The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review
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I learned long ago that reading a book just before seeing the movie is nothing but trouble. In the end, it usually just leads to disappointment. And though I really wanted to love Prince Caspian, the second Narnia movie (after 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), once again, the movie just didn’t live up to the book.

For Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), the rightful heir to the Narnian throne, the birth of his cousin—the son of his power-hungry uncle, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto)—is deadly. So as Prince Caspian opens, Caspian is forced to flee the palace in the middle of the night to save his own life.

In the woods, Caspian encounters two dwarves—Narnian creatures that Caspian thought were extinct. Afraid of being captured, Caspian blows a horn that his professor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass), gave him before he left the castle.

Meanwhile, in London, the Pevensie children—Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley)—are leaving for school when they’re suddenly pulled out of the tube station and onto a deserted beach. It’s not long before they discover that they’ve been summoned back to Narnia—though hundreds of years have passed since they left. The children meet a dwarf called Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), who tells them of the grave situation in Narnia. He then leads them back to Caspian and the rest of the Old Narnians, who are preparing for battle.

Now, I understand that filmmakers have to take some liberties when they adapt a screenplay from a novel. And some of the liberties taken with C. S. Lewis’s second Narnia book were necessary—like presenting the story in chronological order, instead of in flashbacks. But many of them weren’t.

In a way, I can see what director Andrew Adamson was trying to do. He was trying to give the movie more: more drama, more action, more character development. He spent much more time developing Miraz as a bad guy (though Castellitto, with some help from the makeup department, did a pretty good job of that already). He added battles that weren’t in the book. He added tension between the characters: a power struggle between Peter and Caspian, romantic tension between Caspian and Susan. But, in the end, the story suffered for it.

In his book, Lewis told a pretty simple story. In the movie, however, Adamson complicates everything—and makes it just a bit confusing. He spends so much time making Miraz look bad that he fails to explain who he is. And he spends so much time turning Peter and Susan into poorly-adjusted teenagers that it’s hard to like them. Peter gets into fights and spends most of the movie butting heads with Caspian. Susan is a pouty loner who spends much of the movie going all melty and tongue-tied over Caspian. I mean, Barnes is definitely good-looking, but their meaningful glances feel awkward and silly—and totally out of place.

To add to my disappointment, parts of the movie are so dark that I couldn’t really enjoy all those effects that I read about in the movie companion. While many of the battles do take place at night, they could have been lit much better—so audiences could actually see the characters and the magnificent sets. Fortunately, things do lighten up toward the end—in time to catch a few glimpses of the stunning palace—but the presentation could have been much better.

Of course, you’ll still find things to enjoy in this second Narnia movie. The effects—when you can see them—are pretty spectacular. So are some of the battle scenes—especially the battle between Peter and Miraz. And I’m starting to believe that Peter Dinklage alone can make any movie worth seeing. But Adamson made Prince Caspian a difficult movie to love. Despite the added action, it still feels long (just ask the three kids who spent half the movie screaming and running up and down the theater aisles). The characters are more developed but less likeable. And the story is muddled and sometimes confusing. So unless you read the book, you’ll probably be pretty confused—and if you did read the book, you’ll probably be pretty disappointed.

DVD Review:
After reading through the movie companion for Prince Caspian, I looked forward to seeing the behind-the-scenes stuff come to life in the DVD’s special features. And there’s definitely a lot to see in the three-disc collector’s edition release, which includes the feature disc (with an audio commentary by director Andrew Adamson and the film’s five young stars), a digital copy of the film, and an entire disc full of more than two hours of extras.

The disc of extras begins with three very long features—each around a half-hour long. There’s a making-of overview, a feature showing each and every one of the sets (hosted by producer and C.S. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham), and a feature on the small town of Bovec, Slovenia, where the arrival of the film’s cast and crew nearly doubled the village’s population. It’s a fascinating feature, though it runs about 10 minutes too long, going too in-depth into the village’s history. Fortunately, the rest of the features—a few more behind-the-scenes features, along with deleted scenes and bloopers—are much shorter. And the features on Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis, especially, are both entertaining and eye-opening (Three hours a day in makeup? Yikes!).

Though I would have preferred a bunch of shorter features (instead of those first three long, drawn-out features), they still provide plenty of insights into the making of the movie. Not as many as the movie companion, mind you, but it’s fun to watch what goes on behind the scenes instead of just reading about it. So while the three-disc DVD release isn’t a necessity (and it’s not one that you’ll want to watch with kids, who will lose interest before the end of the first feature), it does offer some interesting extras that are sure to entertain bonus-feature junkies.

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