Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Battles around in "Narnia" sequel

*** out of ****

Based on C.S. Lewis' timeless book series, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is the second installment and just as entertaining as 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Taking place a year later, the Pevensie children are settling back into their normal life in London.
Older siblings Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) seem to have put Narnia behind them, while younger Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and youngest Lucy (Georgie Henley) are aching to go back.

The younger ones get their way, being transported back to Narnia, only this time they travel through a subway station.

And the mode of transport isn't the only new thing to have happened since last visiting Narnia. Although only one year has past, 2,300 years have elapsed in Narnia time, and the once magical land is left in shambles.

The Narnians are near extinction thanks to the human Telmarines.

The Telmarine race is in chaos. Prince Caspian's (Ben Barnes) evil uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), tries to assassinate Caspian after his wife (Alicia Borrachero) bears a boy who will become his successor. Caspian narrowly escapes his uncle's deadly clutches and runs off to Narnia for help.

Caspian promises to restore peace in Narnia if he can get his place back on the royal throne.

With the help of the Pevensies, Caspian rounds up all of the surviving mystical creatures in Narnia to rebel against Miraz and bring civility back to the land.

Even with more spectacular scenery, thrills, battles, creatures and carnage, "Prince Caspian" is slightly less impressive than it's predecessor. In lieu of the magical mysticism, we get more action.

Director Andrew Adamson ("The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") has become more tactful with his crafty camerawork, sweeping across the beautiful landscapes.

Almost two-and-a-half hours, the same length as the first film, "Prince Caspian" noticeably needs trimming.

The battle scenes are intense, epic and gargantuan. Edited superbly, one or two scenes could have been trimmed along with some dialogue and unneeded new characters.

The writing team of director Adamson, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return. The script delves a little too deep into the hierarchy of the land, and some humor also is missing.

"Prince Caspian" has a much darker and savage tone compared to the first, focusing less on the characters and more on politics and battles.

Peter Dinklage ("Death at a Funeral," "Nip/Tuck") as new character Trumpkin, a dwarf with dry wit, is a welcome addition. Eddie Izzard ("The Riches") also visits the world of Narnia as the voice of the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep, who is reminiscent of Shrek's Puss In Boots (Adamson also directed the first two "Shrek" movies). Hopefully at least one of the two will return for the next installment, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which is set to sail in 2010 and will be guided by new director Michael Apted ("Enough," "The World Is Not Enough").

The magnificent child actors that play the Pevensie children are marvelous and Castellitto is menacing as Miraz. Barnes, however, comes off too timid as the warrior Prince Caspian.

Not as perfect as the original, a faithful adaptation with rousing battles and likable characters makes "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" a summer blockbuster must-see.

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