Zaren Healy White on the darker—although less-enchanting—installment of The Chronicles of Narnia.
“You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember,” says Trumpkin, a wry, surly dwarf. And he’s right: while snapshots of irony, humour, and outright cuteness temper The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the film is darker, more violent, and less magical than its cinematic predecessor, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
It’s been three years since the first installment of the series based on C.S. Lewis’ novels hit the big screen, an almost unbearably long time in the world of sequels. In case you’re unfamiliar with the time-warped chronology of Narnia, it’s been even longer in those parts. 1300 years to be precise.
A side-effect of the producers taking three years to cough up a sequel is it becomes difficult to remember where the first film actually left off. In the Pevensie children’s reality of England, a year has passed since they were expelled from Narnia after living it up there as (adult) Kings and Queens.
Their years in Narnia resulted in an elapsed time of just less than a day in the real—or other—world. When they return after an entire year and find their former palace in ruins and Narnia occupied by hostile forces, their disbelief is, well, a little silly.
But back to Narnia they go. Notthrough a mothball-filled wardrobe this time, but through a freaky portal in a tube station in London (must have accidentally wandered into the underground version of Platform 9 ¾). Their desire to return turns out not to be a fluke at all—they were summoned by the distressed Prince Caspian via a magic horn.
Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) of the race of humans called Telmarines (who conquered Narnia after the “Golden Age”) is fleeing for his life. His professor (who could pass as Dumbledore’s shorter, fatter brother) warns Caspian that he must escape, as his uncle, tyrannical King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), plans to bump him off to make room for his own next-in-line, destined-to-be-king son.
Cue Prince Caspian’s magic horn, and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy’s arrival on the scene.
Exploring their ruined palace they discover that, while the walls are crumbled and rotted, their old duds aren’t, since it would have been much less heroic to don those boring boarding school outfits for the rest of the film. Fully outfitted in their good-as-new medieval garb and weaponry, the Pevensie clan sets out to explore the picturesque paradise stumbling upon the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), and in a condensed history lesson, learn that in the last millennium Narnia was dominated by the ruthless Telmarines, a dark, swarthy and heavily-accented people who drove all the magical creatures and talking beasts into the forest. Even Aslan, the iconic lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) has high-tailed it out of Narnia.
The appearance of the Kings and Queens of old indicates an opportunity for redemption and restoration as, alongside the renegade Prince Caspian, the four siblings gear up to unite the Narnian outcasts against the usurpers.
Prince Caspian is a beautiful excursion into another realm. The elegance and expansiveness of the landscapes are enchanting, a whimsical respite from the film’s common denominator—battle. Aside from some wonder-inspiring creatures, the film relies more on man to man combat (yes, man to man) than magic.
Like Trumpkin says, after 1300 years it’s not the same Narnia. The film has more blood-letting than your typical Christian allegory. With showdowns à la Reservoir Dogs, Caspian’s nod to Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride with his vengeful “you killed my father” act, andcountless shameless recreations of scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring, you get the feeling that you’ve seen this before.
As a darker, more visceral Narnia, Prince Caspian is also more mature. The majesty, beauty, and intensity of the first film is intact but accentuated, with higher stakes in this version. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a carefully crafted fantasy adventure, and while it’s sure to delight with achingly sweet characters like Reepicheep, the Mouseketeer (no, really, he’s a Musketeer mouse), in the end you’re left craving more character-focused reverie, and maybe a lower body count.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is now in theatres. Call for showtimes and prices.