The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass
Directed by: Andrew Adamson
So this is what every other year is gonna be like. Every two years, I’ll get dragged to another overlong Narnia adaptation, and exit it feeling mostly ambiguous toward the entire experience. Alright, “dragged” is probably too harsh a term, since I’d simply refuse to keep going to these movies if I truly hated them. And I don’t hate them. Neither Prince Caspian nor The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were bad movies. But both left me feeling rather indifferent, and definitely not looking forward to more of the same.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of fantasy movies at all. So all the fanciful stories and magical creatures that fill the world of Narnia do nothing for me by themselves. So some of my lukewarm reception to Prince Caspian can simply be chalked up to the fact that the movie’s strengths don’t play to my interests. But I am a fan of good movies, and thus can appreciate any genre provided it gives me reason to invest in its story and its characters.
Which brings me to the biggest failing of the film, and the franchise in general: its protagonists aren’t very interesting. The effects are strong, the scale is epic, the supporting cast is solid, but the four leads from the first film and the fifth introduced in this film are completely bland. Compare Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and Susan to the leads of the Harry Potter franchise, and it’s easy to see why the latter is much more successful. People love Harry, Ron, and Hermione far more than they do the Pevensie children. Hell, they love Ginny and Moaning Myrtle more than they do the Pevensie children (and I say this as someone who enjoys the Harry Potter series only marginally more than the Narnia series).
Since neither movie has given me much reason to care for its main characters, I’m never that involved in all their fanciful adventures. They can charge into huge, CGI-filled battles against the evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), and I passively watch the visual extravaganza. They get their big weepy moments at the end, and I’m clock-watching. Mice, minotaurs, and militia fly around the battlefield, and I’m too distracted by bloodless sword fights to get wrapped up in the action.
The bloodless sword fights are a bit of a problem for the series. I get that a PG series like Narnia can’t have gory Gladiator-style battles, but it is weird seeing soldiers struck by a single sword swipe or arrow falling to the ground like video game characters. It’s a convention generally used in gun fights on film, where a shot takes people down, that doesn’t translate well to battles where opponents wouldn’t be as easily disposed of (it takes a lot more violent attacks with swords and arrows to take a soldier out of a fight). I’m not sure what the solution is, other than less epic battlefield scenes, but it’s telling that a week after seeing the movie, I remember more about how this bothered me than anything involving the characters.
If director Andrew Adamson insists on focusing more on epic battles than finding the appeal of his characters, viewers are going to have more and more time to realize that problems associated with structuring entire movies around fights that have to be tame enough for its intended audience, especially as that intended audience gets old enough to no longer be entertained simply by talking lions and mice. Sadly, nothing about Prince Caspian gives me any reason to believe the franchise is heading in the right direction.