One year after the incredible events of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the Kings and Queens of Narnia find themselves back in that faraway wondrous realm, only to discover that more than 1300 years have passed in Narnian time. During their absence, the Golden Age of Narnia has become extinct, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines and is now under the control of the evil King Miraz, who rules the land without mercy. The four children will soon meet an intriguing new character: Narnia's rightful heir to the throne, the young Prince Caspian, who has been forced into hiding as his uncle Miraz plots to kill him in order to place his own newborn son on the throne...
In 2005, Disney and Walden Media released the first installment of C.S. Lewis's beloved book series, The Chronicles Of Narnia. The first story, entitled The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, was a fantastical journey into a mystical place called Narnia where four siblings helped rescue the land from an evil witch. By the end of the story, the kids had returned to their time in London, after spending roughly ten or so years in Narnia, only to find their original home as if they'd never left. In the 2008 sequel, Prince Caspian, the children return a year later when accidentally summoned only to find that hundreds of years had passed in Narnia time and the land was in desperate need of their help.
Prince Caspian has a much different feel than its predecessor, showing the children as a lot more mature. While the foursome bickered through much of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, one thing Prince Caspian has going for it is seeing the kids much more devoted to each other and looking out for each other (While I wanted to strangle Edmund on more than a couple occasions in the first film, he's one of the highlights of this one). That alone makes this film feel more adult. But director Andrew Adamson also gives this story a darker look visually. It isn't the brightest time of day with vivid colors when the epic climactic battle ensues. Another battle in the middle of the film takes place in the dark of night - ala Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers. This just feels like a much more mature Narnia telling than the first installment. Even the littlest Pevensie sibling, Lucy, seems to have grown up a lot since the last adventure. What also adds to the adult feel of the film's story are the villains. In The Lion, The Witch..., our chief villain was The White Witch and her Narnia creature minions. This time around, we have a team of strong actors with convincing performances that make this much more like an epic period drama than a family fantasy. Because a group of humans called the Telmarines had taken over much of Narnia, there are considerably more humans in Narnia here than before. The Pevensies quickly jump into action without the reluctant hesitations they faced in the first film, and it isn't long before these kids are acting as heroes once again.
Because the tone of this film is considerably darker and more serious, it's not surprising that it's a whole lot more violent than The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It's literally to the point where, while I had been thinking this already, I overheard a group of college kids share their disbelief that this film was only rated PG. See, when the action begins, we see swords swinging left and right as the Pevensies and other characters slice down their foes. Seldom do we ever see a drop of blood or a particularly graphic shot, but we do see many arrows and the occasional dagger land in a victim's torso. There's even a pretty intense sequence where two significant characters battle it out with the intent of one of them meeting their end, and it gets to be rather rough. While you can tell certain aspects are toned down - including how much blood or how many wounds are shown - it's a nail biting sequence that is pretty ruthless at times. There's even a moment where - and I could be wrong but - it seemed as if Peter had decapitated a random Telmarine soldier. We see his sword motion towards the soldier with the shot cutting away long before he makes contact, and then what seemed like the soldier's helmet lying near the fallen body. Whether or not that's really what they meant to imply, that's the kind of grittier feel the battles in this movie have. There is the occasional bloody cut or mark on the face - with the worst being when we see a sword being dragged across an open hand, to draw blood, and we see the blood trail it leaves in the victim's palm - but most of the battle violence is bloodless. While I'm probably making it sound a lot worse than it actually is, the action is still heavy enough to warrant a double take on the PG rating a stern warning to parents about taking their kids to see this one. Much like the first film, there are still a few intense creature-related creepy scenes (I can't divulge too much), so that's another thing to warn the young ones about. The violence, considering how it's not really graphic, shouldn't be too much for those looking for a good action fantasy to see, however.
Although Prince Caspian gets off to a slightly slow build, the end result far surpasses its predecessor and makes me much more eagerly await the already announced 2010 release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Ben Barnes was an inspired choice for the title character and a great addition to the cast, and Sergio Castellitto is fantastically evil as the main villain in this one, King Miraz. While The White Witch was more over the top, Miraz is an intense adversary for the Pevensies and Prince Caspian, never falling prey to over-drama or camp. I also enjoyed the addition of new animal characters like the courageous mouse Reepicheep (who offered some of the film's best lines, voiced by comedian Eddie Izzard), Pattertwig the Squirrel (voiced by the film's composer Harry Gregson-Williams) and Trufflehunter the Badger. The special effects also seemed upped a bit from the last film as well. My biggest complaint about the film, however, would be the song they chose for the end of the film. It may be the song from Regina Spektor, I'm not quite certain, but it just felt too melodramatic and cheesy for how strong the movie was prior to that moment. No song at all for that moment would have made a whole lot more sense.
While I enjoyed the first Chronicles Of Narnia adventure, it's the sequel, Prince Caspian, that has won me over to be a bit more impassioned for this series. A wonderful story, well told by Adamson, and the cast is partly to thank for this achievement. All-around a great adventure film with some well-choreographed fight scenes that are tastefully filmed for a wider audience appeal. However, be warned these sequences remain to be very intense and violent for a "family film," so keep that in mind before bringing the whole family to it. Otherwise, Prince Caspian is a solid film that bests its predecessor with the greatest of ease.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/16/08)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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