“The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis are some of the most beloved youth novels in the world today. When Disney’s spin on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was released in 2005, it was one of the biggest films of the year. Yet other than box office receipts, the reception seemed to be somewhat lukewarm. So when it came time for the follow-up, Prince Caspian, things didn’t go so well monetarily. Ironically, although not spectacular, Prince Caspian is the better film of the two. Returning in the director’s chair, Andrew Adamson shows a more confident and defined vision that works on several levels, however it’s unable to overcome a nagging feel of disconnect that prevented me from fully investing in the film’s characters and their plight.
Siblings Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are called back to Narnia, the land in which they were once regarded as kings and queens. With Narnia being the magical place that it is, time has past much faster than in our world. Therefore their reign of peace is but a very distant memory. Now Narnia is breaking down and its inhabitants have been driven underground for so long that they’re seen as myths rather than real beings.
The Pevensie clan arrives to find Narnia divided and on the verge of war. Following a power play that mirrors the take down of Snow White, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) has been left on the run in his own kingdom. Banding with the Narnians, Caspian fights to restore peace in the utopian world.
Much time in Prince Caspian is spent preparing for the film’s various showdowns. While they are epic in scope once they happen, they take a long time in getting there. Rather than using the time to build an emotional connection to the characters, it feels more like dead space. It’s largely a matter of the vision coming to life but the core – the feelings and development of the characters – is lost. As a result I never felt much of an attachment to any of the characters or Narnia itself. So when the epic scenes happen I was merely watching in awe at what was on the screen rather than rooting for one side and jeering another. I was left indifference as to whether the plot went one way or another. So on that important level, Prince Caspian fails, yet at the same time there’s a definite sense that director Adamson achieved his vision as far as the design of the film.
The moment the action switches to Narnia you get the sense that Narnia is a real place. The sweeping beaches and treed hillsides make for a lush backdrop to the castles, villages and magical dwellings. It also creates a gorgeous distraction for the lack of character depth, as well as some excellent battle scenes.
Although there are the occasional light-hearted diversions, Prince Caspian is a much darker, violent and serious installment in the series. If the action isn’t centered around a battle, chances are it’s setting one up. As a result, the film might not be considered as family friendly as some might expect. There’s not a lot of blood or gory violence, but there certainly is the insinuation of such.
With Prince Caspian there were times when I was completely enthralled. The epic scope alone is a pleasant marvel. However there’s also a cold hollowness to the movie’s lack of development. Gaps are seemingly everywhere. The story makes sense but just barely. Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Prince Caspian is working, it’s memorable. It’s in the downtime that the film suffers and suffers badly.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Blu-ray Review
Prince Caspian comes to Blu-ray with a marvelous and in-depth three-disc set that presents the film beautifully and offers a stellar look into its making. The film is shown in full 1080p with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The English audio track is in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 KHz/24-bit). There’s also French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.
The feature film disc connects viewers to Disney’s BD-Live network with options for chat, movie challenges and networking with other film fans. The disc also includes a crowded commentary track with director Andrew Adamson and stars Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell. Much of the conversation is spent talking about the making of the film and not much else.
“Circle-Vision Interactive: Creating the Castle Raid” takes a 360-degree look at the making of one of the key scenes in the film via more than 30 short featurettes. As one might expect from the shear number of things to watch, seemingly every angle is looked at, showing just how complex and intricate the filmmaking process can be.
The BD’s second disc is filled with more traditional bonus features. They’re kicked off with “Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns,” which bridges the themes of the two Narnia films. It runs more than 30 minutes and includes lots of cast and crew interviews both on-set and outside. “Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life” is over 20 minutes in length and explores the various locales used in the film. Slightly anthropological, “Big Movie Comes to a Small Town” looks at the impact the filmmakers had when they filmed a key scene in the small Slovenian town of Slovec. “Talking Animals and Walking Trees” is a brief featurette about the appeal of the film’s fantastical creatures. Additional featurettes include looks at pre-visualization, the duel scene, creature transformations and a day on set with Warwick Davis, who is perhaps best know for his role as Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi. There’s also deleted scenes with optional commentary from director Adamson and a blooper reel.
The final disc is a digital copy of the film for computer and personal video player owners.
I’m just getting familiar with BD, and although the menus were sometimes hard to get around, it’s astounding to see the new possibilities and added space the format allows for on this stellar release.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Gallery