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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AS SEEMS to be the case with most sequels nowadays, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a darker follow-up but not necessarily a better one.

Andrew Adamson’s sequel remains big on spectacle and packs enough in to keep its youngest fans enthralled, but it’s let down by a wooden central cast who continually fail to demonstrate any range. It makes almost two and a half hours in their company a very long undertaking.

Set some 1,300 years after the events of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe [in Narnia time], the film picks up as a much more “savage” Narnia is now ruled by a race of men known as the Telmarines, who have killed or exiled the Narnians.

Hope is offered from the rightful heir to the throne, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), but he must first contend with the murderous intent of his usurper uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellito) and enlist the aid of the returning Pevensie children – Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – to restore peace and order.

Ironically, the film’s strengths merely serve to underline its weaknesses. The meatier story plays better for viewers of all ages and there’s plenty of contemporary resonance for anyone willing to look, while the special effects and big battle sequences are typically well handled.

New characters such as the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and a grumpy but heroic dwarf named Trumpkin (played by Peter Dinklage) are welcome additions who enliven proceedings, while Ben Barnes copes well as the dashing Caspian.

But the principal quartet – and most notably William Moseley – continue to be such a bland bunch that you may quickly tire of trying to sympathise with their plight. Indeed, their childish bickering often sits uncomfortably alongside the darker elements of the story (which encompass war and genocide), highlighting the uneven tone.

Attempts at humour are also mixed and often feel as though they’re slowing the film’s momentum, while Castellito’s scheming villain never seems as evil or cunning as his reputation suggests and pales by comparison to Tilda Swinton’s white witch from the original (who, fortunately, gets to make a welcome cameo here).

So, for all of its technical brilliance and sweeping cinematography (both impressive), Prince Caspian continues to struggle to engage emotionally. All eyes now turn to the third instalment of CS Lewis’ novels, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which offers not only the welcome prospect of more Ben Barnes and fewer Pervensie children, but also a new director in Michael Apted. It’s a franchise that could yet benefit from a fresh perspective.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 144mins
UK Release Date: June 26, 2008