There is a heavy responsibility you accept when trying to adapt a beloved series of novels to the big screen. You bring along a heavy set of expectations from pre-existing fans to not only produce an excellent movie, but also one that remains true (at least in spirit) to the original novel. This is insanely difficult considering the average novel can be anywhere from 300-700 pages… and the average screenplay is anywhere from 90-120 pages. Adapting novels is no small feat.
Some, like Lord of the Rings, go far beyond what anyone could have hoped for. Some disapoint, like The Da Vinci Code. Then you have some that just truly do a good solid job like the Harry Potter films…. and The Chronicles of Narnia.
The first Chronicles of Narnia film was a very pleasant surprise to me. I could never fathom how they were going to capture that book on the screen in a practical and entertaining way. Yet they did it beautifully. No, it wasn’t on Lord of the Rings scale, but it was excellent nonetheless. Could that same feat be accomplished with Prince Caspian? Yes, I believe they did.
THE GENERAL IDEA
The basic synopsis of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian looks something like this: “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. With the help of the kindly dwarf, a courageous talking mouse named Reepicheep, a badger named Trufflehunter and a Black Dwarf, Nikabrik, the Narnians, led by the mighty knights Peter and Caspian, embark on a remarkable journey to find Aslan, rescue Narnia from Miraz’s tyrannical hold, and restore magic and glory to the land.”
The action / adventure quota went WAY up for Prince Caspian. One of the criticisms the first Chronicles of Narnia film had against it was that it felt a little lacking in the action / adventure department (the ending battle not withstanding). Seems that the producers of the film were paying close attention. In Prince Caspian, the battles are more numerous, much grander in scale, the effects much better employed. The was also an increased sense of maturity to the action. The four main character from the first film aren’t just cute kids caught up in a battle… they are indeed warrior. The action was so much better and more mature this time around that I have to really question the rating the film received. If anything this should have been a PG-13 instead of a PG. I lost count of how many people were killed and cut down y swords and arrows… it’s pretty violent.
One of the mistakes some franchises make is that they continue on with their characters as if they didn’t learn anything or haven’t grown at all from their experiences in the previous installment. Not so with Prince Caspian. The four brothers and sisters are no longer just the wide eyed children from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe…. they are true kings and queens. Peter is the greatest warrior in Narnia as High King. Edmond isn’t the annoying little snot he was in the first film. They have grown, matured… after all they are technically in their 30’s (they spent half a lifetime in Narnia before returning to the real world and their former ages.
The supporting cast of characters this time around are a little more engaging than the last. The dwarves (two in particular) had some very nice character development and personalities. The mice where hilarious and quite fun to watch. Seeing all the creatures we saw in the first film again was also quite a nice touch.
Prince Caspian does an excellent job of alluding to the first film… showing the lessons learned, the events that occurred without going overboard with silly flashback sequences, repeating verbatim lines or stories from the original. There is an excellent scene (not really a spoiler since this is in one of the trailers) with the White Queen back again which was one of my favorite of the entire movie.
In as much as there was more action and adventure in this film than the last… the price of that was a loss of some of the sense of awe and wonder… the sense of magic. With the first Narnia film, I found myself spellbound by the world they were in, feeling like a little kid sitting around a campfire as a skilled storyteller told the tale. There was still some sense of that in Prince Caspian for certain, but not nearly as much as in the first film.
The beginning of the film is a bit slow and took a little while for it to find its pace. Once it did it was wonderful… but it did take a good 20 minutes to do so.
There is a terrible lack of Aslan (The Lion) in the film. Yes I understand the need to maintain the basic arch of the books… but I (and I think most people) was really looking forward to seeing Aslan, the great cat do battle. Seeing him ferociously kicking ass and taking names. Hell, even just seeing him roar sends chills up my spine. Sadly however, Aslan doesn’t appear until well into the third act of the film, and even once he’s there, he doesn’t actually do much at all. There are other things that make up for this… but it was still a disappointment for me.
The White Queen in the first film was a fantastic villain. How fricking cool was it seeing her ride into combat on that chariot pulled by two polar bears and then wielding the two swords like a freaking hot ass ninja?!?! Unfortunately, the villain in Prince Caspian isn’t nearly as interesting or fun antagonist as the White Queen
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ends up being a very fun and often exciting follow up to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The characters have a wonderful sense of continuation to them, the battles are bigger, the effects better which all ends up being quite a fun ride. The film could have had “classic” status if it weren’t for the lack of a compelling villain, a woeful lack of Aslan and a substantial loss of that sense of awe and wonder delivered by the first film. Still a very enjoyable movie and one I’m happy to recommend. Overall I give The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian a solid 7.5 out of 10