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Movie Review: Prince Caspian

By Matthew Huntley

May 27, 2008

*You* were the one who authorized a $250 million budget! The blames falls on you.

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As I mentioned, there's not much to Prince Caspian as far as story is concerned. The filmmakers are content with having the movie move from one action sequence to the next without exploring any deep character dynamics. It would have been richer experience had the screenplay explored the psychological effects the Pevensies' absence from Narnia has had on them. They can remember ruling and fighting as kings and queens; but now they're attending school with regular kids. Peter is obviously angrier, stronger and more irritable than he was before. Back in London, he frequently gets into fights. Why would the filmmakers choose to bypass these frustrations? We would have gotten to know the Pevensies more.

But what the movie lacks in substance it makes up with grandiose action and marvelous special effects. This is a true fantasy picture with all the right trimmings - mythical creatures, corrupt despots, enormous field battles, intense sword fights, breathtaking, picturesque locations and mysticism. Director Andrew Adamson shows most of the movie outside in the daylight, which makes the visuals all the more impressive. With other fantasies like Lord of the Rings and The Golden Compass, so much took place at night, which the story could have arguably called for, but with Prince Caspian the filmmakers worked with the sun and natural light, and it looks glorious. Aslan is especially detailed and sharp. More time and detail has been devoted to the rendering of his fur.

Then there are the magnificent battles themselves, the best of which takes place when Peter decides to preemptively (and hastily) strike Miraz and the Talmarines in their own castle. The buildup and execution of this sequence pays off sensationally thanks to convincing effects, patient editing and good timing. Tension builds as the human characters fly around on griffins and each creature prepares for battle (there's a nice comic touch when three mice warriors figure out how to handle a sleeping cat).




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But all the battles would have been for naught had they merely been technical exercises. Luckily, I found myself emotionally engaged in the battles and actually cared and wondered about their outcome. The drama mattered and I became sad when creatures died, a sign the movie has successfully manipulated me.

The movie is also surprisingly violent. Disney and the filmmakers seem to have taken more risks this time by showing intense, hard-hitting fight scenes in which people and animals actually die. In a sword fight between Peter and Miraz, the two actors make it look like they're actually fighting and hurting each other. I'm sure Disney was able to secure their coveted "PG" rating by ensuring we don't see one ounce of blood in the entire picture, but even this degree of violence makes it a more credible and passionate movie.

I was a fan of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I remember thinking its shortcomings rested with its pacing and performances. Prince Caspian feels more mature - its direction is more confident, the action has more weight, the children have become better actors (especially the young Georgie Henley, who will be going places), and the consequences of the story feel more significant, even though there was less story to go around. This first sequel in the "Narnia" series does feel like a bridge between the set up and the next great narrative development, which will likely be in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but even as pure fantasy action and spectacle, Prince Caspian" ranks among the better of its kind.


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