The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Single Disc Edition) Review

In Narnia, Queen Prunaprismia (Alicia Borrachero) is screaming through childbirth. Before the night is over, she gives birth to a son. Elsewhere in the castle, the Telmarine Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) is woken by his mentor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass) and advised that it would be in his best interest to leave the castle immediately. Caspian is all that stands between his nephew and the throne of all Narnia and Cornelius warns him that his uncle, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) is, at that very minute, assembling his troops to murder him. As Caspian hides outside his bedroom, he sees these same troops enter his bedchamber and fire arrows at short range through the curtains that are pulled around his bed. Caspian takes his horse and flees into the forest, whereupon he is attacked by two dwarfs and a badger. Before falling unconscious, he sounds out a blast on a horn that Cornelius had passed to him.

In England in 1941, the Pevensie children are leaving London for the safety of the countryside. Only one year has passed since they left Narnia and are finding it hard to adjust to normal life. Once used to being High King, Peter (William Moseley) is uneasy at being a schoolboy and gets involved in a fistfight on the steps of the station. In this he is joined by Edmund (Skandar Keynes) while Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) look on disapprovingly. But as the underground train enters the station, the tiles begin falling from the walls and sunlight beams through the gaps that appear. Behind the walls of the station, the Pevensie children see Narnia and, when the train has passed, step over the tracks and into the world they once ruled. But Narnia has changed. 1,300 years have passed since they left Narnia and Cair Paravel is now a ruin. The animals are now wild and the trees no longer dance as they once did. Arming themselves, the children set off through their kingdom and have not gone far before they find trouble...

Now this viewer knows how those who watched the BBC's run of Narnia adaptations feels on seeing The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe from a couple of years back. More than anything else, it's a surprise to see Reepicheep, the combative little mouse, rendered in CG and not as Warwick Davis wearing a mouse costume, complete with whiskers and giant mouse-ears. Happily, though, Davis does get a part in Prince Caspian as Nikabrik, one of the two dwarfs (not dwarves) that Caspian stumbles into in the forest. Much like the beavers, fauns and other woodland folk of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, who seemed to spend much of their time hiding from the Witch (Tilda Swinton), these Narnian folk have scuttled underground to wait out the rule of the Telmarines, men who invaded Narnia and murdered all the Narnians they could find. Both sides are understandably wary of one another, the Narians saying of themselves and of the Telmarines, "You get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that's what you become. You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember." Even Aslan is now only spoken of as a legend, with etchings on the wall of Aslan's How, a huge underground hall built over the Stone Table, describing the war from hundreds of years before.

Reading the book carefully, Andrew Adamson and scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have adapted Prince Caspian like a Lord Of The Rings for children, with characters and entire armies brought to life as though out of cookie-dough cutters. The Telmarine army aid children's understanding of the film by helpfully wearing exactly the same style of black armour throughout no matter what battalion or division they are part of. King Miraz, so as to not get mistaken for any old Telmarine soldier, wears a gold mask to the silver of all the others. Meanwhile, the Narnian army consists of tigers, centaurs, fauns and other creatures, few of whom so much as say a word. Reepicheep stands out from all the mice by his wearing a red feather on his head while by their actions outside of battle do Prince Caspian, Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and the Pevensie children stand out.

The advantage to this is that no child of primary school age (or thereabouts) will be at all troubled by the story of Prince Caspian. Adamson and company avoid much of the philosophical turns in the novel in favour of raiding it for as much action as they can. A mere sentence in which Reepicheep talks about raiding the Telmarine castle is turned into a long sequence in which Peter and Caspian lead the army of Narnia into an ill-fated night-time attack. Aslan is but a ghost for much of the film and makes what one can only describe as a cameo appearance late on in the film. And where the book deals with its final battle as though caring little for its clash of swords, the film revels in two armies drawing up against one another on the battlefield, one stuffed to its gills with Minotaurs and the like and the other with giant catapults. Adamson has a surprise in store with a CG remix of the ending from the book, trees, river god, Telmarine soldiers and all.

However, such dedication to action ensures that Adamson keeps his film moving quickly along. Like The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, this doesn't feel like a two-and-a-half-hour film. The actors playing the Pevensie children are better here than they were two years ago and look refreshingly normal, particularly Georgie Henley. Better though than the Pevensie children are Sergio Castellitto, who brings a welcome and very convincing nastiness to the film, and Ben Barnes, who is much more regal than any of the Pevensie children. Ken Stott is as good a Trufflehunter as the audience could have asked for, albeit that the CG lets him down, but the wry tone in Eddie Izzard's voice suggests that he doesn't quite have the grasp of Reepicheep. He is clearly not as good as Warwick Davis in the part. Tilda Swinton, meanwhile, has a memorable cameo as the White Witch.

Swinton's appearance is one of the few moments that young children may not quite understand. It is one of the film's few concessions to a slightly older audience. It is also one of the only times in the film that there is any suggestion of a threat to the Pevensies in Narnia. Armies may rattle their sabres at the Narnians but there is never a point at which an audience won't believe that Aslan will roar his way into battle to save the day. If he can resurrect himself from the dead by the means of older and deeper magic than that possessed by the White Witch, simply popping by to stand alongside Lucy Pevensie shouldn't be too much of a stretch for him. Shallow though Prince Caspian is, children will certainly enjoy it. For the most part, it's as black-and-white as a zebra but it's an old-fashioned fantasy movie that will suit many a younger viewer this holiday.

This looks a very different film from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. Where that film spent much of its running time under a blanket of snow, Prince Caspian is an altogether brighter movie with there being only three sequences that dip into gloominess, those being its opening, the night-time attack on Miraz's castle and the attempt to raise the White Witch from her tomb. The similarities to The Lord Of The Rings continues with this film's locations chosen on the basis of being in New Zealand, or being places that look like it. So we have white beaches and blue seas, rugged mountains and valleys and wide open plains on which the final battle is staged. The DVD itself looks fine. There are a couple of wide shots late on in the film, most noticeably when Miraz and Peter face one another in combat, in which the quality of the picture takes an obvious turn for the worse, but the print used for Prince Caspian is in excellent shape.

However, the picture is nothing special. It's not so bad that anything is ever a blur but there are plenty of fantasy adventures like this that look very much better on DVD, Lord Of The Rings included. Some of the battle scenes look fairly impressive but the opening and closing scenes in London are not much better than what you might see on an episode of Foyle's War (or even Goodnight Sweetheart) while there are far too many softly-focused scenes of the Pevenvies traipsing through woodlands. The computer generated portions of the film can also vary in quality. Trufflehunter is particularly bad when we first see him but gets better, whereas Reepicheep is no more lifelike by the film's end than were was Fingermouse.

Rather than getting the DTS track of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and it's fine in that it's clear and the dialogue, music and effects are always audible but what it lacks is the sheer thunder that one hoped would come in several scenes, including the battle that brings the film to a close. The highlight is the attack on the Telmarine castle, in which the silence, brief excerpts of music, particularly Reepicheep's jolly little motif, and the swoosh of griffin wings set up a feeling of suspense, which remains unspoiled even as a Minotaur shushes a guard. However, come the moment when Telmarine and Narnian soldiers rush one another, what started well descends into rather a limp clashing of swords. The main criticism is that for a film that's crying out to be epic, Prince Caspian just doesn't sound it.

The only bonus feature on this disc, as opposed to the three-disc Collector's Edition, is an Audio Commentary with Andrew Adamson and actors Barnes, Henley, Keynes, Moseley and Popplewell. It's not a bad listen, with Adamson explaining those aspects of the production like location shoots, the use of CG and how Lewis's book was adapted for the screen, while the teenage cast set about recounting their memories of their time on the set, their fitting in of normal life around the film and their jetting around the world to those places that make do for London and Narnia. They're a nice lot, always complimenting both one another and the film, and while they add little to one's enjoyment of Prince Caspian, it's hard to find many objections to them.

6 out of 10
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Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:22:36

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