Almost fit for a "Prince"

image “Prince Caspian” works hard to recapture the magic of the first entry in the “Narnia” series, 2005’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”  Andrew Adamson is back as director, and the four child actors from the first film reprise their roles as the Pevensie kids.  We even get to see a bit of Aslan too.  But the tone of the film is markedly different this time around.  The Pevensies return to Narnia one year after they left it and find that more than 1,300 years have transpired.  Narnia has transformed from a magical land of talking animals and fairy-tale creatures to a realm of Men (called Telmarines here).  In a plot that cribs more than a little from Shakespeare, young Prince Caspian must claim his rightful place on the throne currently held by his evil uncle, Lord Miraz.  Caspian calls upon the Pevensies for help, and soon their little rebellion squares off against Miraz’s vastly superior army, with nothing less than the fate of all of Narnia at stake.

Sound like a million other sword-and-sandal epics you’ve seen?  I suppose that’s not the filmmakers’ fault; “Prince Caspian” is widely regarded as among the weakest of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books.  Just as the first movie reminded me of “The Lord of the Rings” films, “Caspian” looks awfully similar to “The Two Towers” in its treatment of political intrigue in the king’s court, and with a specific scene from the final battle that compares rather unfavorably to the 2002 film.  There’s a much darker tone to this movie than the first, but it suffers somewhat from tailoring to a PG audience and too many references to its successful predecessor.

This is a movie that deserved to be, and should have embraced, a PG-13 rating.  The battle scenes are the most intense and sustained I’ve yet seen in a PG movie.  Most of the Pevensie kids rack up a sizable body count over the course of the film, which in itself carries interesting moral implications.  I’ve never seen teenagers kill with such impunity in a movie marketed to a family audience – I guess when you have perfect moral clarity you’re better able to sleep at night after slaying lots of Bad Guys.  Or maybe killing imaginary beings in an imaginary world doesn’t really count as actually killing anybody.

The film also continually undercuts itself during its most intense moments with throwaway jokes and silly reaction shots to some of the proceedings.  And there really isn’t much to do after all the fighting.  We hear a bit of Great Wisdom, then it’s time to go home.

On the plus side, the kids have definitely improved as actors, and some of the special effects scenes were very well-rendered.  There are also a few surprises in the way the battles are executed, rather than just the old “two sides running at each other” tactic that’s a bit overused these days.  But it’s a little sad when the movie’s best scene resurrects the White Witch from the first film, even if only for a while.  Up until that moment about halfway through the film, I could’ve taken or left it at any time.

Conclusion: There’s enough here to satisfy “Narnia” fans, but it isn’t quite as good as the first. 

7/10

One Response to “Almost fit for a "Prince"”

  1. On the issue of the wars–I actually was a lot more bothered by the fighting in this movie (as opposed to the last one) because I couldn’t see all of the Telmarines as bad. In the first movie, those who were on the witch’s side knew it. Here, there is no way to know which Telmarines were blood-thirsty, power-hungry liars (take Caspian’s uncle and company) and which were possibly good, though deceived people (Uncle’s wife and everyone else who simply believed that their leaders were telling them the truth). Especially when the Narnians tried to infiltrate the castle–what better place for “good” people than in a truly defensive spot–trying to protect their home and families? Now, granted, this doesn’t mean that those Telmarines wouldn’t have been bad, but still the assumption that they must automatically be killed bugged me.

    But I guess that’s the way war really is. There is no way to tell who has decided to be bad and who simply doesn’t know the whole story (ie believe they are truly defending themselves as opposed to ruthlessly beating back others). And, even if you could tell, that doesn’t mean that the “good” person is necessarily less dangerous when you’re on the other side of the war. That’s the ugliness of war.

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