'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' proves that the 'Narnia' series just goes from strength-to-strength as the films progress and it went beyond my rather high expectations and kept me entertained from start to finish.
The film is set one year after 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and we see the Pevensie siblings-- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy-- are back in London, living ordinary lives as schoolchildren. In Narnia, however, a thousand years have passed and the world there is a much different place. The animals and various magical creatures have been forced into exile by the Telmarines, a human population who dominate over the land. But things change when Prince Caspian, heir to the Telmarine throne, is nearly assassinated by his uncle Lord Miraz, who is intent to kill the boy and seize power for himself and his own son. Escaping into the forests, Caspian blows the horn to bring the Pevensie children back to Narnia and the battle which awaits them...
While the actors playing the four Pevensie children are far from Oscar-winning, they are far superior to the mostly wooden efforts of the 'Harry Potter' young cast. William Moseley, as Peter, and Anna Popplewell, as Susan, give a fair effort but it is Skander Keynes, who plays Edmund, and Georgie Henley's Lucy who shine out throughout the film. It will be interesting to see these two both in future 'Narnia' films and in other projects. When it comes to Caspian himself, I have to admit that I was surprised by the casting of Ben Barnes, who is older than William Mosely. The 1980s BBC adaptation of the book had always left me imaging Caspian to be around Lucy's age but, watching the film, I think they were right to cast an adult since it was a role that would have been too physically demanding for a young adolescent, not to mention it would look a tad ridiculous to think people would allow a child to lead them into battle. That said, Barnes might not have been terrible but he was stilted at times and didn't carry the film as well as he could have (although, thankfully, Moseley and Henley stepped in when needed).
The film did veer off from the book on many occasions but most of the changes were forgivable (although I was only about eight when I read the novel and it's quite hazy in my mind now!). The battle scenes were depicted with flair, especially the heart-breaking taking of the castle, and the CGI of both these war scenes and of the animals cannot be faulted. And Aslan's return was every bit as breath-taking as it should be. I quite liked seeing the girls playing a larger role in battle. Yes, they didn't in the books and it would be expected of 1940s girls to be more dainty but I think young female fans needed to have someone to relate to and cheer on. It was also a nice touch giving the Telmares an non-English accent, showing they are from a distant world so far away from the Penvensies' native Britain.
'Prince Caspian', nevertheless, did have negative points to it. While it was acceptable to age Caspian to his late teens/early twenties, they should have made him more self-aware of his destiny as king instead of retaining the impression that he is a clueless child who isn't even aware of his uncle's dark side. The romance between him and Susan was also unnecessary and clearly was added just to pander to the minority of empty-headed teenagers out there (let them watch 'Hannah Montana' and leave this film to those of us with brains).
Overall, though, this was a wonderful film, which nicely followed on from TLWW. It was fittingly darker, reflecting on Narnia becoming a darker place over the milenia that had passed, yet there were moments of humour to lighten the mood at times. There were scenes that might have been too mature for very young children but then, a film of this length isn't suited to toddlers in the first place. 'Prince Caspian' might not be quite on the level of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy but it gives a very good attempt and does come close at times. I now look forward to 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'.