Believe me when I say The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian doesn’t need to have a title this long. It’s really not that important or ground breaking a film. What happened to CN2: Prince Caspian? Or is that too early 00’s for everyone now? Regardless of the really long title, the film itself isn’t so bad.
A real sense of danger and intrigue hovers over the world of Narnia that was lacking in the first film. Even the Narnians themselves come with a little bit of bite (Peter Dinklage is wonderful and Eddie Izzard providing voice work is spot on, as is good old Warwick Davis). Arrows whiz by character’s heads, someone could get hurt!, peril looms over every situation and follows our heroes through every moment and not only because of the hordes of breast plated bad guys at their heels, but because of the flaws in our heroes. Which is great because when things go wrong, it matters.
This is the only other book of C.S. Lewis’s allegorical masterpiece in which all four Kings and Queens of Narnia take the magical journey together, and there are hints of that genius shown within the four frames of the camera’s single lense, but it’s been so long since I’ve read the book (or since my father read the books to my sister and I) that I can’t recall which parts remain and which have been changed for our viewing audiences’ pleasures. To have the audacity to review the movie based on the merits of the movie alone…how dare I?!
The story is stronger and the characters more willing to chose a mistake over making the right choices in the second installment. The distinction made between the willingness to believe by a child untouched by ego and the need to prove oneself as an adult and not let the wisdom of their elders dictate their actions is the strongest. And it becomes a good lesson for those reaching for adulthood before they are ready. This theme is reflected in the relationship between Peter (the oldest) and Lucy (the youngest).
Lucy claims to have seen Aslan, in fact that’s all she sees. Her way of dealing with the problems that arise could be culled directly from Aslan’s mouth. But Peter has been an adult. He brought peace to Narnia. If Aslan isn’t there, if Aslan won’t show himself to Peter, then why should he continue to believe that the great Lion that helped them before will help them again. Why should he even follow Aslan’s ways? It’s Susie that reminds Peter he wasn’t the one that defeated the White Witch.
Much of Lewis’s brilliance is seen throughout these passages. And when things go wrong there’s a far greater emotional pull because of it. Once the movie clearly develops this theme it settles in and we’re treated to several rousing action sequences. One in which Peter bravely faces the evil King Miraz in a man to man sword fight. This is intense. The camera draws close to the action and doesn’t back down until the fight is over. Adamson handles these battles with a panache and immediacy that he sorely lacked in the far more cartoony first film.
But when the battles slow and the magic of the realm begins to take hold. It becomes less about the characters and their decision to call upon Aslan’s help and more about Aslan saving the day so that the film can end. The character conflict that makes the first 3/4 of the film intriguing is suddenly syruped over with the “magic” of Narnia. These images and moments contain no mystery or power. They are nothing more than images and moments culled from better fantasy films over the years. And become again and sadly cartoony. These images should speak volumes about the lore and mythology of Narnia. Somehow the digital effects make them seem small and commonplace.
And finally in the end a fatal mistake is made that not only takes us completely out of the magic of the Narnia realm we were just inhabiting, but also out of the World War period that the movies have been smart enough not to do away with. The director makes the really awful decision to lay an anachronistic pop song over the final moments of the film – before the credits even roll. A really bad pop song at that. Any magic any belief or feeling that we could have had coming out of the film was suddenly stripped away. It was honestly the equivalent of being punched in the stomach. Who needs the White Witch to destroy Narnia when you have creative decisions like this to do it for her?
Tags: Adam Adamson, C.S. Lewis, Eddie Izzard, Edmond, King Miraz, Liam Neeson, Lucy, Narnia, Peter, Peter Dinklage, Pevensie, Prince Caspian, Reepicheep, Susie, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The White Witch, Warwick Davis