Friday, May 16, 2008

The Chronicles Of Narnia - Prince Caspian: In Review

The first film made almost 300 million $ domestically and 750 million $ worldwide. With two more films on the way, this promises to be one of the most successful franchises in recent movie history. Of course, the popularity of Iron Man and the close release of the fourth Indy film, probably one of the most expected films of the year (I hesitate between Indy and The Dark Knight) will provide a more difficult box-office result, since the first film was released in December 2005. One can't help but compare this film to the first chapter in the series, and the results can go either way.
Overall, the second film is better than the first because we don't need to spend much time in WWII Great Britain and lose much time over explaining what Narnia consists of. Suffice to say, 1300 years have passed in Narnia when the Penvensie kids are summoned back by a young prince forced in exile by his evil uncle, Miraz who is dreading to take the throne of Telmarine which has seemingly all but extinct the world of Narnia. With the help of the kids, Caspian seeks to regain his rightful heir to the throne in order to bring peace between Narnia and Telmarine.
Whilst the first film provided great but not spectacular CGI shots, the second film delivers much better in that department. We get dropped in the middle of some great battle scenes (even though we aren't offered great originality thanks to LOTR) and even though Aslan is still a big fluffy cat, the visual shots break through. Some people will argue that younger children should not be exposed to these battle scenes where yes, people are killed, but the filmmakers are smart enough to not create a gory environment but rather to establish the stronger characters in combat and focus on their faces. The storyline is easier to follow, but this is where it gets a bit murky. The kids are treated like royalty in the world of Narnia, but it seems odd that the older brother can challenge without fear the main villain, with a sizeable advantage, to a swordfight with passable skill and can fight his way through a battle without a scratch but, back in the real world, gets his butt kicked by a couple of boys his size in a fist fight. It also feels weird that the main villain of this film isn't really as menacing as you'd expect. He appears as a tiny replica of King Edward I from Braveheart, a conniving man but a man with no real superpower. I would've expected a much more menacing villain in a world like Narnia, but then again Narnia has really changed since the triumph over the White Witch.
It seems also unclear to me as to why a young Telmarine who looks more like a sissy than a swordfighter must lead the Narnians to victory (supposedly according to a prophecy), which also raises the question of what are Telmarines? How did they come to live in Narnia? If the Narnians were not extinct, why did they have to wait for the Penvensies and Caspian in order to perform a rebellion? Why couldn't they do it themselves? How did the dwarves (sorry I know, they're little people but that is their title in the film) come to fight side by side with Narnians when they were opposed in the first film? Are Narnians basically all non-Humans living in that world? And if that is the case, how is it that their kings and queens are Human?
It is unfortunate that we have to interpret these questions on our own, especially if we haven't read the books (maybe those answers lie there), but we move quickly through a good storyline, effective on its own and the young actors get much more breathing room here with better preparation. If you liked the first film, you'll enjoy the second, and down the line, I expect it to compete in Oscar categories later this year, most notably in Costume Design, Makeup, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Original Score, Cinematography and Original Song (don't worry, I said it would compete, not garner all these nominations).
Rating : 3/4


AJ said...

good! I'm not the only one who thinks Original Song can happen.

patrick said...

the makers of Prince Caspian kept to the original story better than i would have expected... i had heard they were going to make it into a silly pure-action flick, but thankfully this was not so much the case