Directed by: Andrew Adamson
Based on the classic childrens series books written by C.S. Lewis
Starring: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, Pierfrancesco Favino, Cornell John, Damián Alcázar, Alicia Borrachero, Simón Andreu, Predrag Bjelac, David Bowles, Juan Diego Montoya Garcia, Liam Neeson (voice), Ken Stott (voice), Eddie Izzard (voice)
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures & Walden Media
Film will be released in the U.S on 16th May 2008 and 26th June 2008 in the U.K.
Review by Ray DeRousse
I have read the entire seven-volume Narnia series twice in my life. From the vantage point of an adult with a decent background in the C.S. Lewis allegorical fable, I view the series as a low-rent Lord Of The Rings. What it lacks in narrative heft is made up in fanciful visions and philosophical musings.
Of the books, only THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE cries out for cinematic adaptation; the others are a little bit silly and meandering. In 2005, Disney and Walden Media managed to give that book a fairly effective big screen treatment under the direction of first-time helmer ANDREW ADAMSON. The film, though wildly successful, suffered a fair amount of criticism for being too shiny and childish, especially compared to PETER JACKSON’S epic version of LOTR just a few years prior.
Adamson and the original cast have now reunited to continue the Narnian adventures with PRINCE CASPIAN, the second book in the series (though third chronologically). The new film shows that Adamson and company have been paying attention to their critics, although this does not necessarily make a better film.
The Pevensie kids – Peter (WILLIAM MOSELEY), Susan (ANNA POPPLEWELL), Edmund (SKANDAR KEYNES), and little Lucy (GEORGIE HENLEY) – are called back to Narnia by young Prince Caspian in order to aid the Narnians in reclaiming their land from the wicked Telmarines, led by ruthless King Mraz (SERGIO CASTELLITTO). Soon, war on a grand scale erupts in Narnia, which culminates in the return of Aslan himself.
Despite the PG rating (in the States), this film contains a tremendous amount of brutal violence. Heads are removed from their bodies, countless numbers are slashed with swords, and Susan seems to have remembered how to use her bow and arrow quite effectively. Almost all of the violence is bloodless, which only makes it weirder. I really have my doubts that the audience for this film – the religiously inclined – will enjoy the copious amounts of killing on display here. I would feel uncomfortable bringing a young child to this thing … so you can imagine what a person with actual parenting skills might think.
The brutality of the film fails to override the mistakes repeated from the first film. Those who complained about the bland lead actors and shiny, grime-free battles in TLTWATW will have another field day here. Moseley once again makes a stiff and uncomfortable King Peter, and he is not helped by the script’s poor depiction of his character. Popplewell fares much better as Susan, although she is still far too bland to make much of an impression. The best thing about the first film was Henley’s exuberant portrayal of Lucy, and she again provides this film with a large portion of its heart. Several side characters shine as well, such as EDDIE IZZARD’S swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep, and WARWICK DAVIS in a nice turn as the disgruntled dwarf Nikabrik. Overall, though, the script undermines much character work.
The battles in the film, full of charges and screams, seem to lack urgency or dramatic power; one strategic move late in the battle should have been a powerful moment, but was completely deflated by the presentation. Only one moment attains any weight, when, during a failed raid on a castle, several Narnian warriors are left behind to be shot to death with arrows. However, many of the battle sequences seem airless and inconsequential.
Aslan’s appearance at the climax, which is meant to arouse feelings of wonder and awe, only confuse and anger. The character, we are told, abandoned Narnia for a thousand years and allowed her residents to fall to the sword. He then returns at the end of the battle after saying several cryptic messages to Lucy, but only after many thousands more have died in battle. Then, he growls once, and a giant water sprite appears out of nowhere and ends the battle decisively. Is this lion god supposed to be someone worthy of honor and respect? In the film, he is treated like an object of worship, despite doing absolutely nothing to earn such adoration. The Aslan of the books never seemed quite this superfluous and transparent.
Overall, the film has nice moments of comedy and action, and, like the first film, has some amazing visual effects. However, like the first film, the bland performances and mechanical direction lack the inspiration to let this film soar. Another missed chance at greatness.