It's been two-and-a-half years since we watched the Pevensie children come to life on the big screen in Disney's splashy adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but for the characters, only a year has passed between those adventures and the ones in the new movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Well, time is funny like that when you're dealing with the magical land of Narnia, as the storyline of this movie amply illustrates.
The structure of events in the movie is actually an improvement on the C.S. Lewis book, opening with a captivating chase scene as young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) attempts to escape from his Uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellito). Miraz has been scheming to steal Caspian's throne and now wants him dead. But Caspian's tutor gives him a magical horn, the horn of Queen Susan, to summon help in time of need. When Caspian blows the horn, suddenly Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter are pulled out of a London Tube station (which was the first scene in the book) and into a world of wild, wooded ruins that turns out to be Narnia, thousands of years after they've left. However, Caspian thought he was summoning kings and queens, not British children, and how can these kids help him regain the throne and help Old Narnia? And where is Aslan the Lion in the middle of all this?
Another change from the book is in the number and length of battles. In the book, Lewis mentions a few skirmishes here and there, with little description, just so you know that the two sides have been fighting. He prefers to dwell on other scenes. But as with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the filmmakers decided that the action would be improved by lots of swordplay and fight sequences. This may be one reason why the movie is nearly two and a half hours long. Other minor elements are also brought to the front in an attempt to beef up the action and suspense elements for the film.
The humans in the film (apart from the four kids) are all Telmarines, who invaded Narnia centuries ago but still speak heavily accented English. The accent seems to be Spanish, which causes an unfortunate side effect -- when certain characters talk about who killed their father, all I could think of was Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, a comparison that stuck with me from that point in the film onward. You really need to be careful with this sort of thing in the fantasy genre. In addition, the accent sometimes sounds forced from Ben Barnes, and I wished he'd just drop the whole thing and be British along with the kids. I don't believe this would make him any less dashing and attractive. Perhaps the accent will fade for the third film, like Kirsten Dunst's awful shade of red hair in the first Spiderman film.
The creatures were often a little too CGI-ish for my taste, but on the other hand, having Eddie Izzard provide the voice for Reepicheep the Mouse more than made up for these effects. I wish we'd seen more of the tree and water spirits too, but perhaps dryads and naiads and that crowd are a little too sexy for a Disney film. The movie is rated PG, and the violence is minimal for this type of film, but you still see (or infer) a lot of death in battle. For the most part, the religious allegory from the book is downplayed, but the children still have moral lessons to learn.
Prince Caspian is an entertaining film with lots of action interspersed with some sweet moments, most involving Georgie Henley as a perfect Lucy. I wish it were shorter, and I wish someone would have given Susan a short sword so she wouldn't attempt to fight in close combat with a bow and arrows. The Narnia movies haven't delighted me quite as much as certain Harry Potter films or the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and speaking of fantasy, none of that holds a candle to Pan's Labyrinth), but these films are made to appeal to a younger audience. That doesn't mean that older viewers won't enjoy the movie too, but it doesn't have quite the depth and daring of the best fantasy movies.