Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

directed by Andrew Adamson

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian poster  
The Chronicles of Narnia make more sense if you view them as a Christian allegory. But Prince Caspian is a movie that comes across as more of a charming children's fantasy, complete with talking mice, exotic creatures and epic battles. Could it be that religion is considered simply too much of a risk for film makers in 2008?

The Pevensie children are back in London, and after a year they are starting to come to terms with life away from Narnia. For some of them it's quite an adjustment to go back to being treated as children once more, instead of as royalty. However, just when they think they're not going back, they do.

But the four siblings don't arrive in a Narnia they recognise at all. The wild animals are really wild, overgrown ruins stand where there were once castles, and the trees are silent. It's as though the magic has left the land.

Meanwhile Prince Caspian's aunt has just given birth to a son. This situation means that his uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) now has an heir, and Caspian (Ben Barnes) is surplus to requirements. Miraz rules the Telmarines with a ruthlessness that has cost the lives of many of his council, and the ones who are left live in fear of him. Caspian flees for his life into the forest, taking a horn with him that he's told to use only in dire emergency. His people fear the forest, even though they believe that the Narnians who once lived there are now extinct.

This movie is more violent than its source material, and although it's not actually gory the characters seem to be more careless of taking lives. When the Pevensie children first meet the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), in the book Susan points out that she wasn't aiming to kill anyone with her bow. Yet in this film Trumpkin's captors are dispatched without any such qualms. In later battles this ethos of hack first and think later seems to prevail. The Telmarins are Caspian's people, and presumably some of them are the same people he has been surrounded with as he grew up. Yet there's a lot of fighting going on, and there's no impression that either Caspian or the Pevensie children have the doubts about spilling blood that they ought to. The Telmarines may be a warlike people, but their opponents don't seem to be any less bellicose.

That's not to say that there's no moral dimension to Prince Caspian. It's a little deeper and more mature than The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Caspian has to choose between his own desire for vengeance and the need to lead the Narnians into battle wisely. He's faced with the temptation of an easy way out of his predicament, but at what price?

Faith plays a part in this Narnian adventure, but it's expressed fairly subtly. Lucy is the only one of the siblings who doesn't give up on the possibility of returning to Narnia, and she is the first to get a glimpse of the elusive Aslan. Not losing hope can mean the difference between downfall and triumph in this story. It's possible to watch the movie and remain largely oblivious of the essentially Christian nature of its central messages, but the theme of the importance of faith is there for anyone who wants to make the connection.

Like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is very attractive visually, and not merely because Caspian himself is very easy on the eye. There are centaurs, swashbuckling mice, walking trees, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of other magical effects that give this film the necessary "wow!" factor. But it's the script that marks the greatest improvement over the first film in this series, since it's both funnier and less outrageously melodramatic. The characters have to employ their own intelligence and abilities to get themselves out of bad situations, rather than using magic as a shield. Prince Caspian may be quite a ferocious interpretation of C. S. Lewis' novel, but it's also one which lives up to the promise of its source material.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader cover    

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by Michael Apted
In the third film in the Narnia series a sceptical cousin joins the Pevensies on their adventures.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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