Disney delivers a royal mess!
Like many of you out there, I am a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. While I grew up loving the stories presented in Lewis’s work, I felt the first film adaptation, “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe,” was entirely generic and uninteresting.
After witnessing the astonishing amount of care and detail put into J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series by director Peter Jackson, you might say I was a bit spoiled. While watching “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” I didn’t feel a vivacious, passionate love for the material emanating from within. It seemed like Andrew Adamson and Disney had stripped Narnia of its grandeur and replaced it with comic kiddy pandering.
Well that was 2005, and now three years later the second film adaptation of Narnia is hitting the big screen. “Prince Caspian” takes place one year after the events of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) are whisked away to the magical world of Narnia again, only to discover that more than 1,300 years have passed.
During their absence, a race of men called Telmarines has invaded Narnia, driving the magical talking beasts and mythical creatures into the wilderness where they have faded from existence. King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), the despotic leader of the Telmarines, now rules a darker, more savage Narnia.
The Pevensie children have been summoned back to Narnia by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), the rightful heir to the Telemarine throne, to combat his evil uncle Miraz. Joining them on their quest is the surly, intrepid dwarf, Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage of “The Station Agent”); a courageous talking mouse, Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard); and the dubious Black Dwarf, Nikabrik (Warwick Davis). With their help the former kings and queens of Narnia must restore majesty and peace to the land.
“Prince Caspian” is much darker in tone than it’s predecessor, which works for and against it. The Pevensies and Caspian storm castles and defend their lands, killing numerous Telmarine soldiers in the process. There’s even a beheading, though not completely shown it is heavily inferred. How did this movie get a PG rating? In a weird way, it’s almost encouraging such violence and even promotes vengeance for Caspian to kill his uncle Miraz.
The main problem with this is how much it clashes with the typical Disney yuck-yuck parts. The talking animals are back and instead of being wise old creatures full of wonder and mystery, they deliver one-liners that are seldom humorous and always out of place. The computer-generated imagery that brings these creatures to life is sub par at best. Badgers, squirrels, mice and even the more mythical centaurs and minotaurs look fake and unconvincing – a step down even from the first film.
“Prince Caspian” is completely devoid of spirit and style. Adamson’s visual direction is not his strong suit. Everything feels completely generic, like a fantasy paint-by-numbers. His transitions between scenes are awkward and the character development simply goes nowhere. Instead of introducing characters and working on each separately, slowly intertwining them into the story, Adamson dumps them all out on the table at once like a child wanting to show off his favorite toys.
The result is a messy, clumsy movie. The set pieces are just that, pieces. Everything looks shiny and new, even the 1300 ruins. So many times throughout the movie it’s obvious that we’re seeing something because it was built so for the movie. The background scenery feels less magical and fantastical and more like… well, Oregon.
The poorly written dialogue is delivered ineptly from the child actors, who still can’t carry a film. Newcomer Ben Barnes isn’t completely awful as Prince Caspian, but his performance is undercooked and fails to live up to the character. This is probably the most unfortunate thing about this movie – I never cared once for anything the characters said or did. The only stars to stand out in this otherwise mundane cast are Warwick Davis and Peter Dinklage as the dwarfs.
The world felt counterfeit from the get-go and never was I convinced that Narnia might possibly exist – that these creatures were real and wise. Instead I felt like I was watching a Disney cartoon in which talking animals cause tomfoolery and shenanigans while the human characters stumble over their own feet until the conclusion of the film.
“Prince Caspian” is not a bad film. While it’s a dragged-out exercise in how to make an epic with no epic scale, there is nothing so atrocious in the film that I would say it isn’t worth seeing. Adamson delivers another completely generic and uninteresting movie. Small children will find delight and humor in the animal characters, and enough action to keep them in their seats but older moviegoers will find little to chew on and even less they haven’t seen before.
C.S. Lewis and his magical world of Narnia deserves better.