The tales of Narnia continue in this follow up that is superior to the follow up, more action, more peril, darker tone, and very little Christian overtones. Prince Caspian we are quickly introduced to, and who is the current aire to the thrown of Narnia. Waiting to simply become of age to take the thrown, his uncle, Miraz, wife gives birth to his own son, instituting a coup d’etat to claim the thrown for his bloodline which involves murdering Caspian to clear the way. Narrowly escaping his death, with the help of his professor, Caspian flees to the forests which are steeped in legend and mystery when he stumbles upon a pair of dwarfs who realize who he is by a special horn on his side, which he sounds before being knocked out by one of the said dwarfs.
We then cut to the Pevensie four, who after a brief fight among Peter and some classmates in a subway station, are transported back to Narnia as the subway station dissolves around them. They quickly discover the land to not be quite the same; it appears that battle has destroyed their old castle, that a number of years have passed, and worse of all Aslan the lion is nowhere to be found. After dawning their previous royal garb, the foursome stumble across the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) about to be drowned after being captured, helping Caspian earlier, and was used by Miraz to display that Narnia’s mythical creatures exist still in the kingdom, much to the dismay of the current Lords of Narnia, while drumming up the need to wipe out the remaining “creatures” of the land.
Once Caspian hooks up with the past Kings and Queens that are the Pevensie’s we learn that his people, the Telmarine, came to this land and took over, driving all non-Adam’s (men) into hiding. Caspian, a fan of the legends and tales of Narnia taught to him by his professor, bands together with the Pevensie children to bring down his uncle and to reclaim his thrown; while restoring the kingdom to a land that supports all creatures instead of shunning them.
From here on out the film is pretty much a series of excellent action sequences with a lot up for stake and the battles are brutal and affecting on the viewer. We really get behind and feel sad for the characters involved with the fight at the Telmarine castle being the stand out of the film. The plot and pacing of the film never slows down and the mythos of everything feels right, even if a bit lifted from other material. The action is also done really well with very good effects work on pretty much every level.
The even more amazing thing is the ability to overcome the acting shortcomings of a couple of the leads and still make a solid fantasy adventure film. Anna Popplewell is just not good at all in this film. She has one tone and zero range as Susan in her performance and voice while just being overall unconvincing at just about anything. Not much better is William Moseley as King Peter who just puts on the same mood and face for every single thing that happens to him. Luckily he can handle the action and sword play well and at least looks a bit intimidating from time to time. The reason we can deal with these performances is do to the great work done by the other to siblings of the bunch, Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund. They easily out perform their older counterparts and display the ability to act and make you wish they were more central to the plot in this one. Peter Dinklage is also excellent as Trumpkin and is grouchy, pessimistic, while still carrying some good humor about him. Warwick Davis also has a solid turn as Trumpkin’s friend Nikabrik and Eddie Izzard adds a lot of life as the voice of Reepicheep, a sword wielding rat. The real stand out though is Ben Barnes as Caspian. He easily carries the film when he has to and is utterly convincing to us in the fantasy world. We can feel his struggle with his path and he can carry himself in the action set pieces as well.
In the end, Prince Caspian is a huge step forward for the franchise and an excellent addition to the fantasy genre. While still not up to par with the Potter and LOTR films it is pretty damn close. I can not wait to see what they do with the next film, and have made me a real fan in the franchise and not someone who is just willing to check out the picture. Bring on the Dawn Treader.