Friday, August 08, 2008

6th August 08 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Kids! War is great! Learn warfare today! You too can be plotting battles, sacrificing lives of your own soldiers, killing foreigners without any emotional trauma. It’s fun! And if you have doubts or think you’re going to lose, don’t worry. Jesus is on your side.

Ok, it seems that Wall-E and Dark Knight have left gaping holes in the rest of the cinema schedules, and as I’d missed it on its initial release it seemed an opportune time to catch up with the kids from Narnia. The first Chronicle back in 2005 was impressive but severely lacking when compared to the mighty Rings. Round two ditches the child-like wonder and goes straight for the jugular, with a Narnia overrun by evil, erm, Spaniards (those pesky Spaniards) and the kings and queens called back to sort things out. Which, as it turns out, is by launching straight into war.

There’s no denying that it’s pretty thrilling to watch an army of assorted creatures, all stunningly brought to life (the centaurs being particularly cool) doing battle against an army of human soldiers, with griffins attacking overhead and leopards leaping alongside fauns. But when trees wander in you can’t help but compare to Mr Ring and his Lords, and as far as epic fantasy battle sequences go the bar’s been set way too high for a Disney pic featuring no true violence and gallivanting mice.

Gone are the exciting first encounters with Narnians, gone are James McAvoy’s little trotters, gone are the menacing foes, replaced with the bizarrely Spanish-esque power-hungry uncle, trying to overthrow his nephew – the rightful heir – and steal all the glory, a plot we’re already seen a trillion times already (Lion King, anyone?) True, C S Lewis may have got in there before Simba and the gang, but for today’s cinema-saturated masses watching some accented dudes in big robes discuss backhanded assassination while staring out of stone windows isn’t anything to write home about. Not that I’d ever “write home” about anything. It’s all text messages and emails nowadays. Eee it’s not like it was, the old people moan. Yes, you’re right. It’s called progress.

Sorry, where was I? Yes, Narnia. Prince Caspian. Ben Barnes, a relative newcomer (he was in an episode of Doctors, though again – nothing to write home about) plays it relatively well, mooching around and clashing with William Mosley’s Peter (cross between Prince William and Charlie from Busted) while the other three kids hang out in the background, the girls pouting and staring into the distance, the other one who was irritating in the first Chronicles being not quite so irritating now. Eddie Izzard voices a mouse, probably the best character, and Liam Neeson is back again as Jesus… sorry, Aslan. The lion. Who only lets himself be seen by the youngest girl. The others have lost faith. Aslan tests them with stuff. Lets lots of people die. But all for a “purpose”. My view? He’s either Jesus or got a thing for little girls. That’s what was going through my mind for half the film, which is a little off-putting to be honest.

Sex-pest son-of-God big cats aside, Narnia is impressive visually and does feature some tense action, but it felt hollow in terms of a heart or a true story. It seemed to leave the child-like charm of the first one, and instead exploit the chance to have lots of battle scenes, which we’ve all seen before only in a much better way. Flash visuals aren’t enough to impress anymore (Potter – I’m talking to you too). It passed the time in a reasonably enjoyable way, but not enough to warrant any extra enthusiasm. Prince Caspian traipses in with a CF0.

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