29 January 2012

Film review: Prince Caspian [The Chronicles of Narnia 2] (starring Ben Barnes)


The seven Narnia books by CS Lewis were some of my favourite stories as a child, and a teenager, and, indeed, as an adult. I was pleased when the BBC made a version of the first four, back in the 1980s, but inevitably they were low-budget, and animation wasn't very advanced, and some of it seemed trite.

But then, in recent years, Disney has started to produce film versions, under the group heading of 'Chronicles of Narnia'. We saw the first one at the cinema at the end of 2005, and liked it very much. However, Prince Caspian is probably my least favourite of all the books, and early reviews said that it veered a long way from the book and was full of battles, with a spurious - and unecessary - love interest which was never intended by Lewis.

It didn't sound very appealing. And the years went by... but finally I thought it would be good to see this on DVD. We sat down to watch it last night with my son and daughter-in-law.

The opening of the film works well, with the birth of a new baby boy, heir to the teenage Prince Caspian's uncle. Caspian's mentor was exactly as I had imagined him too, urging his young protegé to escape with his life. And the scenes when Caspian is discovered by the Narnians living secretly in the woods is also, I felt, close to the book.

We then switch to scenes in London, the four Pevensie children going home from school, waiting for a train, and tugged into Narnia again. There seemed to be some irrelevant extra parts but they arrive at the ruined castle, and gradually realise what's going on... so far, so good.

It's a long time since I read the book - at least twelve years - but even so, I became aware of more and more deviation from the book. Particularly irritating was the unpleasant rivalry between Peter (William Moseley) and Caspian (Ben Barnes). On the other hand, the 'love interest', such as it was, seemed very low-key and not actually unrealistic or unlikely in the circumstances. It wasn't necessary, but it didn't seem to me to do any harm.

Aslan and the other talking animals are very well done, and I was captivated by the mouse Reepicheep, who provided some light humour in the midst of some quite tense scenes.

But, I have to say, the early reviews were correct in saying that the film was, basically, a series of battles. After the opening scenes - which I very much enjoyed - there did seem to be just one battle after another, played out in rather too much detail. The book did have a lot of fighting; but one can skim the detail in a book, or just accept that it happened, whereas it has to be shown in a movie. Some of it was rather violent, and I'd have personally given the film a '12' rating rather than the 'PG" which both the UK an US censors decided was appropriate.


I suppose the film would have made sense to someone who had not read the book, but think it would be hard to understand if one hadn't already read (or at least seen) 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'.

Certainly worth seeing as part of the series, but it's not a film I'll be coming back to regularly.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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