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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

A Less Than Magical Sequel

It is a dark time in the land of Narnia as the tyrannical Lord Miraz has seemingly exterminated and/or banished all Narnians from the land. Miraz rules with an iron fist and legions of soldiers. Determined to ascend the throne and become king, Miraz attempts to kill the true heir to the throne, Prince Caspian. Hunted mercilessly through Beruna Woods, Caspian blows a sacred horn summoning help. Thus begins The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Jarringly we cut to London as the Pevensie siblings (Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and Susan) scramble to catch the subway and wax nostalgic about the time they once spent in Narnia and wonder if they will ever return. Conveniently, a magical portal to Narnia opens and the children return to the land they once ruled, but things are not what they once were.

If youre a bit confused, thats not surprising. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian does very little to orient the viewer to exactly who the Pevensies are, what they have been through, why they left Narnia, and why we should care. Even if you have seen the first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, youre likely to have some difficulty determining exactly whats happening and why its happening. If you havent seen the first film and/or have some familiarity with the books, youre likely to be very challenged.

Granted, you will be able to understand the main thread of the story which involves an epic fight between the banished Narnians and King Mirazs armies for the throne. But, why Caspian summons some kids from present day London with a magic horn to come back to join the fight and how the Narnians came to be banished (and nearly exterminated) when they certainly seem to put up a hell of a fight later in the film is unclear.

Fortunately, its a bit easy to overlook these challenges and simply sit back and enjoy the glut of fight scenes, death, and destruction. But, isnt The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian supposed to be a "family" film? Granted, we dont see people getting impaled, decapitated, or showers of blood, but this is a VERY violent film and I couldnt recommend this to any parent in good conscience with a child under the age of 14. Yet there were tons of children under the age of eight at the screening I attended.

Whats also a bit distressing about the battle between the Narnians and King Mirazs army is the large number of shots and scenes that seem to be virtually lifted from the The Lord of the Rings films. Trees come to life and attack Mirazs army (a la the Ents of Fangorn Forest from The Two Towers). Huge catapults bombard the Narnians stronghold (reminiscent of The Two Towers and Return of The King). Moreover, Mirazs soldiers bear a striking resemblance to many of the soldiers in the stylized 300 released last year. Maybe this is just being faithful to the book, but it seemed suspect.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian aspires to be a broad, sweeping fantasy epic but falls way short. Its challenging to understand exactly whats at stake and you never learn enough about the Narnians (or the Pevensies) to really care too much about their fate. They seem like good people, you arent really given an opportunity to develop an emotional connection with them. The film is also EXTREMELY long (well over 2 hours) which makes it all the more distressing that theres still much in the film that needs some kind of explanation or development.

What youre left with is a film that isnt bad, but doesnt really work as a film for children due to the violence and doesnt totally work for adults. Furthermore, both audiences are not unlikely to have problems understanding whats happening if they dont have some prior exposure to the Narnia books or the first film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars