This follow up to the very well done The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does not really add much to the series. It is missing the heart that was so prevalent in the original. This is possibly due to the much smaller role for Aslan the lion (Voiced again by Liam Neeson) and a new leading man (Ben Barnes) who is quite bland. Other than a brilliant voice performance by Eddie Izzard as the swashbuckling rat, Reepicheep, there is not much here to enjoy.
The film picks up a year after the events of the first film. A year for the Pevensie children is over 100 for the magical land of Narnia and things have not gone well since the Pevensie children returned home after the events of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Narnia has been overrun by an evil king, who has banished all the magical woodland creatures to the forest where they plan a revolution. The Pevensie children are summoned back to Narnia in order to return the rightful heir, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), to the throne. It’s funny that it has only been one year for the Pevensies, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmond (Skander Keynes) look at least five years older. It’s a small gripe, but I’d have been satisfied if they said it was a few years later, or not suggested explicitly how much time had passed. The actors are clearly more than a year older and it seems like the film makers are not really respecting their audience.
The Pevensie kids are again the main characters. The oldest boy, Peter (William Moseley) has a power struggle with Caspian when they arrive at Narnia until they eventually are able to work together. There is also a heavily implied romantic connection between the oldest sister Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Caspian, which I found very interesting. If he is the rightful heir to the throne of Narnia, then isn’t he technically related to Susan somehow as the four Pevensie children were kings and Queens before they went back home to England.*
Barnes’s Caspian is a generic character who adds nothing to the story. I was disappointed watching this film again. I remember liking Prince Caspian more than the original when it first came out, but on second viewing, the first Narnia film was far superior. It had a great villain in Tilda Swinton (who is shoehorned into one scene of this film to get her name in the credits) and was much more enjoyable. Caspian struggles with an overly long running time and many scenes that seem to be added only to remind people that this is a sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Like the previously mentioned scene with Tilda Swinton and the few scenes with Aslan. They all seem to exist to remind the audience that this is a Narnia film. If your sequel has to do that, then you’ve likely gone wrong in other areas.
Prince Caspian was never my favorite Narnia book (The Horse and His Boy— check it out), so it’s not really a surprise that it’s not my favorite movie. It’s less faithful to its source material than Wardrobe, but it also digs deeper into relationships and emotions that were only hinted at in the book (or oddly ignored).
In this installment the Pevensie children have spent a year dealing with school uniforms, homework, and bullies. It’s a big adjustment for four kids who were not only kings and queens of their own country, but who had aged about a decade while living in the magical world. Imagine being 20 and accidentally stumbling back into your 10 year old life, while retaining memories of what it was like being an adult and knowing you’d have to relive your awkward teen years all over again. It always bugged me that this wasn’t really mentioned in the book.
The movie also sets up a rivalry between oldest boy Peter and future king of Narnia, Caspian. In the book there is no rivalry, but this addition actually makes sense. Not only is Peter dealing with being a kid again, but he’s now competing for authority with a stranger his own age. Who is this Caspian? What makes him so special? This bit makes sense, and also adds to Peter’s character and personal growth by the end of the film.
The change I didn’t agree with were the ones that made Caspian much less magical than Wardrobe. Action dominates this movie. The climactic battle at the end is fine, what I take exception to is the storming of the Telmarine castle halfway through the film. This never happened in the book, and I don’t feel it adds much to the story.
Caspian also reveals the “problem” with this series. At the end, Peter and Susan are told by Aslan that they are too old to return to Narnia for the time being. This means that they will not return in the next movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Anyone who has actually read the books will know that half the leads will be gone by the third installment, but Hollywood can’t rely on book fans alone to make the movies blockbusters. Especially when none of the original children would appear in the fourth, the events of the fifth happen during the events of the Wardrobe, the sixth is actually a prequel to the entire series, and the seventh gets super religious. The Narnia books may be beloved, but their original publication order (which is what most people are most familiar with) is definitely not conventional. And if there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from Hollywood, it’s trying to be as conventional as possible.
*I feel the need to point out that Caspian and Susan are not related. Caspian is a Telmarine, who are descendants of pirates who accidentally stumbled into Narnia and later take over in the Pevensie’s absence. Also, the Pevensie children never marry or have children while adults in Narnia, so they can’t have any descendants. The reason Caspian is “heir” to the throne is thanks to a prophesy and the fact that he actually likes the Narnians, so they rally behind him. I definitely need to get Ben to read this entire series.