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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/2/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/2/2008

I don't know if there are any true "rules" of sequels, but one can definitely spot trends in film series. One is the "bigger is better" conceit. This idea proposes that if you can't make a movie which is better than the first movie, then make one which is louder, broader, and more dynamic. From Dawn of the Dead to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, we've seen this done over and over with various results. Often these bombastic movies make us long for the simpler times of the first movie where the emphasis was most likely on story and character rather than spectacle. We don't have to look much further for another example of this, as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has come to home video.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian follows the events of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. As the movie opens, a son is born to King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). In order to guarantee his newborn son's place in line for the throne, Miraz orders his nephew, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), assassinated. Caspian's advisor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass), gets wind of this, and helps Caspian escape from the castle. As he's leaving, Cornelius gives Caspian an ivory horn. Caspian flees into the forest and finds himself face-to-face with two dwarves and a talking badger. Terrified, he blows the horn.

Meanwhile, in London, the Pevensie children, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley), are about to board a train for school. Suddenly, the train tunnel turns into a cave and the kids walk out onto a beach in Narnia. They begin to explore and find some ruins, which they realize are the remains of the palace where they once lives. Apparently, hundreds of years have passed since they were last in the magical land. They meet Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf, who explains that after their departure, humans from Telmar invaded Narnia and drove the magical creatures into exile. The group then meets Prince Caspian, and they decide to band together to stop King Miraz.

Given the fact that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was an international success, and that there are a whole series of books to adapt, making a sequel was a no-brainer. However, in the DVD featurettes, Writer/Director/Producer Andrew Adamson states that he had a difficult time finding the emotional center of the Prince Caspian book. That should have been a major red flag to him, as this film wanders away from almost everything which made The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe so enjoyable.

First of all, any fantasy film is only as good as its villain, and King Miraz and the Telmarines are not good villains. (Good villains? Does that make sense?) It's not until the second act that we really learn anything about them, and after that they still seem to be just a bunch of mean guys who sound like Inigo Montoya. Why did they leave Telmar and invade Narnia? Why do they hate the magical creatures?

Secondly, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian doesn't have the sense of wonder which permeated the first film. The Pevensie children lived in Narnia for many years before returning to their own world, so it makes narrative sense that they wouldn't be as fascinated by the land as they were before. However, they don't need to come off as brash and cocky (apparently being kings and queens went to their heads). This cuts off any connection to the audience. Who are we supposed to like in this movie? There's also a sense of unbalance with the fantasy elements in the film. I'm sorry, I don't care how well-prepared your army is, but when bears and tigers come into your castle, the animals are going to have the upper hand (paw?). And the battle scenes between the humans and the mythical creatures now seem very dated after the success of The Lord of the Rings series.

Lastly, the pacing of this movie is simply terrible. As far as I can tell, the source novel is just over 200 pages, and yet we get a 149 minute movie. When boiled down to its core ingredients, there isn't very much story in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, so the spaces in between are filled with epic battles, long landscape shots, and dialogue scenes which go nowhere. At least 30 minutes could have been cut from this movie and the story would have remained unchanged.

I wasn't the world's biggest fan of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but it was an enjoyable film. My wife, on the other hand, is a huge fan of the Narnia books, and she only made it through about 20 minutes of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian before she gave up on it. The movie is too technically proficient to be called a mess, but it has no soul and gets very boring at times. Just watch the first one again.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian offers a sword-wielding mouse on DVD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The image is well-balanced, in that it's not too dark or bright. However, the picture is a bit soft at times, and the colors aren't very vibrant. Several of the characters wear chain-mail armor and this causes some video noise problems. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a bold track, as the stereo effects have a great deal of presence. The surround and subwoofer action really kicks in during the battle sequences and the sounds truly surround the viewer. All of this is done without impeding the dialogue.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 3-Disc DVD set (with the third disc being the digital copy disc) has several extras. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Andrew Adamson and actors Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, and Anna Popplewell. This is a pretty talk, as the group gives in-depth scene specific information about the film. They talk about locations, story points, and certain challenges of making the film. I didn't like the fact that young Georgie often gets cut off by the others.  The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns" (35 minutes) is a making-of featurette which actually begins with the conclusion of production on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Interviews with Adamson lead the discussion of how everyone came back together to make the sequel. This detailed piece looks at location scouting (and the challenges of location shooting, make-up, set design, costumes, creature effects, CGI usage, voice acting, green-screen work, and stunts. The featurette takes us from location-to-location showing how the film was made and contains a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. "Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life" (24 minutes) explores the challenge of taking the spare descriptions of the source novel and translating them to the screen. We see tours of the location and sets and some explanations of how certain decisions were made. "Big Movie Comes to a Small Town" (23 minutes) looks at the filming of the river finale which was down in Bovec, Slovenia. We get a tour of the town and see how it was invaded by a film crew. "Previsualizing Narnia" (10 minutes) shows us how the filmmakers use previsualization for planning scenes. This provides a detailed explanation of the process and gives us many examples. "Talking Animals and Walking Trees: The Magical World of Narnia" (5 minutes) has the cast and filmmakers discussing the magical creatures in the film and which ones are their favorites. The DVD contains 10 DELETED SCENES (they cut something out of this movie?) which run about 11 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary by Adamson. Most of these are short and were clearly cut for pacing, save for a long scene between Susan and Caspian. "The Bloopers of Narnia" is a 3-minute gag reel. "Secrets of the Duel" (7 minutes) shows how an important sword-fight in the film was designed and choreographed. "Becoming Trumpkin" (5 minutes) shows not only how Peter Dinklage gets into character, but also how his make-up was created. "Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik" (11 minutes) follows the actor through an average day, including special effects make-up.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has also brought The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. Gone is the softness from the DVD version, as this transfer is razor sharp, and highly detailed. The picture has a nice amount of depth and the landscape shots look amazing. The colors are better here, as the reds and greens really stand out. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides terrific stereo effects which are highly detailed, allowing us to hear every creature in the movie. The surround sound isn't constant, but it adds ambience to every action scene. Just check out the catapults from the main battle and you'll feel the rumbling bass provided here.

The Blu-ray Disc contains all of the extras found on the DVD,plus one more. Disc 1 offers "Circle-Vision Interactive: Creating the Castle Raid", which contains 10 different looks at this pivotal scene. Six of these allow us to watch the scene with audio commentaries by various members of the filmmaking team. The other four offer Circle-Vision, which allows the viewer to get a closer look at specific parts of the scene.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long