The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 5/16/08
Cast: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Pierfrancesco Favino, cameos by Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson

Thirteen hundred years have passed in Narnia since "The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe" (2005), when a desperate Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) summons Peter, Edmond, Susan, and Lucy back to that magical realm. The Narnians are being threatened with extinction and the brutal King Miraz wants Caspian dead. Caspian forms an alliance with the Narnians in order to overthrow the king and return the kingdom to them, and Peter arrogantly agrees to lead them into battle. Their first attempt is a complete failure, which tempts Caspian to ally himself with the dark powers of the White Witch (superb Tilda Swinton). Edmond (Skandar Keynes) rescues him from temptation while Peter (William Moseley) faces Miraz in hand to hand combat and Lucy (delightful Georgie Henley) runs off to summon their savior Aslan (Liam Neeson). Naturally, when all hope is lost, the tide turns and the nasty humans are wiped out of existence.

The film is definitely well made and pretty to look at, but the source material is weak and the film is ultimately a battle epic riding on the back of C.S. Lewis's heavy-handed religious subtext. The Christian propaganda becomes increasingly distasteful as the film progresses, and the last twenty minutes turn into a shamelessly overwrought sermon. Gack. The acting is consistently good, with William Moseley being as annoying as ever. Georgie Henley continues to be quite engaging and Skandar Keynes really steps up to the plate this time. Newcomer Ben Barnes has been getting a lot of press as Caspian, and while he's attractive and charming, I was left underwhelmed. But maybe that's because I'm not a teenage girl, as I often heard a collective sigh in the audience whenever he showed up. Overall, I felt the strongest and most convincing performances came from Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and General Glozelle (Pierfrancesco Favino). Beneath Dinklage's troubled brow lie extremely strong currents of emotion, whose ferocity are matched only by their subtlety. Very well played. Likewise, Favino's restrained performance says much more than mere words, and his conflicted feelings are real and tangible.

"Prince Caspian" is definitely a spectacle film and the visual effects are quite good. Unfortunately, the film isn't very interesting and the large scale battles lack depth and emotional impact. The film is exceedingly violent, but irresponsibly plays down the effects and results of such violence. The complete lack of pain, sorrow, and bloodshed gives the impression that fighting is all in good fun and that no one ever really gets hurt. Interestingly, the most compelling imagery in the film isn't effects related at all. While the characters aren't particularly likable, seeing Anna Popplewell handle a bow is intoxicating. She can be very fierce and her intensity tears up the screen. But the single greatest moment in the film which will be burned into my psyche forever is seeing Georgie Henley calmly, and almost seductively, unsheathe her dagger in the face of a thousand armed soldiers rushing towards her. Wow. That is some SERIOUSLY powerful imagery. In the end, it's pretty much more of the same, and if you enjoyed the first film, you're likely to enjoy this one as well.