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Capone’s In NARNIA? I Thought He Was In Chicago...

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I’m working on getting my own review of this one finished and posted at some point today. For now, I’m going to post Capone’s review without reading it. Thankfully, even when I totally disagree with him about a film, I know Capone’s going to give you a good read, so you tell me in talkback how you think he does with this look at the new installment in the mega-budget NARNIA series...

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. There's a simple formula to decide whether of not you'll like this second CHRONICLES OF NARNIA installment. If you liked THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, you'll love PRINCE CASPIAN. If you didn't like the last film, you'll probably dig CASPIAN a whole lot more; you might even like it. And if you're predisposed to disliking a story for religious undertones (and make no mistake, the God overtones of the first story are far more buried in this one) or because its young stars seem a bit too foppish for your tastes, stop reading now and go find something constructive to do with your time. Right at the top here, I have to give director Andrew Adamson (who also did the first film) his due: he's found his stride with PRINCE CASPIAN. The action is staged far better; he's directing his actors (especially the four playing the Pevensie siblings) with more sure handedness; and he's not afraid to bring out the darker, more rage-filled qualifies in the characters and the source material from C.S. Lewis. The overall production feels like a work with more confidence in its far more aggressive and expansive story. Adamson and his co-writers have made significant adjustments to the action (including an entire battle that is not in the book), while leaving in some of the seemingly and seemingly less-significant character development and plot turns. But it's these minor inclusions that I think fans of the books will appreciate and cling to. Also significantly different between first and second films is the body count. I'm genuinely surprised that this movie managed to get a PG rating. While the blood doesn't flow and/or spurt, there is a tremendous amount of human and creature death. And I'm not complaining; it adds a great deal of much-needed weight and menace to the proceedings. I was particularly impressed with emotional heft given to the film by William Moseley's performance as King Peter and Ben Barnes (some of you may remember him from STARDUST) as Caspian. Adamson has created an early-film rivalry between the two that wasn't really there in the book, and it's an improvement and an important motivational tool for much of what happens in the story. The film is set one year later in the real world (in which Britain is in the final throws of WWII). The children are quickly sucked out of a London train station and back into Narnia, which has progressed 1,300 years. Caspian has used a magic horn once belonging to Queen Susan to call for help shortly after he has escaped his uncle, King Miraz (played by my favorite Italian actor working today, Sergio Castellitto). Miraz wants to take over the thrown of his land, which rightfully belongs to Caspian, son of the previous king. But when Miraz's wife gives birth to a boy child, Miraz sets out to kill Caspian and establish his new son as the rightful heir. After being secretly trained in the "old ways" by his faithful tutor, Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass), Caspian flees into the woods leading to Narnia where he is befriended by some dwarves (WILLOW's Warwick Davis and Peter Dinklage of THE STATION AGENT) and a talking badger. The former kings and queens of Narnia arrives from London at their old dilapidated castle, but soon run into Dinklage's Trumpkin and, eventually, Caspian and the early stages of his Narnian army set to defend the land against Miraz's advancing armies. The battles scenes aren't just choreographed better than the first film; they are genuinely awesome. I found my eyes darting around all parts of the screen to spot dozens of different Narnian beings bearing weapons. But as with the book, my favorite new character is rapier-wielding mouse Reepicheep, voiced to gallant perfection by Eddie Izzard. It should come as no surprise that Reepicheep seems modeled after Puss In Boots, since Adamson directed the first two SHREK movies. But Reepicheep is not meant strictly as comic relief; he's a genuine hero who can kill a full-size man with a single stroke of his tiny sword. If Aslan the Lion (again voiced by Liam Neeson) was playing Jesus in the first story; he's doing more of the God thing in PRINCE CASPIAN, since he is a largely unseen being that does not seem interested in helping those who don't believe in him with no proof that he exists. The film is big on faith, with young Lucy being the biggest keeper of said faith. I mentioned earlier that this movie explores the darker aspects of its story, and I meant that literally. It seems like half the film is set during the evening or in dimly lit underground locales. This bugged me at first because keeping things dark made it tough to see some of the great special effects, but eventually things move into the daylight and all is good. Let there be light, and all that. This also is a story that isn't afraid to get a little scary sometimes too. The scene with Caspian being tempted by the Wer-Wolf and the Hag is left almost intact from the book, but where it strays, it does so beautifully, giving us a tease at villainy that may still come before the series runs out. And what about the rest of the series? Caspian is the most important character in this story since he leads us through the next installment, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, and Barnes is a solid performer playing a young man ordained to unify and lead a land, and uncertain he's got what it takes to do so. They've cast Caspian perhaps a little older than the books lead you to believe he is in these stories, but Barnes is more than just a pretty face. He'll be even more fun to watch as Caspian gets more secure in his role as king. PRINCE CASPIAN is a work that manages to be both lovely and a little bit dangerous. It's so well done, in fact, that there were times when I stopped seeing the talking animals and other creatures as beautifully rendered effects and saw them as simply warriors fighting for their lives. I lost myself in this movie more often than not because Adamson didn't overwhelm me with splashy visuals. This is clearly material he loves and respects, and that comes through in every shot. The film also shows that you can make a family film that doesn't feel the need to pander or dumb itself down, and I admire it for that above all else. This is youthful fantasy done right. Capone
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