A REVIEW OF THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
BY GRACE RANDOLPH
There is no honor in Narnia.
I think that was the most surprising thing about the film. I debated describing it as "shocking", but that sort of emotion would require me to actually care about the film. I didn't. Why so harsh? Well, I think it's because I went into the theater with such high hopes. Last weekend I sat down and watched the first film - THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE - on DVD and was reminded of what a captivating fantasy adventure director Andrew Adamson had created. The 2005 film was a storybook brought to life and that is what made it unique. This sequel is a few plot points holding a bunch of action scenes together.
I don't know why Adamson decided to make this change, although my guess would be he blinked in the face of all the summer action movies. The first Narnia film came out for the holidays so it could afford to be magical while this one felt it had to be fierce. I've never read any of the original C.S. Lewis books so I can't talk about faithfulness to the source material, but I did read that Adamson added the castle night raid action scene and that - in my opinion - was probably the most egregious scene in the entire film.
A LOT of creatures die in this movie. And most notably, they die because of mistakes made by the Pevensie children and Prince Caspian. To have children responsible for the deaths of others, and to feel no real remorse over it, is pretty inexcusable. In fact, it was hard to root for Peter or Caspian when both were such incompetent leaders. I can't go into to much detail without ruining the story, but Caspian ruins a stealth attack to try and settle a personal vendetta (which he doesn't) and then Peter leaves behind his soldiers to die while he saves himself. I wouldn't follow either of the teens into battle, and neither should you.
The actors playing the Pevensie children have evolved nicely, but their roles have devolved. They've each been boiled down to a single characteristic and none of those characteristics is likable. Whereas in the first film a decent amount of time was spent developing the characters and laying the emotional groundwork for the later action sequences, here we hit the ground running and never stop to catch our breath. There are no meaningful scenes here - perhaps because Mr. Tumnus is missing...
And what of Ben Barnes, the new face the entire marketing campaign has been built around? Refreshingly, he's attractive without being self-aware and his accent is charming. In his first few scenes he comes across nicely, but as I stated above his character makes so many mistakes I couldn't help but loose faith in him. He has a blink-and-you-miss-it romance with Susan, but I felt the nerdy guy in the beginning of the film was a much more interesting match for her. It was nice to see Susan take a more active role this time around as she participated in a number of battles. However, at the end, she still had to be rescued which was disappointing. Isn't she supposed to be a queen?
As for the creatures in Narnia, it was nice to see they were more racially diverse for the sequel. There's a badger who's very likeable and Eddie Izzard does a great job as a dashing mouse with a sword, but it's a blatant rip-off of Shrek 2's Puss in Boots. And while Adamson directed that film as well, it's not a good idea to copy your own work as it just diminishes both versions.
There is also, of course, Aslan. He's undoubtedly super-cool, plus he's able to bring forth all the elements of Narnia to aid the Pevensie children when they need it the most. However, if I lived in Narnia, and saw how easy it was for Aslan to take on my enemy, I'd be really upset he let me live in exile for over 1,000 years and only helped when some human kids showed up.
Now I realize I'm being overwhelmingly negative here, and to be fair the two people I went with enjoyed the film. The action sequences are very well done and the special effects are impressive, although in some shots of the Telmarine army you can tell very easily the soldiers are animated due to their choppy movement. The sets are all very beautiful and the score is rousing. All the elements are here - it's the story that's weak.
In the opening of this review, I said there was no honor in Narnia. Peter did not honor his soldiers, Caspian did not honor his duty as Prince, Aslan did not honor his role as protector of Narnia and even the Telmarines struck some horribly low blows - even for villains. But worst of all, Adamson did not honor his original film. And it's a shame.
P.S. (spoiler alert) Aslan said the Telmarines came from a place in the real world, meaning our world. It is driving me crazy trying to figure out where that is! Aslan said it was an island... If you know, please let me know!