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Prince Caspian

By
Prince Caspian
Director: Andrew Adamson
Screenwriter: Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus
Starring: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Peter Dinklage, Sergio Castellitto, Eddie Izzard
Running time: 147 mins
Certificate: PG

Despite a reasonable response from critics and a successful box office return, public anticipation for the second big screen instalment of C.S. Lewis's Narnia franchise is at best lukewarm. Lacking the cult following of Lord Of The Rings or crazy teenybopper fandom of the Potter series, director Andrew Adamson couldn't rest on his laurels with the follow-up to 2005's The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. Even if Daniel Radcliffe spent the whole of the next Potter film bottom burping, Warner Bros could expect a bumper return, but the Narnia franchise needs Prince Caspian to captivate children's imaginations if it's to ensure that anyone gives a hoot come the third movie, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, in 2010.

Taking place one year on from the first movie, the plot sees Pevensie siblings Peter (Mosely), Edmund (Keynes), Susan (Popplewell) and Lucy (Henley) called back to Narnia by Prince Caspian (Barnes) after he finds himself chased out of the Telmarine kingdom by his evil uncle Lord Miraz. While the children may only be one year older, 1,300 years have passed in Narnia and its inhabitants have retreated underground to escape the crusading Telmarines. Aslan has disappeared, the trees have stopped dancing and nobody really believes the returning Kings and Queens of Narnia can save the day.

However, the Pevensies are determined to save their old kingdom and agree to help Caspian reclaim his rightful place on the throne. However, the public school children soon realise they must overcome their disagreements with Caspian and disillusionment with Aslan to have any chance of conquering Miraz and his troops. Like its predecessor, Prince Caspian plays heavily on Lewis's Christian metaphors of keeping the faith and sacrifice throughout the movie. Adamson for the most part avoids twisting the movie into a elongated RE lesson, while simultaneously remaining faithful to the original text. It is only the return of Aslan for the movie's grand finale where the movie becomes slightly didactic and cloying, but even this is passable thanks to some nifty use of CGI.

Prince Caspian is regarded by many as a weaker story than The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and this movie backs up that view. Lacking the sparkle and magic of Lewis's earlier text, it merely consists of a series of weakly-segued battles between the goodies and the baddies, which creates very little sense of empathy or tension. Adamson attempts to use the weaker plotline to his advantage and make a darker movie, akin to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, stuffing as much violent swashbuckling and sword slashing as he can into the two and half hours as he possibly can without losing the movie's PG certificate.

The film also brushes across themes of growth, adulthood and innocence, but this is often with broad brush strokes rather than any subtle scripting of character development. Skandar Keynes, probably the best actor among the Pevensie children, offers moments of intrigue as the bumbling but brave Edmund, but he is too often pushed to the sidelines so that Peter and Caspian can have another squabble about who's in charge of Narnia. The pair's confrontations are undoubtedly the weakest moments in the movie, with Barnes and Mosely coming across like a pair of public school wallies kicking up a stink about who gets to captain the school rugga team.

Barnes cuts a fine figure as Caspian - and with his swish Toni & Guy haircut and chiseled good looks it is easy to see why he was cast for the role. Unfortunately, his acting skills leave more than a little to be desired and he's also given the unfortunate task of speaking in a Telmarine accent. Sounding like a distant relative of Manuel from Fawlty Towers he never convinces as the leading man. Equally, his romance with Anna Popplewell's Susan, which consists of some weird lingering stares, is the sort of dire, schmaltzy flam that we've come to expect of Disney.

Eddie Izzard has one of his more successful big screen outings as the ever-cheery, valiant Reepicheep. The sword-swiping mouse provides the occasional moments of comic relief and Izzard ensures it is done with enough class and restraint so as not to irritate more mature audiences. Tilda Swinton's brief cameo as the returning White Witch is perhaps too successful, making the audience pine for her to be brought back to life and inject a bit of sparkle. Her five minutes on screen are so sinister and chilling that they undermine Sergio Castellitto's turn as Miraz, whose attempts to look scary consist of shaking his beard and growling a bit.

While there's enough mildly-thrilling action and impressive set-pieces in Caspian to ensure most children will go home from cinemas happy, it lacks the sort of magic that would turn the film from an average blockbuster into a mainstream franchise. It's unlikely anyone will go home from the movie and dig out Lewis's original books or ask their parents for a Narnia pack-up box for Christmas. Generally faithful to Lewis's tale, it's a relatively entertaining romp, but it would be surprising if anyone is counting down the days until the third movie.


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