Narnia gets angsty

Despite religious controversy, British comedians and rampant swashbuckling, the first response produced by viewing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a resounding…”meh.”

Despite religious controversy, British comedians and rampant swashbuckling, the first response produced by viewing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a resounding…”meh.”

Prince Caspian is definitely a solid (if not exactly faithful) adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic, but that’s pretty much all it is. Good, not great.

Writer/director Anthony Adamson, of Shrek fame, aims moderately high, achieving appropriately moderate hits and misses.

For those who never read the books as a kid (or for those like me who did and forgot the plot), Prince Caspian is the second of seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. In the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four British children discover a wardrobe in an old professor’s house that transports them to the land of Narnia, which happens to be under the spell of the evil White Witch.

The four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) meet with Aslan, a wise and compassionate lion who Lewis himself described as an alternate version of Christ. With Aslan’s help, the children fulfill a prophecy to overthrow the White Witch and then ascend the throne to become the rightful Kings and Queens of Narnia for several years. Then one day, while riding through the forest, they find the old professor’s wardrobe and “bam!” they’re back in the real world and can’t return to Narnia. Total buzz kill.

This brings us to Prince Caspian, in which the four children are transported back to Narnia one day while waiting on a platform in the London Underground. A tyrannical despot, Miraz, has ascended the throne, and the four kids meet up with the exiled and rightful ruler, Prince Caspian, to go ruin Miraz’s shit. Sweet battle scenes ensue.

Overall, Prince Caspian is a lot darker and a bit more epic in tone than its predecessor, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Part of this could simply be attributed to Peter’s character, who has stopped standing in the middle of battles looking scared and has started to deliver some major ass-whuppings.

There are also more hair-raising moments, along with a not-so-complex rivalry between Peter and Caspian, and an even less complex attraction between Lucy and Caspian. Neither relationship was in the book, and both seem to be designed to appeal to the pre-teen/early-teen audiences, which were three years younger when they watched the first movie.

To be fair to Adamson, actor Ben Barnes’ portrayal of Caspian is one of the worst parts of the film. His character’s flaws and mishaps are meant to give the story depth and shape, but instead he gives the story a whiny, hotheaded douchebag. Also, he has the worst Spanish accent ever, which Barnes claims was modeled after the accent used by Mandy Patinkin portraying Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. Fail.

So three-dimensional characters may be out, but fortunately, two dimensions aren’t always that bad, either. The battle scenes are ubiquitous but fairly exciting, particularly the siege on Miraz’s castle and the climactic battle at Aslan’s How. A lengthy sword fight between Peter and Miraz turns out to be the best part of the film.

Most of the supporting characters are pretty decent as well. Trumpkin the dwarf is an interesting ally of the children. Lord Glozelle, Miraz’s general, is easily one of the most intriguing and nuanced characters in the film. Also, British comedian Eddie Izzard voices the dashing mouse Reepicheep, which turns out to be just as awesome as it sounds.

On that note, a last word about the Christian parallels running throughout the Narnia series that have revived interest and slight controversy among some: Get over it.

Yes, Adamson plays up the Aslan-as-Christ metaphor and other Christian themes in the book, and it’s done it in an enjoyable and affirming way for those of Christian faith. Yet, it’s also unobtrusive enough that those not familiar with Christianity probably won’t even notice. Critics should un-knot their underwear and leave well enough alone.

Prince Caspian may not be Oscar-worthy; it may not even be “$9 on a Friday night” worthy. But it is a whole-heartedly decent flick that’s definitely worth viewing at some point if you ever dug the Narnia books, or even if you’re just itching for a straight-up fantasy movie with good old-fashioned swordplay and a fight between good and evil. Rockin’.