Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Four kids walk into a Nar…nia.
Image Courtesy of IMPAwards.com
Director: Andrew Adamson
Notable Cast: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis
It feels bittersweet returning to Narnia for the second visit, Prince Caspian. The more mature children (that is, adults) of this world are all too familiar with that feeling of moving on and growing up that creeps into the minds of Peter and Susan Pevensie. Still, it feels more poignant, dare I say emotionally resonant, to watch fictional children grow old. Isn’t the best part of fantasy the fact that all our favorite character never age and remain timeless for many generations to read and watch?
Certainly the moment-captured-in-time is appealing, but the best stories show great maturity in dealing with the idea of growing older. C.S. Lewis should be commended for his use of a fantasy world as a way of addressing the changes every young person goes through. Of course, he was not the first, but no one before him had done it with such depth and lustrous allegory. Along with the obvious coming of age topics, Lewis’ Chronicles deal with religion, politics, morality, and philosophy in a way that helps the viewer forget that those are some heavy subjects.
Naturally, particular aspects of subtlety are lost in the transition of the written word to the big screen. One might argue that The Chronicles of Narnia did not necessitate the same flare and bombast that The Lord of the Rings presented. However, it is difficult not to get caught up in the action anyway, and Prince Caspian offers plenty of it. When the aunt of Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) gives birth to a son, Caspian, the rightful heir to the throne, is told to flee the kingdom or else he will be killed. Caspian’s professor sends the boy into the woods of Narnia in the hope that Caspian may call upon the Kings of Adam and Queens of Eve in an effort to save the kingdom from his uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto).
Legend has it that the past kings and queens of Narnia will return a thousand years later to once again save the land from evil. The Pevensies, the former royalty of legend, are only a year older and struggling with the reality that their actual lives must be lived out in England. When they last entered the wardrobe, they spent a lifetime in Narnia, so it is easy to forgive them for their skewed perception of reality. When they are summoned back to Narnia, it is a much different world than the one they remember, but they face the same task of vanquishing that which is evil in the name of all that is good so that Prince Caspian may fulfill his destiny.
In many ways, the adventures are the same, but the style and tone of this sequel are much more polished than the first installment. Somehow director Andrew Adamson makes less look like far more. The special effects, while still second-rate at times, are not nearly as distracting. The battles are bigger, but they don’t feel overdone. Most importantly, the actors playing the Pevensie children seem quite comfortable in their roles which is a shame, in a way, since this is likely their last time traveling to Narnia together (at least as played by these specific actors).
Yet no matter how many times Aslan, the Jesus-lion, reminds Lucy Pevensie that things never happen the same way twice (ironically that number is two) Prince Caspian feels too familiar. It is only a matter of time before viewers become too old to hear the same story over and over again. It is little wonder that the Peters and Susans of this world try to face forward without feeling completely hopeless about the loss of their childhood; they understand there will be more, albeit different, adventures in their future. But it is important that the Edmunds and Lucys out there do not forget to enjoy it while it lasts. Prince Caspian is good enough to warrant yet another potential visit to Narnia, but I fear that next time I may not be able to go along.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):