I can tell that it is the summer blockbuster season. This doesn't have so much to do with the weather that is heating up as it has to do with the sense of familiarity. Audiences have come to expect a sense of re-visiting an old friend rather than jumping headfirst into something new. This is precisely why The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian brings out that sense of familiarity. Since the success of the first installment, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the odds are high that audiences are clamoring for more fantasy adventures with the same principle leads and same CGI creatures that won them over the first time around. Prince Caspian, while not the second book in the literary series by C.S. Lewis, is that much-wanted follow-up that brings excited viewers back to Narnia. When walking into the film, my big question was how much uninspired repetition would be happening in this storyline, and will it really bring new material to the table. Considering the fact that this is a summer blockbuster sequel, the results are surprisingly impressive in this adaptation from the Walt Disney Company.
The film begins in reality where our four heroes Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skander Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are resuming their normal lives since returning from Narnia. Meanwhile in the magical world of Narnia, hundreds of years after the children have departed the land, a young prince named Caspian (Ben Barnes) is in danger. His evil uncle (Sergio Castellitto) is out to kill his nephew so that his own newborn son will one day run the kingdom. As Capian sounds a cry for help, the children in the real world hear his pleas and are suddenly whisked away back to Narnia where they are needed.
What the children do not expect to find when the reach the world is how much it has been ravaged and torn. The great lion leader Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is nowhere in sight, and the animals of the wood have become wild and aggressive, now lacking their loquaciousness. What they do manage to stumble on is what is left of the Narnians. While escaping his uncle's assassins, Caspian also manages to meet up with the Narnian gang. Everything from talking mice to centaurs have gone into hiding to get away from the humans that have destroyed their lane. Prince Caspian declares that, should he take the throne, that he will see to it a land where humans and creatures of Narnia can all live in harmony. However, first the outcasts must band together their army to battle the stinking humans and take back what is rightfully theirs.
When I saw the first installment of the Narnia films, I had incredibly low expectations. After all, it was just another CGI-fueled movie with plenty of eye candy and little substance. In the end, I appreciated it for its sense of adventure. Even the CGI looked incredible and not too distracting. I can happily say the same for the sequel, Prince Caspian. There are plenty of visual effects driving this film, but the excitement of the plot managed to still pull me in. Perhaps it is because the animated animals are given more realistic appearances rather than cartoonish features. Perhaps it also has something to do with director Andrew Adamson's knack for utilizing real shooting locations in some instances rather than relying solely on blue screen environments. If this film was shot in such a matter 100%, then consider me fooled as I was taken by the vivid environments in Narnia.
This film isn't necessarily one driven by performances. As previously mentioned, it is the visuals and the astonishing adventure scenes that truly make this film a treat. However, there is some recognizable star power from Liam Neeson voicing Aslan. The rest of the talking animals are wisely voiced by less popular thespians to keep the audience from asking in every scene, "Which celebrity is that?" However, some entertainment buffs will surely recognize the voice of Eddie Izzard doing the voice for a swash-bucking mouse whose personality is strikingly similar to Shrek's beloved Puss and Boots. Also, star watchers may recognize the always-reliable Peter Dinklage covered in prosthetics as an angry dwarf.
Prince Caspian is not by any means perfection, but it is fun for all ages and looks incredible. With Iron Man kicking off the summer season, Prince Caspian continues carrying the torch for solid entertainment. This fantasy flick clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, but the experience feels closer to ninety minutes. As the intense score by Harry Gregson-Williams accompanied the battle scenes, I couldn't help but smile satisfactorily that this is a film that truly cares if the audience is having a good time. I never thought I would say it, but I highly recommend seeing this film for that popcorn-munching, blockbuster fix that one craves every summer.