The onward march of the film-izations of the C.S. Lewis Narnia series proceeds, somewhat sluggishly, with the second film Prince Caspian, released this month.
I confess that I found the books enjoyable, but somewhat forgettable. They lack the intricacy of Tolkien but also the density. Unlike a 1,500 page single novel (as Lord of the Rings is), the Narnia books are episodic, and they’re all resolved (more or less) through a deus ex machina.
Not to say they’re bad, mind you. They’re very straightforward, though.
The movie follows the book pretty faithfully, from what I recall, except for a brief appearance from the White Witch. (I don’t reccall that from the book.) And, thankfully, the kids are a lot less whiny in this one. (Susan, in particular was sort of a scold in the first movie, whereas in the first book, she was more responsible and conservative without being shrewish.)
The Pevensies are transported back to Narnia to help Prince Caspian, whose uncle is trying to have him killed. Caspian and his uncle, King Miraz are Telmarines, whose ancestors have wiped out the Narnians in the 1300 year absence of the Pevensies. (The Pevensies, as you’ll recall, grew to adulthood in Narnia but apparently left behind no heirs, and regressed to childhood at the end of the first story.)
Caspian’s been trained by Dr. Cornelius, who has kept the story of the Narnians alive, so that when Caspian encounters them, he sees it as his job to rally them, both to defeat his uncle and to restore Narnia.
There’s your story right there, with Aslan floating around on the edges. (If there’s a theme in the second book, only partly captured by the movie, it’s that one should cleave to the truth, even if no one else believes it.)
And it’s pretty solid. Not boring. A lot has been made of the violence, which is conspicuously non-bloody, but humans and other creatures die, sometimes tragically so. The Flower wasn’t too concerned but she knew it would turn out okay. (Some of the previews were rather dark, though.)
The acting is top-flight, as could be expected. In particular, Peter Dinklage steals the show as Trumpkin, the recalcitrant dwarf. There’s a brief scene with Tilda Swinton that she pwns, too.
The kids are good, thankfully, though the three years have resulted in some serious…blossoming…for Anna Popplewell. It’s pretty well hidden, thankfully, and they do their best to make her look young, but at times it’s clear she’s closer to 20 than 15.
Special effects-wise, this movie is better than the last. The centaurs are noticably improved. The only really awful effect is a Bear. Oh, and a lot of the shooting was clearly outdoors, and very beautiful, which has the effect of making the CGI very obviously CGI-ish. (Directors need to learn that: Using real locations really throws the fakes into contrast. Be-vare!
I’d say if you liked the first one, you’d like this one. You might even like this one better.
UPDATE: The Boy was not pleased. He liked that the children weren’t so whiny but he highly disapproved of the battle scenes. Listening to him, I tend to agree there was some loose stuff, but I tend to turn off the brain during this sort of movie anyway.