Has 1300 years passed already? In the fictional land of Narnia it has and things haven’t been so good for the Narnians since Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley), Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley) left to return to the real world. Actually, saying things haven’t been so good is a bit of an understatement – things are downright terrible for them. Most of the Narnians have been killed off, with the survivors being driven off into the forests by the army of the evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), lord of the Telmarines. Hell, he’s so merciless that even his own family isn’t safe from his wrath.
And this is where The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian the sequel to the ever popular The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe begins, with Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) realizing he is expendable (his uncle has had a male child) and to survive he must seek refuge and forgiveness from those his people sought to destroy – the Narnians. In doing so he must lead them into a final battle to restore order to the lands. And so, as you may have guessed, this tale is a much darker and foreboding one than its more fantastical predecessor.
For one, most of the childhood innocence has evaporated from the cast of characters. The children appear more mature, a result no doubt from their dealings in the real world and from their encounter with the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Two of them are dealing with more mature feelings – Peter must learn to accept differing points of view and stop being so headstrong, and Susan has to open herself up and deal with her feelings. Edmund has come full circle (recall he betrayed his siblings in the first movie), he defends his family without question and has grown into a solid pillar for his siblings to lean upon. Little Lucy, is the only one that remains fairly unchanged – she continues to see the good in everyone and ultimately is the lone believer that the great lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) will return and help the cause.
And whereas, the first movie was more character driven (both spiritually and emotionally), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian skips past all that and dives directly into melees and what I would consider standard fare for an epic adventure (although it is not nearly as cruel or realistic as a movie like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). There are two main battle scenes; one is relatively gritty, with a great deal of close proximity fighting, while the other is more grand in stature – catapult type apparatuses hurling massive stones, and dive bombing attacks by eagle-like creatures are just a few of the requisites included that you’d expect to see from a mammoth fantasy battle. Both fights are equally as compelling to watch unfold as the other even though they have wholly different outcomes.
But just like the first film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is beautifully shot and put together. The computer generated imagery (CGI) is once again spectacular, which shouldn’t come off as much of a surprise since the same teams have mostly been retained between both films. I’ll also say, the diverse creature set is better this time around as well. So while this installment isn’t quite as good as the first, it definitely met my expectations and put The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Golden Compass to shame. I can only hope the third installment to the series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, maintains the high level of quality I’ve come to expect.