Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – Review

So a year has elapsed in WWII Britain for the Pevensie children after their first rousing and enchanted adventure in Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (two-and-a-half years have elapsed for us), but Narnia’s gone through 1300 years, during which the evil Telmarines have taken over and purged Narnia of its magical inhabitants. Enter the Pevensies and their new ally, Prince Caspian (teen-girl-fantasy-boy Ben Barnes), who will rally the troops and lead the good guys to victory.

Prince Caspian throws off the novelty and relative cuteness of its 2005 predecessor with lengthy battle scenes and visceral medieval violence (sans gore), but so what? It’s been done, and the overdrawn combat of the movie tends to trip over clichés and common devices for epic battles on film, which have become ubiquitous in this age of CGI.

While The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was able to retain its charms and religious undertones without becoming saccharine, Prince Caspian seems afraid to take that risk, maximizing the action and minimizing the tranquility of Narnia (not to mention C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory, reduced to a mere whisper in this film).

Not that Prince Caspian is not without its strengths. I feel more confident now in an Oscar nomination for Harry Gregson-Williams' score, which is inspiring and memorable (despite being, perhaps, a bit overused), and the production/costume design is first rate. Special mention goes to the FX artists, makeup artists, and sound artists who have clearly upped their game since the last Narnia film.

Prince Caspain could provide reasonable competition in all of those categories come Oscar time, but I suspect that the overall “been-there-done-that” feelings towards the film will result in it being pretty much forgotten by then. It will likely grab only a few odd nominations. That’s really all it deserves anyway.

**1/2 out of ****

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