If a sequel’s sole mission is to fix the main problems with its predecessor, then The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is the perfect sequel. The two main problems with the first Narnia movie were the slightly lackluster villain and a general feeling that the filmmakers couldn’t take any risks for fear of becoming too violent, scary, or thematically dark for the children it was aimed at. Prince Caspian takes things in a darker direction and as a result no longer feels like it’s playing things safe.
The film begins with the four children from the first film, now a year or two older — three in real life — being called back to Narnia to help save the world. However, they’re not returning to the Narnia they knew; they’re coming back to one that has aged 1,300 years. They have to figure this out and emotionally reconcile it rather early on. Everyone they knew in the first film is now dead, and their kingdom is no more. In fact, most of the Narnians have been wiped out by a group of men known as the Telmarines.
It was a Telmarine, the titular Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), who summoned the four children back to the land of magic. For reasons not particularly important, he was almost killed and is now being hunted by the rest of the Telmarines. The rest of the story involves Caspian, the children, a dwarf named Trumkin (Peter Dinklage), and the remaining Narnians to fight back against the Telmarines and bring peace back to all the lands. Isn’t that a noble goal?
Doesn’t this already sound better than the more aimless, lighter plot of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? That one had a villain whose overall scheme was less clear and, in all honesty, not really all that bad. The villains in this film want to kill everyone; the White Queen just wanted it to always snow. The violence has also been ramped up. You see people die in this movie. Someone’s head gets cut off — although that’s been sneakily edited so you don’t technically see the blade cut it off, even though the implication is very clear.
There is also more action and grand battles. That makes sense given that the villains want to commit genocide against the Narnians; the latter has to frequently defend themselves against the former. You also get more conflict between the main characters. The kids are growing up, and are no longer the wide-eyed, innocent beings they were at the start of the last film. I mean, they did spend 20 or more years ruling over Narnia, didn’t they, even if that time didn’t pass in the real world? You can understand how they’d be more opinionated, more independent, and more interesting.
For example, Peter (William Moseley), the oldest of the Pevensie kids, winds up in something of a rivalry with Caspian. Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Caspian develop something of a romantic interest in one another, although that thankfully never becomes much of a focus. Edmund (Skandar Keynes) begins maturing and almost becoming the most level-headed of the children, even more so than Peter. Lucy (Georgie Henley) is still quite open-minded, and continues to think that she sees the great lion, Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), from the first film.
One of the highlights of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the special effects. Prince Caspian looks just as good, if not better. The animals look a little less awkward when doing human-like actions and the CGI blends seamlessly with the live-action; you’re not going to find many films that contain special effects better than this one. You have to applaud the amount of work that the filmmakers have put into the series thus far, especially given that many of the people watching them, the younger children, won’t even notice.
Can someone try to explain to me how Prince Caspian managed to get away with a PG rating? I know the MPAA isn’t exactly the most credible of systems, but some of the battle scenes in this film are every bit as violent as those found in, say, the Lord of the Rings series. Maybe not quite, but very close. I thought at times the first film was close to pushing the PG boundary, but given how much darker Prince Caspian is, that couldn’t have been the case.
It is hard to get over the fact that the supporting cast is all more enjoyable to watch than the children, even if they are more interesting in this film than the last. Peter Dinklage’s Trumpkin is hilarious, a sword-fighting mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard steals the show, and we wait a long time hoping to catch a glimpse of Aslan, even though he’s not really in the film all that much.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is an improvement on its predecessor and makes for a very enjoyable sequel. Its characters are deeper, its story and themes are darker, and the villains have a devious plan instead of a wishy-washy one. This is an entertaining, action-packed fantasy movie. It runs for two and a half hours but it doesn’t feel long. Its action is rather violent and I’m surprised the film got away with a PG rating, but when you’re a Disney movie I suppose you can get away with a lot of things. If you liked the last film, I reckon you’re really going to like this one.