1 July 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review

So! Narnia 2.0 has trotted onto our screens, and I'll readily admit that I rather enjoyed the first one - so was more or less looking forward to being regaled with another tale of Narnia. Unfortunately, I came out of the cinema completely underwhelmed.

So, a year has passed for the Pevensie children - being, as they are, adults now trapped in human bodies - but in Narnia, more than 1,300 years have gone by, and a race of humans known as the Telmarines have invaded Narnia, and hunted the native inhabitants more or less to extinction. The titular Caspian, a Telmarine prince, has been driven from his home thanks to a plot by his uncle Miraz to over throw the Royal line, and so Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy must rally behind him to retake Narnia.

I'll get this out the way first - Prince Caspian annoyed me. Not the movie itself, but the character - Ben Barnes may well be a very fine actor, but when you saddle even a ridiculously fine actor with an absolutely horrifically annoying accent, you're going to rile some folk up. To be quite honest, I struggled to emphasise with his - or indeed that of the rest of the Telmarines - plight, simply because I couldn't figure out where their accent was supposed to be from. Quite what was wrong with just letting them speak in a natural-sounding accent is beyond me.

This isn't the only problem when it comes to actors - two, possibly even three of the central actors are turning out to be rather poor choices for their roles. William Moseley comes out the worst of the bunch - he certainly possesses the physical chops to pull off an action-heavy role like Peter, but lacks the necessary acting prowess to pull off some of the more emotional moments. He also tries his very hardest to give something vaguely fearsome in his battle cry, but I've been more terrified by sloths on Valium. Then there's Anna Poppawell as Susan, who now seems content to turn up and look pouty, only she's not exactly Scarlett Johansson, and so she successfully brings nothing to the role bar a stale reading of the lines.

Georgie Henley is perhaps the biggest disappointment. After the mischievous glint present in her eyes in the first movie, she's now just another competent child actor that - whilst better than the two eldest of the four kids - is still merely solid and nothing more. It's perhaps surprising, then, that Skandar Keynes as Edmund comes off with the most kudos - he's somehow managed to naturally extend the spoiled, arrogant brat in the first film to a world-weary teenager with a ready wit and a wicked edge to his grin. To say that he underplays it to great effect is something of an understatement.

The quality of the actors playing humans is particularly disappointing, given the array of brilliance that infuses the CGI characters. Eddie Izzard provides a charming - albeit rather prototypical - portrayal of Reepicheep; the only disappointment being that there's so very little of him. Peter Dinklage puts in a rather fantastically grumpy performance as the dwarf Trumpkin, along with some understated performances by the CGI-enhanced centaurs and satyrs.

It's also a huge pity that the fight sequences - in the first half of the film at least - are completely bloodless. Not just literally - this is a PG movie, after all - but also figuratively; there's just not the spark of energy and excitement that the battles in the first film had. Fortunately, they pick up after the half-way point, culminating in an absolutely terrific final confrontation that starts with a man-on-man duel and ends with a full-scale battle completely with collapsible ground. It does decided to devolve into deus ex machina, and whilst it's explained and developed properly in the source novel, here it just feels tacked on.

In all honestly, it falls down to Andrew Adamson's direction. Having come in fresh from the Shrek movies, he seems only able to competently direct things that don't have grounds in reality! It's unfortunate, really, because this did have the potential to be a thoroughly entertaining film. It is instead merely an average one - technically a better achievement than the first one, but somehow worse for the experience. Worth it if you're a fan of Narnia and you're able to work past Ben Barnes' ludicrous accent, but missable if you occupy the space outside that particular intersection of oddballs.

Ross' Rating: 6/10

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