It’s been two and a half years since “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” from Disney and Walden Media appeared in theaters. The second installment in the adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, “Prince Caspian,” opens nationwide today, and it’s better than the first go-round.
The Pevensie children (played by the original cast) return to the realm of Narnia. It’s been only a year for them, but in Narnia 1,300 years have elapsed and its Golden Age has passed. The evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) rules the land while plotting to knock off its rightful leader, his nephew, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes).
The Pevensies—the former kings and queens of Narnia—join forces with Prince Caspian to restore him to the throne. They are aided by a colorful cast of characters including a daring mouse named Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard), a dwarf named Trumpkin (played hilariously by Peter Dinklage) and a badger named Trufflhunter (voiced by Ken Stott).
Also appearing are central characters from the first film: Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) and even the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who has one of the movie’s creepier, more intense scenes.
“Prince Caspian” is better than “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” While knowledge of the first installment helps, it’s not entirely necessary to appreciate “Prince Caspian” for the rightful-heir-to-the-throne story that it is. The storyline in “Caspian” is tighter than in “Wardrobe,” and the jokes and timing are much better here than in the first one.
Director Andrew Adamson and company mine these characters and situations for numerous one-liners, and most of them stick. The film’s overall rhythm is much more engaging, though the 144-minute running time is a tad too long.
“Caspian” puts audiences into the action from the get-go as Prince Caspian makes a daring, beautifully photographed escape from his castle into the Narnian woods where he encounters beings long thought extinct. It’s then that we begin cleverly designed and well executed transitions between Narnia and England, where Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are remembering their first Narnian adventure in the midst of World War II.
The Pevensies are called back to Narnia and, upon arriving, must decipher what has happened in their long absence. They soon encounter Trumpkin, who tells them, “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.” So they begin to understand again the stakes of this magical world.
Indeed, “Prince Caspian” (rated PG) is grittier than its predecessor in terms of violence, though still not on the scale of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (rated PG-13). There’s ample clanging of swords and usage of crossbows. The film offers two major battle sequences, as well as a battle-to-the-death scene between two enemies.
Peter (William Moseley) commands more of the action than Edmund (Skandar Keynes), who seems to fall out of most of the picture, with the exception of one or two scenes. Susan (Anna Popplewell) continues her bow-and-arrow prowess, as well as functioning as an object of interest for Prince Caspian.
Lucy (Georgie Henley), meanwhile, is the lone believer that Aslan can and will make a difference in Narnia. Her faith helps ground the narrative, reminding audiences that this other, primal power—embodied by a lion—is out there.
The filmmakers hit the mark with “Prince Caspian,” and audiences should enjoy this return to the land of Narnia, which is now a bona fide film franchise.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG for epic battle action and violence. Reviewer’s note: The film has several scenes that will likely be too intense for younger viewers.
Director: Andrew Adamson
Writers: Andrew Adamson & Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (based on the book by C.S. Lewis)
Cast: Prince Caspian: Ben Barnes; Lucy Pevensie: Georgie Henley; Edmund Pevensie: Skandar Keynes; Peter Pevensie: William Moseley; Susan Pevensie: Anna Popplewell; King Miraz: Sergio Castellitto; Voice of Aslan: Liam Neeson; Trumpkin: Peter Dinklage.
The movie’s official Web site is here.