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Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

Directed by: Andrew Adamson

Premise: A sequel to 2005’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. One earth year later, the four children from the previous film (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) return to Narnia and find 1300 years have passed. Human beings from another part of the mythical world have overrun Narnia and the royalty are in the middle of a power struggle as Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) teams with Aslan’s forces against the military might of the prince’s corrupt uncle.

What Works: Prince Caspian is a much more mature film than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. This film has more in common with Hamlet, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers than it does with Shrek or The Neverending Story. The world of Narnia is a much more brutal and complex place and the design of the film uses cooler colors and a more somber tone. The battle scenes at the conclusion are bigger than the previous film and ratchet up the peril for the young heroes. The changes are for the better, as they raise the stakes and make the film more enjoyable for older audiences. Prince Caspian is also funnier than the previous film and it makes the humor work in the right way, including sarcasm rather than sight gags, mostly coming from a swashbuckling mouse and a dwarf played by Peter Dinklage. The journey of the children is the most interesting portion of the film. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the children learned to believe in themselves but in Prince Caspian they discover their own limitations and their egos are cut down to size by failure. This is especially true for Peter, played by William Moseley, and he is given the best and most dynamic material as he butts heads with Caspian. In a scene that is a departure from the book, Tilda Swinton has a cameo, returning as the White Witch from the previous film. The scene is short but it works as she tempts Caspian and Peter with power. It brings the two characters together, resolving their conflicts and successfully transitioning the film into the third act.

What Doesn’t: Although the ending is exciting, the first hour of Prince Caspian is very slow. The children spend a lot of time wandering about in the woods but don’t really do anything. This is cross cut with Caspian discovering the Narnian creatures and building an alliance with them while growing as a leader. This is the film’s chief weakness. Actor Ben Barnes plays Caspian and he does what he can but the script does not give him much to do and he does not grow as a leader the way Peter did in the first film. The conspiracy and political machinations are underwritten and the story leaves a lot of questions about exactly what happened to Caspian’s father and what kind of man he was. 

Bottom Line: Prince Caspian is a worthy follow up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and does its duty as a sequel to present something different and more complex. Although it is missing some development of its title character, the story does successfully pivot the focus from the four Pevensie siblings to Caspian and thus move The Chronicles of Narnia to its next entry, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, expected in 2010.

Episode: #190 (May 18, 2008)