Prince Caspian
Narnia (and Adamson!) Restored

Although Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures collaborated well enough to bring The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to cinematic life, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian achieves what every good parent wants—a new generation that surpasses the abilities and expectations of the past one.

The four Pevensie children, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, and Peter are suddenly snatched back into Narnia from a train platform in London as they are going off to school. While only one year has passed in the time of their world, almost fifteen hundred years have passed in Narnia. The children find that Narnia only had peace and relief from the White Witch for almost one thousand years before being invaded by a race called the Telmarines who destroyed Cair Paravel (home of the high kings and queens of Narnia) and either killed off the talking animals or drove them underground along with the dwarves. The spirits of the trees have been driven deep within the rings of their trunks and many of the animals have reverted to being dumb and instinctual rather than equal with human beings.

Ben Barnes as Prince CaspianIn the ruins of their castle, the children find trunks containing clothing and the special gifts given to each of them by Aslan. They also meet the dwarf Trumpkin, an acquaintance of Prince Caspian—the rightful heir to the Telmarine throne, but whose wicked uncle and guardian, Miraz, seeks to assassinate so that he and his newly born heir may usurp the royal line of Telmar. It becomes apparent that the four earth children have been summoned back by an errant blast from Susan’s horn to help the Narnians battle the evil of Miraz and restore the Narnian kingdom, releasing it from Telmarine subjugation.

Not only has time changed in Narnian history, the past two years in real-world time has brought maturity and progress to the makers of and the actors in Prince Caspian. The failures of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW) were many, but in particular, director Andrew Adamson was not able to bring the live-action movie to a level of believability that made the audience forget they were watching a movie and able to get lost in the fantasy of the tale. Adamson has been very successful with the Shrek trilogy; but LWW, while entertaining to those who love C. S. Lewis’ books and characters, was mediocre at best when it came to computer generated effects and bringing the book to live action. Also, although their were standout performances by Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, the faun, the four children selected to play the Pevensies were obviously uncomfortable and Adamson was not able to draw them out of themselves to become their characters.

All this has changed in Prince Caspian. Adamson has done a superlative job of location selection, taking his cast and crew to New Zealand, the Czech and Slovakian Republics, and Poland, to capture the jaw-dropping beauty of some of the most awe-inspiring scenery on this entire small globe in space. He has done justice to the vision of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan who is the personification of Creator God who sang Narnia into being.

The CGI of Prince Caspian far exceeds LWW in quality. Trufflehunter the badger is a much more believable talking animal than the beavers were in the first film, and the centaurs (horse from withers down and human from waist up) look so real that their creator deserves an award for making the audience think that such a combination could really exist. (If you thought the centaurs in the Harry Potter films were amazing, you really must see these!) And, finally, Aslan: His size is consistent, proportional, and his majesty matches the voice of Liam Neeson.

As for Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, and William Moseley who play the Pevensie siblings… well… it’s just plain hard to believe that they are the same children from the first film. Not only have the past few years been good to them in terms of physical maturity, but also they have become real actors who actually are Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, giving them the life that their creator and author meant them to have. Alongside Ben Barnes, who is a wonderful Prince Caspian, they join an entire cast who are comfortable in their roles and thus on an equal playing field that draws attention to the story and doesn’t jar the viewer with a sense of awkwardness or the feeling that something just isn’t clicking.

Even at almost two and a half hours, the film is well-edited and the audience never has a chance to get restless and wonder what happens next. C. S. Lewis purists will realize that license has been taken with the book, but the revamped storyline does not break down or seem out of context with the intent of the book. Actually, the audience present at the screening I attended was extremely demographically diverse in all major categories—age, gender, race—and was tightly engaged with the film throughout, even clapping when something pleased them and groaning with the blows received in fights and battle scenes.

There are some who may complain that Prince Caspian reeks too much of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and truly there are many parallels and similarities. But remember, J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter) grew up reading both Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were friends and contemporaries. We tend as human beings to emulate and imitate what we love, and this is not plagiarism but paying homage in our own voice and style to those from which we have learned. Adamson does a powerful job of never allowing his settings and locations to copy the directors of the Potter or Rings franchises.

The film is full of good values such as personal integrity, faith, responsibility, duty, trust, humility, courage, and obedience. Parents will find many examples to share and discuss with their children on almost every age level.

Prince Caspian will find its way into many home DVD collections once it is released, and as word spreads the boxoffice should far surpass LWW. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is due for release in 2010. Michael Apted will be directing. He has big boots to fill!

Prince Caspian is rated PG for “epic battle action and violence.” The amazing thing about this movie is that blood isn’t gushing everywhere—the gore iteself is left to the imagination—and yet this does not detract from the realism of what is happening on the screen. This is truly a movie that the entire family may attend together and parents will have no worries about being embarrassed for or protective of their children. Susan plants one chaste kiss on Caspian before returning to England. Go and have a wonderful experience!

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a promotional screening of Prince Caspian.