Jun 17, 2008

[Movies] The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianAfter the mixed success of the first Disney-sponsored Narnia film adaptation, I wasn't surprised to hear about work on a sequel. Let's face it - we live in a post-LOTR world and epic movies and fantasy series are instantly appealing to movie makers and their financial supporters.

The initial trailers certainly showed a lot of promise and of course the new spotlight on young actor Ben Barnes certainly helped spur things along as well. Let's face it - geeks like me always have cause to celebrate the continued support (and to some extent monetization) of fantasy stories and their limelight on the silver screen.

It was certainly an experience to watch the film at the historic Pacific El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard since this essentially was the Disney theater and they pulled out all the stops to make the screening memorable. Beyond the film itself, the theater had been decorated to feel like an Underground tunnel in the middle of the war and a special museum of set pieces and costumes from the film had been set up in the basement as well. I entered the theater with as little expectations as possible - something that's very important when it comes to both sequels and adaptations. Let's face it - you can never really beat the original work at times so it becomes unfair to even try to compare them.

The tale of Prince Caspian takes place one year after the events of the first film, at least in a "real world" sense, but far longer in Narnia time. The Penvensie children are older and tend to act like annoying adolescents (as they should) and as an odd solution to this circumstance, things come together in order to drag them back to the magical world of Narnia. They find that far too many years have past and Narnia is at work with the Telmarines with most of the magical folk gone into hiding. At the same time, the Prince Caspian of the Telmarines (Ben Barnes) has run away from a plot to have him assassinated in order to seize the throne and he has no other choice but to seek the aid of the Narnians to retake his royal rights.

In classic Disney-Narnian fashion, the film has a fair collection of interesting creatures and well crafted costumes and creature designs. They've certainly gotten somewhat better at bring the magical creatures to life in many respects although at the same time you'd think there'd be a different variety of creatures beyond what we've already seen. Oh well.

The story was rather good and I appreciated how the writers tried to inject more natural humor into the dialog as opposed to how serious and somewhat somber the first film had been. A good audience is sure to pick up on this and it makes the movie experience a lot better to have a lot of people, both young and old, laughing along with you.

As much as I try not to compare the adaptation to the original medium, it must be noted that the movie does take certain liberties in terms of deviating from the original work in order to up the entertainment value, build stronger ties with the original movie and further develop the characters. Some purists have been complaining about the changes, but I feel the changes were only done in an attempt to make the story better and to further flesh out the characters so they don't seem so wooden and one-dimensional.

Overall, it's a pretty entertaining film that has a lot in store for fans of the series but also has a lot for newcomers both young and old. It's not strictly a "kiddie film" but retains that Disney stamp of family wholesomeness.

And Ben Barnes is pretty fetching. =P
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