Saturday, January 3, 2009


If the second film in the Walden Media Narnia series proves to be the last, I'd understand. It's a surprisingly dull affair that seems to take too much for granted in Andrew Adamson's prosaic presentation of fantastic material. The kids come back to Narnia to find that several centuries have passed and the place has been overrun with conquistadors. I haven't read the C. S. Lewis books so I was surprised to learn that these "Telmarians" were, in fact, Spaniards who found an alternate route to the magical world. By a certain point I did expect the Spanish Inquisition, but they didn't show.

The movie drops us right into dynastic intrigue among the Telmarians, as the titular prince stands to be dispossessed by the ambitious Miraz, escapes assassination, and flees into the forest, where he discovers "Narnians," which is apparently a generic label for any damn sentient creature you might encounter there. This extends to surly dwarves, bipedal badgers, centaurs, minotaurs and the like. Caspian manages to blow a magic horn and summon the kids from a tube station where the boys just had a rumble with some Hogwarts punks or some similar folk. There are the usual complications, arguments for the sake of drama, temptations by special guest villainess The White Witch and a second coming (or is it? I lost count) of the godlike Aslan.

In 2.5 hours I detected not one original cinematic thought. Adamson's direction is listless. A typical scene will have all manner of Narnians standing about watching someone in the foreground talk. Visually it sometimes reminded me of a Colorforms play set. For someone whose main calling cards are the first two Shrek films, Adamson's work is often strangely unanimated. He has a bipedal talking badger and he's made it dull, while a swashbuckling mouse just seems like a rip-off of Puss-in-Boots and a sop to the kiddie audience. I hate to state the obvious, but with authoritarian Spaniards running amuck in Narnia this would have been a natural for Guillermo del Toro, but I concede that he had better things to do. There's nothing really bad about Prince Caspian, but that may be part of the problem, too. It's utterly in the middle of the road, enjoying neither the genius of a del Toro or a Peter Jackson nor the daring born of budgetary constraints or an instinct for exploitation. The movie may yet be satisfying for many viewers, and strong DVD sales may yet convince a studio to back Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but hopefully the experience will convince Walden to do better next time.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

And here I thought you actually read CS Lewis' works right alongside the Tolkiens back in the day, Sammy.

It is most unfortunate that Disney has decided to step back, but it's their own fault, using Prince Caspian to counter, say for example, Iron Man. Having seen both Iron Man & Prince Caspian, and liked them both, I'd have to say that if Prince Caspian was released a few months sooner, like it supposedly was intended to, Disney doesn't wimp out on the franchise, which is likely to wind up at Fox or Warners.