Someday, Judge Kristin Munson's Prince will come, but he's under a lot of stress at work right now.
Our review of The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian 3-Disc (Blu-Ray), published November 26th, 2008, is also available.
Everything you know is about to change.
Adaptations are hard. There's no getting around it. It's impossible to please an audience that fell in love with words on a page and still tell a concise version of a story that will capture the movie-going population. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian takes a big leap from the source material, dives into the action fantasy pool, and lets the story flounder.
Facts of the Case
After defeating the White Witch and becoming kings and queens in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie accidentally stumbled back into their boring normal lives in 1940's England, complete with boarding schools, boiled food, and bad complexions. One year later, now gangly adolescents full of personal angst, the Pevensies find themselves abruptly hauled back to a Narnia on the brink of extinction
Over 1,000 years have passed in Narnia and the Telmarine people have conquered the dwarves and mythic beasts and driven them into hiding. Narnia is ruled by the vicious Miraz who would do anything to be king, even assassinating his nephew and heir, Prince Caspian. Hunky young Caspian has fled and now leads the rebel Narnians. When he magically summoned the Pevensie's he thought he'd be getting the kings and of legend, not their younger selves.
I loved The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but then, it couldn't have been more aimed at me if it had "Kristin's Childhood" scrawled over the action in purple crayon.
Alas, writer/director Andrew Adamson has traded in the original's sense of childlike wonder for teen angst. The Pevensie clans have become bloodthirsty crusaders (boarding school will do that to you) and Caspian is aimed squarely at people who love epic action sequences. That's not necessarily bad; Doomsday is the most fun I've had watching a movie since the first Pirates because it treated its dark story and wall-to-wall violence with a heavy dose of tongue and cheek. Prince Caspian instead opts for an air of stiff-jawed nobility and its 149 minutes is skimpy on humor and character development. The deleted scenes reveal a conscious decision to cut those things from the final picture in favor of more action and Prince Caspian doesn't feel like it's building on the previous movie so much as using it as a shortcut so it doesn't have to tell a complete story.
The opening hour, alternating the Pevensie's story and the Prince's, drags and it wasn't until Lucy discovers a picture of Mr. Tumnus and the lamppost that I realized the main reason I was having such a hard time getting into the story was there were no characters I could care about. Sure, there's colorful new companions in Reepicheep and Trufflesnout but they tend to disappear for long stretches. The four kids, the heart and soul of the first script, talk to one another very little and say even less and Caspian is left as a dreamboat blank slate. The final showdown is over an hour long but, without the thrill that comes with personal favorites in peril, it's nothing but a showcase for the special effects.
The Christian allegory is thankfully nowhere near the level it was in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and yet Prince Caspian's message is more obnoxious because it's driven home with Narnian nightmare fodder. Magical critters trapped against a closed castle gate are slaughtered in a hail of arrows, followed by a fly-over the dying and the dead, and petulant messiah Aslan implies that if Lucy has just blindly believed in him then all the cute talking animals would still be alive and scampering through the woods. After the furor over last year's release of The Golden Compass it's laughable that religious groups got behind this. Apparently, if it's a talking lion pulling your fat out of the fryer it's good Christian fun but if it's a polar bear you're all going to hell.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although the movie is light on plot and more explicitly violent than C. S. Lewis' original, other changes have been for the best. Half the novel is a flashback with the Pevensie clan sitting around and listening to Prince Caspian's plight. Riveting stuff. Here, Adamson gets them more involved in the war and not just acting as a pee-wee version of the cavalry. The wibbling wet-blanket Susan of the novel has been transformed into a regular warrior princess: two-dimensional, yes, but more fun to watch.
Even though it's just a collection of overused plot points-"shocking" paternal revelations, personal hubris, blah blah blah—the actual castle siege is amazing, as is the final charge, with centaurs and fauns take a flying leap onto a phalanx of Telmarine Soldiers. Both the stunt choreographers and animation coordinators do an incredible job of creating fights and tactics that haven't been seen before and then find ways of pulling them off with as little CGI and stunt doubling as possible.
Unlike the soft, murky computer monsters in other movies Narnia's creations could always stand up to daylight, leading to an anamorphic transfer that is sharp and bright. Prince Caspian does have the same problem as a lot of other recent fantasy films: there's such a heavy blue level to night scenes that you almost have to watch in the dark. The 5.1 surround comes booming through the speakers, especially the subwoofer, but the mix is slightly off and sound effects and score tend to overwhelm the dialog track.
For extras, Disney has favored those of us interested in the real "Making Of" and not just the all smiles EPK version. The featurettes on storyboard artists, Pre-Vis software, set design, and stunts are interesting and involved, sometimes incorporating original illustrations and production art to reveal all the beautiful little details that got lost in the action. The cast featurettes aren't nearly as fun, with a Warwick Davis set diary, bland bloopers, and a deleted scenes section that runs under five minutes. The three disc set is rounded off with a commentary from Adamson and the five leads, which has a surprisingly good amount of trivia and analysis mixed in with the teasing, and a free coaster, sorry, "digital copy."
Although Prince Caspian is a visual feast, it isn't very filling. If you've been craving some serious centaur on Spaniard action then this is a sure bet, but it lacks the heart and story to stand up to repeat viewings.
Sometimes is pays to be pretty. Not Guilty.
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