More noise than signal

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Y’know, there’s the very occasional time where despite the deep rooted pathological cynicism that haunts my soul and chips away at my sanity on a daily basis, I actually like something that’s aimed at my dwindling supply of hope. The previous Chronicle of Narnia The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was one such tale, although if my addled memory serves it wasn’t particularly well received critically due to it having the temerity to be in some way uplifting. Prince Caspian appears to want to rectify that, taking a somewhat darker tone and it appears to have worked it satisfying the critics. Shame, then, that away from the usual Critic Distortion Field and in the harsh light of reality it makes it a substantially poorer and less interesting film. Ah well.

Our returning kiddy heroes return to the land they were formerly Kinging and Queening over some several hundred years later to find it overrun by filthy, evil Spaniards. Or Tamerlanes, or Telmarines, or Space Marines, or whatever they’re called. After protracted campaigns they’ve invaded and driven the Narnians out of their lands with such ruthless efficiency that they’re believed to be extinct. We join our titular heir to the throne just as he’s escaping a plot from the moustache-twirlingly Evil Lord Protector Evil of Evilness (Sergio Castellitto) to have him bumped off in what seems to the the standard promotion plan of their culture.

Caspian (Ben Barnes) flees into the woods, promptly meeting the surviving centaurs, minotaurs, dwarves and sundries and making a case as to why they should not only decide against killing him but also that he should lead them into battle against his people, reclaiming the land and his throne and then living in peace and harmony with everyone who they’ve all just finished having pitched battles with. No-one said it was a perfect plan. Into this steps the kiddy Pevensie kings and queens of old to help, for given values of help, most of which is characterised by whining about how that bloody lion hasn’t shown up to help.

More than anything else, Prince Caspian‘s problems stem from being, largely, More Of The Same. Given that I rather liked the last film, this may take a little explaining. Most of the problems here were also present in the last one, which doesn’t really help with the explaining. The reason they’ve now become an issue is that one thing that did change, the tone.

When something’s pitched squarely into light fairytale territory, certain things can be forgiven or overlooked. Aiming for something slightly grittier (to a degree, anyway. I’m not saying this adheres to Dogme ’95 standards or anything) means that I’m inclined to be less generous. If you must have pitched battles and decapitations and all manner of general nastiness, completely glossing over the resultant death, destruction and bloodshed that is the consequence of this to preserve the film’s PG rating seems something of a cop out.

Kudos, of a sort, must go to the film for managing the extraordinary trick of seeming at once horribly rushed and too drawn-out. With a script that spends as much time, if not more lingering on the already established returning characters then poor new guys and creatures are largely relegated to sideshow status, Caspian himself never allowed time to become anything other than a generic floppy-haired, dodgy accented hero, which I suppose counterbalances our generic, sternly bebearded, dodgy accented megalomanic.

Which brings us to that stinking big elephant in the room standing over yonder, speaking for some reason as the Atheist’s Choice of film reviewing outlets. The whole series of these films are subtle Christian allegories, in the same way that the extinction of the dinosaurs was a subtle population adjustment. Sadly this prompts much the same frustrations with its story as with your full on Christ-god, but to be honest if I start talking about that then my blood pressure will rise to dangerous levels so perhaps it’s better to daintily skip over this.

Choice quote from Lawrence Miles – “I know there isn’t a God in exactly the same way that I know there isn’t a giant invisible elk called Gaston standing next to me, and for precisely the same reasons.” I would, incidentally, probably have less of a problem believing in Jesus Christ as our Saviour if it was promised that he’d save us by gnawing the face off of evildoers as per Liam Neeson Lion. That would be pretty awesome.

So, that aside, what Prince Caspian reduces to is a slightly less focussed and somewhat less enjoyable rehash of the first film. While this doesn’t make it a completely unenjoyable experience, it’s also not an experience special enough to warrant going even very slightly out of your way to see. I was about to call it mediocre, which would perhaps be overly harsh. It’s perfectly acceptable, but I was hoping for something a little more exciting than ‘okay’ from this and left disappointed.