The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had the most ungainly title of 2005 but that didn’t stop audiences from shelling out upwards of 700 million dollars to see the story of four children who travel through a wardrobe to a magical land where animals talk and an evil ice queen has taken power. In the inevitable sequel (expect lots of Narnia in your future—there’s seven books of source material) the same kids are catapulted back to the wondrous world of Narnia.
This time around, however, the world isn’t so wondrous. In the one year they lived in the human world, 1300 years passed in Narnia and the once lush place is now ravaged by war. The four kids—teenagers in England, Kings and Queens in Narnia—are summoned by the deposed true king of Narnia, Prince Caspian. Together they form an uneasy alliance to defeat the evil Telmarines, protect Narnia and place Caspian on throne, where he belongs.
Despite the lion king Aslan’s sage words, “things are never the same way twice,” The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian follows the template set by the first movie, for better and for worse.
On the plus side, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is a classic tale of good verses evil. This time around though, the story is lumbering and takes far too long to get in gear. Aslan is largely absent—the subtitle Waiting for Aslan wouldn’t be too far off the mark—and while there are some whiz bang action sequences sprinkled throughout, the long connecting passages drag. When Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) asks young Lucy (Georgie Henley) where she’s been for the last 1300 years, she says, “It’s a long story…”
It’s hard to disagree with her as the movie chugs past the two hour mark, with wooden performances making it seem even longer. As in the first movie director Andrew Adamson, who previously helmed the Shrek movies, is more at home with the animated characters than the flesh and blood actors. New additons, including a mouse whose personality seems cribbed from the Puss In Boots character in Shrek 2, add some dashes of humor, but overall the tone is much darker than the original.
This installment doesn’t skimp on the violence—a massive slaughter of Narnians trapped in a castle may be a tad too intense for a movie featuring cuddly, talking animals—but, like The Forbidden Kingdom, another recent family friendly action film, the brutality is bloodless. There’s loads of gouging, stabbing and general mayhem, but not one ounce of blood squirts or dribbles from any of the wounds. It takes some of the edge off the violence, and, I guess, smoothes out some of the viciousness, but make no mistake, this is a violent movie with as high a body count as any of the Lord of the Rings movies.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian presents interesting ideas about loss of innocence, courage and chivalry but those messages are overshadowed by a movie that is overlong and relies too heavily on action scenes.