The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Saving Narnia – one midget at a time.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/16/2008
Director: Andrew Adamson
Cast: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis

The next installment in The Chronicles of Narnia has finally been ushered into theaters with “Prince Caspian”. This time around, our heroes from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” return to Narnia to help the rightful heir to the land reclaim his throne and bring peace to the land.

But getting into the plot really isn’t all that important. As Elizabeth Edgemont pointed out to me, C.S. Lewis’ books really aren’t about plot but morality plays disguised as children’s books. She had just reread this particular book and explained the multiple divergences between the two … which is good, because my edumakacion ain’t allow for any extravehicular reedin.

Like all of the franchise, the religious undertones aren’t so underneath and it’s amazing that a story simple enough to fall into two or three simple acts could take over two hours. “Prince Caspian” (and the series in general) is like a burrito with only one ingredient. You think you’re getting a substantial, filling meal and you find out there’s not much there.

That compounds my main problem; I’ve already seen it, in the first film three years ago. Sure, there are a few different names and faces … and the amount of fighting and violence has ratcheted up (How is this PG?) … but there’s nothing really new here. That basic underlying moral of having faith in an all-powerful figure who will rescue you in your greatest time of need is again center stage and that would be okay, if there was also a stronger story to go along with it.

The Pevensie children undergo a modicum of character development but not enough to really warrant nearly 2 1/2 hours of fantasy wonderment (and as Elizabeth also pointed out, the film twists the book’s take on the kids somewhat significantly anyway).

On the positive side, I do credit director Andrew Adamson (who did the first film) with again making Narnia come to life. The look of the landscapes and creatures is excellent and the effects were less noticeable, even Aslan the lion was a bit more realistic this time around (all things considered).

Also, the new characters and the actors behind them infused enough life to keep this behemoth of a film interesting. Eddie Izzard voices a combative mouse with great flair, Sergio Castellitto plays the false bravado King nicely and most importantly, the story calls for two dwarves.

Now, when you’re making a big Hollywood film and need dwarves, you dial one of two people: Peter Dinklage or Warwick Davis. Needing both just meant that one of my dreams just came true. Between “The Station Agent”, “Tiptoes” and “Elf” for Dinklage and “Return of the Jedi”, “Willow” and the Leprechaun series for Davis, they make up a considerable portion of my film library. I’m not being sarcastic in any way in saying that I love their performances in nearly every film they’ve ever done and it was their inclusion to this film that kept me from checking my watch too often.

Dinklage especially gets to shine, having more screen time than Davis, and all sorts of great quips and retorts. The energy he brings is enough to mask the general malaise that still hovers around the young actors playing the Pevensie children. For that, I’m really grateful.

Trying to figure out exactly where I stand on this film is a bit of a quandary. On one hand, some of the new blood helped to infuse the picture with much needed life. On the other, it’s WAY too long and especially considering its length, not much actual plot goes on. It’s a long escape scene opening, a long return to Narnia for the Pevensies, a long setup to the first battle, a long come to terms with one another, a long preparation for the final battle, a long final battle, I think you get the point.

Add on to that the completely ridiculous deus ex machina effect all of the books have, and that have carried over into the films, and I’m starting to wonder how it is that I didn’t hate the film. Truth be told, it was okay. I was mildly entertained and actually enjoyed Izzard, Dinklage and Davis.

The real test for your own ability to think spending $742.37 on watching this in theaters comes down to how much you liked “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. If you had a good time, this will fit the bill. If you found it too long, predictable and childish, consider yourself warned (especially if you have a Tolkien fetish and don’t want to see Narnia 2: Rise of the Ents, or experience the great gynecological gateway that’s revealed at the end of this film).

Oddly enough, for all my hemming and hawing, I’m going to give “Prince Caspian” a 3 out of 5. It does what I expected it to do and matches up with the first film in the franchise for the most part. Now if I could only get an answer to how the people in Narnia have fireworks but no gunpowder …