As much as I don't want to interrupt the "Indy" flow we've got going on here, I'd be remiss if I didn't give you my thoughts on the newest fantasy adventure flick out right now, Prince Caspian. Directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe), the newest addition to the Chronicles of Narnia is, as the trailer indicated, much darker and much more battle-heavy than the first one. The surprising thing was that the rest of the movie was pretty solid as well.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Director: Andrew Adamson
Starring: Ben Barnes, Anna Popplewell, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley
It's been a year since the kids have been back to Narnia, but when they finally return, 1300 years have passed in their beloved world and everyone they knew (except Aslan, of course) is gone. This plot point was in the book and shouldn't be credited to the screenwriters, but it was cool to see that translated on screen. That was my favorite aspect of the plot; the time shift between the two worlds.
The acting was something I had a little trouble believing in the first movie, and its something that always rears its ugly head when you're dealing with children. In this film, though, the kids seemed much more comfortable with their environment and really acted like a family, allowing the audience to breathe a little easier instead of cringing at cheesy moments and forced emotions. The actors portraying the kids in Prince Caspian really fell into their roles in this one and surprised me by their sophisticated acting for their ages. Peter's character was dealing with some really legitimate issues, and I thought they should have concentrated more on his personal struggle with being a king in Narnia for years and then returning to life as a normal kid being bullied in school. They really had something there, but kind of blew it by not honing in on that more in the script.
Dropping famous actor James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus, Caspian picked up the equally-famous Peter Dinklage this go-around, who is a pretty solid addition to the cast as Trumpkin, one of the old Narnians thought to be extinct. Thanks to a lackluster effort on the writers' parts, the filmmakers couldn't utilize Dinklage's character to its full potential so unfortunately he wasn't up to par in this one. Newcomer stud Ben Barnes rounded out the main cast as the titular Prince, and the ladies will surely be swooning over him in sequels and on DVD for years to come. He's actually been recently cast as the lead role in a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (which I only know about from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and sounds like he'd be really good in the role from what I understand. He did that Spanish accent pretty well; so well, in fact, that it caught me off guard when I learned he was British. It's cool though; there was some eye-candy for the guys as well in Anna Popplewell (Susan Pevensie), who, as in the books, unfortunately won't be returning to Narnia in the sequels.
Computer generated effects were utilized more for large battle sequences than for talking animals in this sequel, which I thought was a definite plus. I heard some ridiculous quote about the movie only making its deadline by 48 hours (which is cutting it a little close in the movie world) and I can see why because of all the special effects shots that they had to complete for it. The battles were far superior to the first film and, while impractical as some aspects were (the falling battlefield, anyone?), the battles were generally pretty fun to watch.
Speaking of battle scenes, the one-on-one battle between Peter and King Miraz was beautifully shot. There were times it took my breath away because of how gorgeous it was - the cinematographer should be given some kind of award for that. Absolutely stunning from a technical point of view. The camera was so close to the two fighters, it must have been hit by errant swords in bloopers or something; I don't know how they did that.
As far as the rest of the movie goes, it stole WAY too much from other fantasy storylines (AHEM - Lord of the Rings - AHEM); so much so that they didn't even try to hide the differences and instead let the audience sit there and ask "did they really just do that? Haven't I seen this before?" Just a couple instances of this were the birds carrying people up to the dark castle towers and the freakin' trees during the ending battle. I'm surprised that there weren't little hobbits bouncing around in the leaves, because it was like those trees walked straight from LOTR onto the movie screen and were like, "WTF are we doing HERE?" That one-on-one scene I mentioned? A little too Troy if you ask me. Hey! I've never seen those masks before on the villains. Oh wait - 300 came out last year, so I guess I have. And I'm so glad they went with the original gag of having Edmund look over the edge of the tower and fall off backwards to escape capture, only to fly up on the back of a large bird and "trick" the audience. Never seen THAT one before. Luckily, they actually didn't use the "everything you know is about to change" line that is so frequent in the trailer (well, Aslan didn't say it, but some other character did). That was ripped almost straight out of Rise of the Silver Surfer. Freakin' A.
As much as I'm complaining about it, the movie was a lot better than the first one and not quite as preachy, which was a good thing in my mind. The solid moral values found in The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe are still present and accounted for here in Prince Caspian, but the plot points in the film work better on two levels than the first movie's obvious recreation of Jesus' death and resurrection. The storyline for this film allowed for those types of religious undertones and metaphors to play a key role but not scream in your face about it at the same time.
A good example is when Peter and the kids don't listen to Lucy because they didn't see Aslan and go their own way instead, leading them to a dead end and ultimately forcing them to return to the route they knew in their hearts they should have taken in the first place. Another is when Lucy finally speaks to Aslan and he asks her why she didn't come to him even though she saw him when the others didn't. The best one, though, was when Peter cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers by selfishly going into battle without thinking about Aslan first. There were a few cool double-meaning-type moments like that in the script that I thought were well-placed, so keep a look out for them if you haven't seen it yet.
Next up, we've got The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was always my favorite of the series as a kid. They're getting a new director for that one, so we'll see if the new guy can compare to the sweeping epic shots that Adamson has made this series famous with. Until next time...