Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The second film based on C.S. Lewis's series of novels isn't as smoothly realized as its predecessor, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it still offers a good amount of entertainment value.

The four English children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) who became rulers of Narnia in the previous film are called back after 1,300 years have passed there to aid Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in overthrowing his evil uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), and restoring freedom to Narnia.

Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) once again proves capable of bringing the world of Narnia to life and his background in visual effects (he supervised the effects for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) still serves him well. However, his sense of pacing frequently deserts him this time around, delivering a film that wanders aimlessly at times and has abrupt scene transitions at others. Even though it's two hours and twenty minutes long, it feels like it was intended to be a much longer film but was reduced to a shorter running time. Editor Sim Evan-Jones (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) certainly deserves a share of the blame for the pacing problems.

Adamson and co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (both of whom worked on the previous film) make more changes to Lewis' novel than the last film did. The rivalry between Peter and Caspian, and the romance between Susan and Caspian, are unnecessary additions. The spectacle overtakes the story just a bit here in trying to make a bigger film. Still, it's a solid adaptation overall.

Cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub (Stargate, Independence Day), production designer Roger Ford (Babe, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), and costume designer Isis Mussenden (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) do a good job of building on the visual look of the previous film. It's still not quite up to the standards set by The Lord of the Rings, though. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is suitable to the story. The visual effects are outstanding, and the CGI looks smoother and more realistic this time.

Henley, Keynes, Moseley, and Popplewell again bring the characters of the children to life quite convincingly. Barnes is slightly wooden as Caspian, but still adequate to the tasks at hand. Castellitto is convincing as the villain of the piece. I've always enjoyed the performances of actor Peter Dinklage (Threshold, Penelope), and it's no exception here where he plays Trumpkin the dwarf. Eddie Izzard is marvelous as the voice of Reepicheep the swashbuckling mouse. Liam Neeson's voice work as Aslan is again right on the money. Although not strictly faithful to the novel it's fun to see Tilda Swinton return as the White Witch for a cameo appearance.

The rest of the cast is solid across the board, including Pierfrancesco Favino as Miraz's military commander, Damián Alcázar as the scheming Lord Sopespian, Vincent Grass as Dr. Cornelius, Warwick Davis as Nikabrik the dwarf, and Ken Stott as the voice of Trufflehunter the badger.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has more flaws than its predecessor, but it's still an above average fantasy film that children and fans of the novel should enjoy. The third film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is in pre-production and may benefit from a different director in Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, The World Is Not Enough).

[3.5 out of 5 stars]

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