Disney’s second Narnia movie is an improvement on the first one. The story is bigger, the colors [both in terms of set and effects design and in terms of performances] are brighter, the storytelling is bolder.
The story involves a race of Adam’s Sons [humans] called the Telmarines, who have conquered Narnia and hunted the Narnians [they think] to extinction. Prince Caspian X [Ben Barnes] is the heir to the throne, but not of age. Instead, the kingdom is ruled by his Uncle, Miraz [Sergio Castellito] – at least until his aunt births a son. Then Miraz sends men to kill his nephew so that he can begin his own line of royalty. His tutor helps him flee and gives him an ivory horn to blow only as a last resort.
In a London subway station, the Pevensie children are about to take a train to school when the station falls apart around them, leaving them standing in Narnia – but not the Narnia they knew – Caspian has blown the horn. While they’ve been home for a year, Narnia has passed through 1300 years! Now, they must help Caspian regain his kingdom and save the denizens of Narnia.
One of the reasons that Prince Caspian works so well is that the creative team [writers Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus and Andrew Adamson, who also directed] took the key elements of the story and built an epic tale around them without feeling the need to be slavish in their adaptation. Another reason is that the four actors who play the Pevensies [Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, Anna Popplewell and William Moseley] are quite brilliant [which marks a drastic change for Popplewell and Moseley, who were pretty wooden in the first film]. Ben Barnes does a nice job as Caspian, who came off as whiny and a bit of a wimp in the book but comes across as a bit naive but brave here.
Once again, the supporting cast is also first-rate. Peter Dinklage stands out as Trumpkin, a somewhat acerbic dwarf whom Lucy [Henley] describes as her “dear little friend.” [“That’s very patronizing,” he snorts]. Then there’s the mouse warrior, Reepicheep, voiced by Eddie Izzard – who is a bit put off by his foes’ lack of imagination [“Yes, I’m a mouse. Can’t you think of something more original?”].
So, the script and the performances are first-rate. But what about the effects? They’re also pretty stellar. Whether we’re talking the denizens of Narnia [a talking badger among them], or a spectacular creature who appears near the end, the effects are both first-rate and completely in service to the story.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is hit – a palpable hit!
Final Grade: A+