Monday, May 19, 2008


Since the development of CGI, Fantasy films go either of two ways: hit or miss. They can hit and hit BIG, as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or they can miss, some doing so more intensely than others. The Golden Compass = BIG miss. Gorgeous but flat (and SO not deserving of the special effect awards that should have gone to Transformers!). The Spiderwick Chronicles = slight miss. A fantastic series of books (the 'field guide' itself is a brilliant piece of work) that didnt translate to the screen with much impact.

Ever since I was a young'n, I have always ADORED the Narnia books. C.S. Lewis was such an intuitive author, and so respectful of the spiritual side of things. My son has recently taken up the reading of this series and he, even at age eight, is very entertained by them. If you read them as an adult, it's impossible to miss the biblical parallels based on Lewis' own study and love of scripture, but as a child-they're just great books. Good triumphs over evil and all that. Anyway, I was beyond thrilled when the first film installment (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)was released a couple of years ago. It was expertly cast, true to the source material, and the effects were endearing, warm, and beautiful. My only complaint was that it did not seem to translate to the screen as effectively as I once thought it would-after all my hopes and aspirations for the movie, it was just a smidgen anti-climactic. My score was 8.5/10

Not so with this second film, Prince Caspian, which outshines the first endeavor in every way. The book was always one of my least favorite of the series, so replete was it with battle scenes that the story seemed slim. It needed cinematic brilliance to bring it to life. Not only has Adamson brought it to life, he has made it one of the best Fantasy films that I've seen.

The story follows the four Pevensie children as they re-enter the world of Narnia hundreds of years after their rule. The castle in which they dwelt, Cair Paravel, is now in ruins and the mystical creatures of the land have all been in hiding for centuries. The evil Telmarines, humans (of Spanish descent?)who have crossed into the magical land, have vanquished and suppressed the Narnians until few believe they exist anymore. Prince Caspian, heir to the Telmarine throne, find himself in mortal danger from his wicked uncle, King Miraz, after the Queen gives birth to a son. The King wants his own son to inherit the throne and will stop at nothing to bring this to pass. Caspian escapes to the woods where many Narnians are hiding and with the help of they and the Pevensies, fights to win back his rightful place.

Because of the time that has passed, we have the opportunity to meet many new and interesting creatures. Badgers, large mice (R.O.U.S.'s anyone?), minotaurs, dwarves, and centaurs rally around the prince with passionate loyalty. Of the newly introduced characters, Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin the dwarf and Reepicheep the Warrior Mouse (ably voiced by Eddie Izzard) make the largest impression. The returning cast also brings alot more to this film. Other than Liam Neeson's late appearance as Aslan and Tilda Swinton in a small cameo as the White Witch, all of them are given a meatier, more layered role. We see Edmund and Lucy as noble adults (since they have already lived to adult-hood in Narnia, it isnt likely they would act like children in this film), Susan as a regal lady and cunning warrior, Peter as a great king-torn between his duty to Narnia and his loyalty for Aslan. They all do an excellent job, with Georgie Henley (Lucy) really standing out and coming into her own as an actress. Her close-ups are especially memorable; the camera loves her face.

The story moves along quickly, despite the 2 hrs plus run-time. Only the end of the film seems to drag a little, as the filmmakers attempt to prepare us for the next movie. But the body of the film scoots along at a spritely pace, providing ample time for character set-up and storytelling alike. The two key battles last for a long time but are interspliced with quieter segments that make the action stand out all the more. The visuals are absolutely stunning and the camera work is innovative in itself, a quality which I feel sets it apart from many other 'pretty' films of the genre. I felt that the actual fighting was on par with the battle at the end of Return of the King, and somehow a little more suspenseful since nobody wants to see a giant mouse or a kid kick the bucket. Though the film is darker than the first, it still resonates as a bit more 'kid-friendly' than the 'Rings' movies. There are some intense battle scenes but I felt they were skillfully edited and though the sound effects were cringe-inducing, very little blood is visually shed. Artistically and emotionally, I felt this movie was a treat.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in pre-production and I'm even more anxious to see it brought to fruition now that this one is such a success. With the popularity 'Prince Caspian' is sure to bring to the franchise, I'm hoping the producers will continue to pull out all the stops and give us another gorgeous story to enjoy. The future looks bright, I must say.

My rating: 8/10


Blogger Homyrrh said...

Eh, your last 10 reviews have averaged a discriminating!

7:01 PM  
Blogger jewlover2 said...

Yes, I tend to review movies I think others should see...which would be evident in the higer rating. Thanks for noticing.

7:12 AM  

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