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Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian hit theaters accompanied by a lot of expectation. The book series has been popular since they were first published nearly fifty years ago, and they’ve never gone out of print. Earlier movie versions, animated and live action, have been made of them. But after the success of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, fans hoped for more and Hollywood banked on another success.

I had a good time with the first movie. Taking my son with me enhanced the experience, though. His innocent glee stripped years away from me and eased me right back into my own childhood. The sights and sounds of the world were amazing, as they would have to be in order to grab the audiences lying out there in wait now. And the pacing of the movie was well done.

However, Narnia purists are going to have a problem with this version of the novel. Hollywood has strayed far from the path in making this sequel. Yes, it’s true — Narnia has been Hollywoodized and given the big box office treatment, which means that more has been left out of the book than was kept in, and even more new material was shoveled into the story. In fact, a whole rivalry sequence between Caspian (Ben Barnes) and Peter (William Moseley) has been tossed into the mix, as well as Susan (Anna Popplewell) “crushing” on Caspian.

Also, the battle scenes are definitely more hardcore than they are in the book. And protracted. The novel dealt with them in a straightforward manner and moved into the characters and the spirituality of the book.

But I have to give Hollywood its due. I’d wager most of the people buying tickets haven’t ever read the books, just as they hadn’t read The Lord of the Rings. They’re there packing the seats because they want to see adventure, excitement, and royal battles between good and evil.

I’d even read Prince Caspian to my son shortly after we watched The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. We’d read that book before the movie and he knew everything that was going to happen. He kept throwing hints to his mom during the movie. This time he really believed we hadn’t read the book because so much was different.

Hollywood chose to change the story, and I accepted that within a few minutes and simply enjoyed what was on the screen without proprietary interest. The special effects are awesome, the mythical beings are amazing, and the landscape is lush and incredible. My son was bowled over as Narnia (again under the direction of Andrew Adamson) once again unfolded before us. I have to admit, I was too.

Despite the differences in character and motivations, and the way the final battle was staged when Peter undertook single combat against Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), I had a great time. Susan stepped into the battles and became an amazing warrior (okay, I had to swallow hard at that one when I saw her first shooting men with her bow then using it as a staff to battle again in the thick of the fighting while wearing no armor). Peter was even more courageous than before, and naturally stepped into a leadership role. Edmund (Skandar Keynes) was a fierce fighter as well, and the young actor has certainly grown into the role. There is a fantastic scene where Lucy (Georgie Henley) blocks the retreating Telmarin army that had the audience laughing and cheering at the same time. The kids have changed.

The assault on the castle at night was terrific. My son and I sat on the edges of our seat and watched as the battle progressed and finally turned deadly. And when Aslan (Liam Neeson) stepped onto the screen, we were in Narnia fighting the good fight at the sides of the Narnians.

Maybe this isn’t a faithful interpretation of the original novel, but you’re not going to be able to find a much better early summer offering. I question the rating a little, because I would have bumped it up a notch due to all the physical action and the evil intent, and the PG rating isn’t warning enough.

With all the fantasy and superhero movies hitting the screens this summer, finding one that stands out head and shoulders above the others is going to be hard. I’ve decided not to stress over figuring out which one is the best, and instead concentrate on enjoying the feast!

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