kicking things off, viewers are already a bit more on edge than they were at any point in the first film. Unfortunately, this is largely wasted on the audience, as all of this happens before the 4 children make their first appearance. It’s unfortunate, as this serves as the audience’s introduction to the new characters, including Prince Caspian and the evil Miraz.

Miraz, played by Sergio Castellitto, is a bit of a letdown. Not as an actor, really (for Sergio does do a decent job in the role), but simply because this mere human is no White Witch (Tilda Swinton’s villain from the first film). With her magic, The White Witch was by far a much more encompassing evil than this human, so the threat doesn’t seem as potent – at least at first.

Because of that lack of fear in a mere human, the audience is treated, as is mentioned in the previews, to a much more “savage” Narnia than viewers remember. Not only is this Miraz able to throw countless men at our heroes, most of the magic that was Narnia has departed – including Aslan, the all-powerful lion, leaving little to stand in Miraz’s way.

Unfortunately, the “magic” of Narnia (both figuratively and literally) is mostly gone from this second film. Whereas the first was basically a step-by-step introduction to a fantastical land filled with talking animals and real magic, Prince Caspian puts most of that aside and focuses instead on the human aspect – and all of the shortcomings associated with the species, leaving the Narnians to act more as background than anything else.

Even the first Narnians introduced are dwarves, much more human-like in appearance than the faun the audience first meets in . Sure, talking animals are eventually show up, but aside from a few exceptions, they aren’t even introduced to viewers, making them nothing more than colorful background.

The film also introduces us to the faults in one of the returning children, namely Peter. The first film did nothing but boost our confidence in the children as they adapted to this new fantastical world. Even when the children did something wrong, the film made them into better people by getting them to admit what they did was wrong, and since everything turned out in the end, they were excused from their wrongdoings.

In Prince Caspian, we find that they aren’t infallible. From the first moment Peter is re-introduced (in a fight with another boy in our world), we discover that being High King of Narnia has corrupted him. He takes the power bestowed on him for granted, and is upset when someone challenges that power – in our world or in Narnia. He seems to have forgotten everything he learned in the first film, and his thinking seems muddled and out of sorts.

This, of course, leads to a whole mess of trouble, bringing the Narnians closer than ever to the brink of extinction, causing rifts between Peter, Caspian and the other children – and also disappoints the viewer tremendously. After seeing the children through the first film, the viewer has formed a bit of a bond with them – so this power-mad image of Peter seems like a bit of a betrayal. Although Peter eventually comes around, the damage done is a bit too much for the viewer to take, and he is never totally forgiven.

There are also a couple of odd mistakes in Prince Caspian, most notably the time span the children have been gone. While the previews mention that the children have been gone for 1400 Narnian years, this is actually never spoken in the film – yet the characters refer to it near the very end, as if it had been.

Before that, the closest anyone ever gets to saying how long they’ve been gone is one of the dwarves asking them where they’ve been for the last couple of centuries. It’s an odd thing to leave out, as the viewer would not understand that statement near the end if they hadn’t seen the preview.

While Prince Caspian isn’t without it’s flaws, it still turns out to be a decent film – unfortunately, the magic of Narnia has faded a bit, both onscreen and off. After seeing , we couldn’t wait to see another chapter. After seeing Prince Caspian, however, we aren’t sure the films are going to be able to keep their audience through another 5 films.

A bit of a letdown but good nonetheless, Prince Caspian doesn’t beat out as our favorite movie of the summer so far – but doesn’t come anywhere close to the awfulness that was either.

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