The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – DVD Review

In recent years, there has been a popular trend of taking a series of beloved science-fiction/fantasy novels and turning them into movies. First, there was the Harry Potter series. Then, there was Lord of the Rings. Right now, the “it” series is Twlight. Back in 2005, the first Chronicles of Narnia film was released, though, and you knew there just had to be a sequel to that film. Three years after The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, we now have Prince Caspian. Like any film based on a book, there are going to be haters of the film simply because they left out parts of the book in the movie. But the real question here is whether or not the film is entertaining and as good as the original?

In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, siblings Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) are whisked back to the realm of Narnia thanks to a magical train station. They quickly learn that while one year has passed for them since their last visit, hundreds have gone by in Narnia, and the land is in ruin. Overrun by humans led by villainous King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), it’s up to Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) to escape the clutches of Miraz and seek counsel with the creatures and leaders that remain in Narnia. Teaming up with the Prince, Peter and the clan decide to fight Miraz for control of the land, while Lucy searches anxiously for signs of the all-powerful lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson).

The first Narnia film was a fun-filled fantasy-adventure for the whole family. It helped that you were introduced to this whole new world of people, animals, and creatures. However, Prince Caspian is a much darker and violent film. The scenery is awesome to look at, and there is a lot more action battle scenes in this film; but the film strays a little too much from the books here, even for casual fans. There is just not as much depth to the story here as there was in the original.

Thankfully, the main weakness of the first film has been turned into a semi-strength in this film. The young cast were all new to films in the first film, so there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between them. But now the young stars who play Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have had time to mature and become better actors. No starmaking performances or anything, but at least they have improved and do respectable jobs in their expanded roles. The new additions to cast in the main villain and hero, played by Sergio Castellitto and Ben Barnes respectively, are quite “dreamy” for young teenage girls to look at but overall their performances are nothing special. This film is really missing the lion and the witch from the first film. But it’s not all less-than-spectacular. There are some funny additions to the cast here with two dwarves (played by Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis) and a sword-wielding mouse (voiced by Eddie Izzard), but all of these characters seem to have been done better in other film. So in a way the acting has improved in some ways, but not as good in other ways, and really only merely average overall.

That same statement above could be applied to the entire film actually. Director and co-writer of Andrew Adamson, seems to be taking this franchise in a new direction that won’t please many hardcore fans of the C.S. Lewis novels. Prince Caspian will certainly please action fans as there are definitely more battle scenes here. That also means there is more violence in this film and less suitable for younger members of the family. That being said, there is no real blantant bloodshed shown on camera. The visual effects are outstanding as well, so if you like all of that, this will be a highly entertaining film. But it still lacks the magic and depth of the original film and the C.S. Lewis novels. The central story of this film is not that compelling either. So in the end, what you have with Prince Caspian is a great-looking film with has lots going on in half of the film, but not a whole lot going on in the other half, which is ideally the definition of the word average.

The video is given in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TV. The video is outstanding as it should be since the best part of this film is the visual effects. Colors seem vivid, the contrast is good, and the level of detail is quite good for a standard definition DVD. Only a little grain is noticeable, but no real major or minor problems here.

The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear for the most part. There are times where the music sometimes drowns out the dialogue, though. But there are really no major problems here, just a few minor ones.

Audio Commentary
There is a full-length commentary Andrew Adamson (director), Ben Barnes (actor), Georgie Henley (actor), Skandar Keynes (actress), William Moseley (actor), and Anna Popplewell (actress). There is a lot of people on this track, but it is both informative and entertaining. So a definite must-listen for those that like this film.

“Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns” Featurette
This runs 35 minutes and it’s more like a “general information” featurette. Director, Andrew Adamson, talks about his exhaustive experience with the first film, and how it almost cancelled him out for a second one. There is a mixture of “behind-the-scenes” interviews from various cast and crew members, footage of blue/green screen work, and other footage from the film. It covers a lot of things, so a good place to start if you want to know more about this film.

“Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life” Featurette
This runs 24 minutes and it’s all about designing the sets for this film. It talks about C.S. Lewis’ lack of emphasis on concrete details on environment. Douglas Greshem, co-producer for the film and close friend to C.S. Lewis, talks about the “realism” of the sets as well. This film is high on visual effects, so interesting to learn more about this aspect of the film.

“Big Movie Comes to a Small Town” Featurette
This runs 23 minutes and it’s all about the small town of Bovec. It’s the shooting location for one of the film’s big closing moments, as it has a beautiful river that Adamson wanted to film at. Lots of good information and interviews here, including one from the oldest woman still living in this town. Another intriguing featurette.

“Pre-Visualizing Narnia” Featurette
This runs 10 minutes and it’s all about the pre-visualization of Narnia. It starts out with an explanation of what a pre-viz department does. Adamson talks about how this film utilized the department more because of the complexity of the battle sequences. More interview time with various people to go along with rough material available for us to see. Again, interesting to watch.

“Talking Animals and Walking Trees” Featurette
This runs 5 minutes and it’s all about Narnia’s talking creatures. Although, towards the end it turns into a environmental/ecological message piece. Not as compelling as the previous featurettes.

“Secret of the Duel” Featurette
This runs 7 minutes and it explains the choreography for the key final battle. Just your standard stuff here.

“Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik” Featurette
This runs 11 minutes and it’s all about how Warwick Davis becomes the dwarf Nikabrik. Lots of talk about the make-up work to create this character.

“Becoming Trumpkin” Featurette
This runs 5 minutes and it’s all about how Peter Dinklage becomes the dwarf Trumpkin. See previous featurette.

Deleted Scenes
There are 10 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film and they run 11 minutes. Nothing “must-watch” here really.

Blooper Reel
This is 3 minutes worth of bloopers from making this film. Usual stuff here. Not really that funny, but fans will enjoy this.

Prince Caspian is an interesting sequel, because in some ways it is better than the original. But in other ways, it fails to live up to the standards that the original Chronicles of Narnia set. If you like visual effects and action, you will like this film more. If you like the magic of the first film and the original C.S. Lewis novels, you’ll complain about missed opportunities. So it’s worth a rental for everyone because it’s entertaining, but not the “must buy” title of the fall.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Directed by Andrew Adamson. Starring Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, and Pierfrancesco Favino. Written by Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely (screenplay); C.S. Lewis (book). Running time: 144 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: December 2, 2008.
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