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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I might have skipped the second installment of the Chronicles of Narnia franchise, Prince Caspian, but the wife took me to see it.  I read the books as a kid such a long time ago that I didn’t remember much of anything of the series beyond the basics of the first book.  I do remember really liking them, and found the first movie engaging. 

The sequel, however, was a bit of a letdown.

On the positive side, if you’re a fan of CGI in the fantasy genre, there’s a lot of eye candy for you to enjoy.  While not all of the animals can still talk (there’s some preachiness about how treating them like dumb animals turned them into dumb animals – more on this later), there’s still plenty of cute and cuddlies to see and hear. 

The mythical creatures are even better.  The minotaurs are as massive as you might imagine, and the centaurs merge their live-action and rendered parts seamlessly.

The four actors from the first movie (William Mosely as Peter, Anna Popplewell as Susan, Skandar Keynes as Edmund, and Georgie Henley as Lucy) all do a fine job reprising their roles as the Pevensie kids.  Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian broadens the movie’s reach to teenaged girls looking for some new eye candy.

Unfortunately, the movie fell short for me in several ways:

First, the front half of the movie is overly long, and dull for many stretches.  Despite the long introduction, I felt it missed some of the setup of the kids’ lives other than the very short-lived scene in the London tube.  Folks who don’t know the books or haven’t seen the first movie will get lost.

The kids in the movie do what they can to keep it interesting, but there’s no real story arc or progression for most of them.  Edmund, who was a pivotal character in the first movie, could have been omitted without losing anything.  Lucy gets to learn a little about faith (argh!)  And despite being in the title role and getting the most screen time, Prince Caspian is fairly one dimensional – he really just serves as a vehicle to get us from one battle scene to the next.

Speaking of battle scenes, we get an unlikely Legolas in this movie.  Some of you will know who this is, but I won’t spoil it for those who don’t.  Let’s just say I liked it better in the Lord of The Rings movies.  More broadly, there’s a bunch of key moments in this movie that I remembered seeing in other, better movies.

It’s also pretty violent, just minus the blood in order to keep a PG rating. I don’t normally object to violence in movies – and there are some battle scenes that really put you in the middle of the action – but what was a little off-putting to me was seeing the four kids take part, with no hesitation or remorse whatsoever – yes, even cute little Lucy.  These are kids in a kids movie!

Finally, the movie got more and more preachy as the story progressed.  When the first movie was released, there was a lot of talk about how Aslan, the talking lion, was a thinly-veiled Jesus Christ.  In this movie, I felt it even more – especially when it allows a neat and tidy clean-up at the end.

Overall, I would have rated this as a "Wait for Cable" movie, but the special effects made seeing this on the big screen worthwhile.

Rating – Bargain Matinee

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