Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

 
Review by Tony DiVincenzo
 

Following the huge success of the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, it was very unsurprising to see the work of his close friend C.S. Lewis lined up as the next fantasy “sword and sorcery” epic.  However, given the fact that Tolkien’s books were clearly more adult and Lewis’s were intended more as children’s fables, I wasn’t really sure how the two would compare.  As a huge fan of the genre (when it’s done right), though, I was hoping for the best.  While The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe ended up not being an epic on the same scale as LOTR (which I expected), it was a good enough movie and certainly left anticipation for the next in the series along the same storyline: Prince Caspian.

The first thing that came to my mind after watching Prince Caspian was how the movie substituted much of the religious symbolism of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for more epic fight scenes and action.  As a fan of the books from childhood, this fact disappointed me a bit, given that the morality is at the heart of the novels.  However, since it seems Caspian was meant specifically to be a blockbuster as opposed to a true re-telling, I can see why certain licenses were taken.  Overall, the action sequences were entertaining enough, and certainly catered to the film’s target audience, although it was hard to ignore the CGI in many scenes.  While I understand that it’s pretty darn tough to effectively showcase talking beavers, centaurs, a lion, etc. without a little CGI dabbling, there’s a line between tasteful and artificial that the movie crossed a few times throughout.

As for the acting, it was about what I expected after having seen the first film.  None of the four main actors, reprising  their roles as the Pevensie siblings, impressed me a great deal, though I thought they were all solid and they didn’t age as awkwardly as I had originally feared.  Ben Barnes, who filled the lead role of Caspian, certainly had the teenage girls swooning, and like his co-stars, he too was good but not great.  He certainly looked the part and came off perfect at times, but was also a bit too subdued in instances where it didn’t fit.  Personally, I thought the best roles were played by the minor actors in the movie: Tilda Swinton returning as the White Witch; Liam Neeson lending his wonderful voice to Aslan the Lion;  and Peter Dinklage, who stole a good deal of the spotlight as the grouchy but loveable dwarf Trumpkin.  Few in the movie really sold me on their character, but given the change in subject matter from lighter fare to some darker subjects, though, I thought the cast performed fairly well.

Something about that transition, however, left the film feeling slightly awkward.  Prince Caspian deals with darker subject matter than its predecessor, but I was taken aback by how darkly Disney portrayed some scenes (especially the scene with the White Witch, which I felt was too disturbing for young children).  To try to offset the darker aspects of their story, they inserted a fair amount of lighthearted humor and action sequences, but instead of seamlessly blending in, it appeared (to me at least) as an appeal to convince the PG children to stick around (and I’m not sure it even accomplished that).  Ultimately, I thought it was a bit too dark at times to be a true family film, and it was less an epic than just another popcorn flick in a line of fantasy adventures.

All told, I enjoyed Prince Caspian well enough but, just as with the first movie, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.  I had dreams of another Lord of the Rings-style incredible portrayal at first, but I now look back and wonder if my expectations have been too high going into this series, especially considering the target audience for each film.  Caspian entertains, to be sure… but outside of that, you’ll be left wanting.

3 ½ / 5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by David Tredler

 

Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy have brought heroic fantasy back into theaters, although only on rare occasions (Stardust) has it been remarkable. Back in 2005, on the heels of Tolkien’s adaptations, Andrew Adamson translated into images the famous C.S. Lewis’ saga The Chronicles of Narnia. This swollen, pompuous Christian metaphor was a worldwide success, leading the way to this sequel.

A few months after their return from Narnia, where they lived as kings and queens, the Pevensie children are called back into this fantasy-filled parallel world. But the Narnia they knew no longer exists, as many centuries have passed since their last “visit”. The Telmarains and their avid leader Miraz have taken over Narnia, turning the Narnians into secret rebels hidden in the woods.  Narnia’s only hope resides in Prince Caspian, the banished nephew of Miraz, the only one who, with the help of the Pevensies, might restore the diminished prestige of Narnia and its denizens.

Going to see the second Narnia film, after the boring experience that was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, can be seen as some sort of last chance given to a movie saga in the making.  Maybe because it was said to have lost its annoying religious subtext, maybe because one of Europe’s finest actors, Sergio Castellito, was cast as the vilain Miraz, whatever the reason, I gave The Chronicles ofNarnia that last chance and went. Well, at least it was better than the first one. Less Christian, less childish, less annoying. But unfortunately, it is still not a cinematic maestro, a journey into magic that such a film could, and should be.

Prince Caspian, despite its efforts to bring to life a dense fantasy world, still looks way too empty and jaded for a film of such width. Too often does it rely on clichés: the boys’ rivalry, the impossible love story, the Miraz-may-be-bad-but-wait-til-you-see-his-wingman... Melancholy is good, and it is beautifully distilled here and there, but where is it written that such family friendly heroic fantasy epic must be so unsurprising? Where is it written that characters should be so insipid and humorless?  How come, out of all the talented and charismatic young actors there are in the business, they chose such depthless actors as the ones portraying the Pevensies and Caspian?

There are probably good films to get out of Lewis’ works. But after the first two Narnia movies, it must be said that those good films have yet to be made.

1 / 5 stars

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