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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

August 2008 | Review by Gary Aston

Book Review

This is the second in the motion picture fantasy franchise created from the books by C. S. Lewis. The story recounts the adventures of the four Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – as they re-enter Narnia to help Prince Caspian fight for his rightful place on the throne.

The most obvious difference from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the feel of the film – Narnia is now a much darker, shadowy and more savage place. Thirteen hundred years have passed since the children last entered and the Narnia they once knew is ruined and crumbling.
Director Andrew Adamson has kept the basic plot of the book but has imported many of his own ideas – which deviate significantly from Lewis’. Some plot changes work extremely well and keep to the spirit of the book.
For example, there is a powerful moment where Caspian is tempted and succeeds in calling back the White Witch – only to be thwarted by Edmund who had learnt the hard way (in the first film) that some powers should not be messed with.
Far less successful is the love interest between Susan and Caspian and the virtual sidelining of Aslan. In fact, Aslan is almost an ‘absent presence’ in the film, only appearing on screen a handful of times. Adamson also loses some of the more overt spiritual themes within the book. Most disappointing for me was the treatment of Aslan’s glorious return, when, in joyful procession, he breathes new life into Narnia.
Having said that, there are still many themes that will provide excellent material for discussion – themes of sacrifice, hope, restoration, suffering and (most significantly) belief. The interplay between faith and doubt constantly re-surfaces in the film, with the faith of a small handful constantly tested by the unbelief of many.
As in the first film, some of the acting is rather wooden. There are, however, some great characters. Most notable are Lucy (Georgie Henley), the sarcastic and grumpy dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), and a marvellous Reepicheep, voiced by Eddie Izzard.
Parents should note that although rated PG there are a number of scenes that would be frightening for younger children, and the battle scenes are more intense than in the first film. And therein lies the biggest problem with the film – it doesn’t really know what it wants to be.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe seemed content to stay as a smaller, less epic tale, more true to Lewis’ vision. Here it seems that Adamson has made the epic that he always wanted to. But the problem is that it just isn’t epic enough.
With films like The Lord of the Rings trilogy in recent memory, everything Adamson tries to do has been done bigger and better already. I can’t help feeling that although there are good things in Prince Caspian, purists will leave disappointed while action fans will leave wanting more.
Tags:
CS Lewis

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