By JANE WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published May 22, 2008
Filmgoers looking for an entertaining blend of fantasy and adventure need look no further than the “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” The new movie offers a story of bravery and faith told with sumptuous detail and stunning effects.
Based on the second book in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, “Prince Caspian” begins in the middle of the action. The kingdom of Narnia, first introduced in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” has been taken over by the Telmarines, humans ruled by a tyrant, Miraz, who has killed his brother to seize power. The film opens with the birth of Miraz’s son. Now that he has his own heir, Miraz orders the murder of his nephew, Prince Caspian, who is in reality the rightful heir to the throne. Warned in the nick of time, Caspian escapes into the forest, where he encounters the true Narnians and stumbles upon an enchanted horn once belonging to Queen Susan.
When Caspian blows the horn, he unknowingly summons the ancient kings and queens of Narnia’s golden age—the four Pevensie children, whose adventures in Narnia were first chronicled in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” The four children have had to adjust to life as schoolchildren after their return from Narnia to World War II-era England. The sound of the enchanted horn transports them from a subway station in London to a deserted beach in Narnia. They soon discover that, although only a year has passed in their time, over a thousand years have passed in Narnia, and their reign has faded into the realm of myth and legend. The Narnians of old—the animals who speak, the centaurs, the dwarves—have been driven into hiding, and the human Telmarines have set up a vicious rule. Worst of all, the Narnians believe they have been abandoned by Aslan, the lion whose sacrifice is at the heart of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”
The bulk of “Prince Caspian” shows how the Narnians are able to band together behind the prince, who has promised that he will restore their former freedom. With the aid of the four kings and queens, he attempts to lead the Narnians against the evil Miraz and bring peace back to the land.
The new film comes from the same Walt Disney creative team that produced 2005’s version of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” including director Andrew Adamson. The production values are even better in this sequel. Filmed primarily in New Zealand, with additional filming in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia, the scenery in Narnia is breathtaking. From imposing mountains to sparkling beaches to stunning river valleys, the scenery plays a major role in the effectiveness of the film.
The effects are also first rate. Computer-generated imagery blends seamlessly with live photography to create an enchanted fantastical world that is completely believable. The battle scenes are especially impressive, with nonstop action on a remarkably large scale. The creatures are similarly believable, with Trufflehunter the badger (voiced by Ken Stott) and Reepicheep the mouse (voiced by Eddie Izzard) as two of the film’s most memorable and endearing characters.
The actors portraying the four Pevensie children are also back for the second film. In this movie, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell as Peter and Susan come into their own with more of a story line. Peter must contend with being a man in a boy’s body—he grew up during his first trip to Narnia, and Moseley convincingly shows his frustration at his return to boyhood back in England. Popplewell is also at center stage through much of the story, while Susan becomes a fierce warrior in the battles for Narnia and catches the eye of handsome Prince Caspian.
Standouts in the first film, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley are equally effective in “Prince Caspian” as the two younger Pevensie children, Edmund and Lucy. Keynes coolly displays bravery, wit and a sensibility that Edmund learned the hard way after his misadventures in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” The character’s experiences serve him well in this second feature. Meanwhile, Henley is absolutely charming as Lucy, the wide-eyed innocent with a pure and fearless heart.
The newcomer in the group of actors is Ben Barnes. As Prince Caspian, he is a handsome addition to the cast, and he fills his role with a mixture of daring and uncertainty appropriate to a prince who has been cast in a situation out of his depth.
As with all of the Narnia adventures, faith plays an important role in the story. Elements of Christian allegory can be found in the character of Aslan, whose absence from Narnia has ushered in hopelessness and a loss of faith. The enchantment has gone from the land—the trees no longer move, and the creatures of the Earth hide away in fear. Even among the Pevensie children, there is doubt about Aslan’s eventual return.
Only Lucy steadfastly believes that he still exists and will come back to help them. Although Edmund backs her up, he is acting out of a belief in her rather than a faith in the lion.
In the film, Lucy serves as a sort of mystic figure. She has complete and unshakeable faith. She alone hears Aslan and sees him in visions, and she is also the one to minister a life-giving potion—in a sense to perform miracles. Aslan himself is a fountain of wisdom and goodness. Established as Christ-like in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” he is very much a figure of justice and mercy in “Prince Caspian.”
“Prince Caspian,” like “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” is a story of how people must acknowledge their imperfection. The main characters are tested and tempted, but the heroes and heroines of Narnia rely on courage and love to support each other and do what is right. The film also carries a strong message about acceptance, as the Telmarine Prince Caspian accepts and champions the marginalized Narnians.
An enjoyable film with a positive message, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” is a strong film to start the summer movie season.
Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.