With an amazing box office performance by the first installment, a return to Narnia was inevitable. Production on the sequel began soon after the first one bowed out of theaters and although fans may have found the three year wait unbearable, it was nothing compared to the pain felt by the hole left by the films box office intake. Although it made the majority of its budget back during its domestic a release alone, it noticeably underperformed, especially after the impressive debut of the series first film. Still, while it may have been a bit of a disappointment in the theaters, Disney will no doubt recoup any losses left by the film with stellar home video sales…but what does that say about the quality of the film itself?
Join Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley), the mighty and majestic Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), friendly new Narnian creatures and Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) as they lead the Narnians on a remarkable journey to restore peace and glory to their enchanted land. Continuing the adventure of The Lion, The Witch And the Wardrobe with more magic and a brand-new hero, Prince Caspian is a triumph of imagination, courage, love, joy and humor your whole family will want to watch again and again.
The Narnia series has been an odd duck for me. I was never particularly fond of the series, simply because I found it to be a poor man’s Lord of the Rings (and, believe it or not, I wasn’t even that big of a fan of those movies either). Still, I can’t deny that the first film wasn’t moderately entertaining, if a little long at times. With the second film I was looking forward to it simply because we wouldn’t have to be dragged through the origins or the logistics of Narnia. Now we would know how it works and wouldn’t need to concern ourselves with any of the specifics and we could jump right in.
At least that is what I’d hoped. Once our four heroes are pulled back into Narnia after a one year absence (in London, at least; in Narnia it’s been a much, much longer time), everything has changed and we have to go through a bit of back story to discuss their time away. Granted, that’s to be expected—it has to be pretty major for our four heroes to return, but it felt a bit tedious to me to have to listen to another story about a power hungry king, with a deviation of a good prince who wants to make things right between his people and the Narnians.
This time around the story at least moved at a brisk pace, with our first action sequence coming very quickly into the film, with the “mission impossible” invasion of the castle. I really enjoyed this sequence, as well as the Ice Queen bit that followed it. They were two of my favorite elements of the film and I felt that neither what preceded it or what followed it was of any particular quality one way or another. I think that’s why I’m so uneasy about reviewing these films—neither of them have been either particularly impressive any way, with the plots being pretty by-the-books, the actors rather underwhelming and the individual characters about as generic as can be. I’m not saying any of it is bad, but to me the Narnia series is really just a cookie cutter version of much more vast and intricate fantasy epics. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to devote so much time to a universes characters and terminology, I’d want it to be a bit more rewarding.
But that’s more of a generalization about the series itself, rather than this particular film. Strictly speaking the film was entertaining in its own right and I never really felt bored with it, as it kept a brisk pace that made the 149 minute run time move by at a stronger rate than the first film (which I found myself clock watching). The actors also did step it up a bit here, with some more believable drama and portrayals that weren’t quite so kid focused. At the same time the portrayals of the main four were a bit weak, as they remember their time in Narnia from the first film in full, so they already lived as adults and were king and queens of the land. How did they regress back into the mentality of children so fast? I don’t fully understand that angle of the film.
Another area I found particularly weak was the role of Narnia itself. Apparently it was full of powerful creatures, life-infused trees and water controlling beings and all this time they just let the forces of evil take over? Why couldn’t the trees and water simple decimate the evil as they did so readily and easily in this film? Sure, they apparently were in a type of hibernation due to the strong evil, but it sounds like nothing more than a Narnian version of Spider-Man 2’s plot to me.
Overall I may not have found the film particularly mind-blowing, but it was entertaining. I had issues with the plot at times, but in the end it is a fairly interesting story if you allow yourself to get swept up into it. I’ve certainly seen and read better fiction than this, but in the end of Narnia is a really family friendly series that everyone can enjoy. Although it may not sound like it from my above complaints about the series and film, I do Recommend this film as there is a lot to be wowed by, whether it’s the castle invasion or impressive CGI, this film does have a lot to offer if you let it—unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to let this film be all that it can for me.
Prince Caspian arrives on Blu-ray in a jam-packed three-disc edition (third disc is just a digital copy, however). The set arrives in a rather thick Blu-ray case, although I’ve seen plenty of other studios stuff three discs into a single width case, I guess they didn’t want to this time around. The set arrives with a embossed foil reflective slipcover as well inserts for Movie Rewards, activation code and an advertisement booklet. Menus for the set are easy to navigate, although the placement of some of the font on some of the backgrounds for the menus is questionable as it makes the text almost impossible to read at times.
Arriving in an AVC encoded 2.35:1 1080p video transfer, Prince Caspian is definitely a disc you should consider using when showing off the home theater to family and friends. The video is absolutely impeccable, offering the lush imagery of Narnia up in a flawless transfer that never fails to astonish. Blacks are deep and rich, while colors jump off the screen. I could bore you with specific details about how wonderful this transfer looks, whether it’s the trunks of trees in the distance or the smooth motion of Aslan’s fur, the entire film is perfect from beginning to end.
That isn’t the only impressive Blu-ray technical element to this one—the audio is 7.1 DTS-HD MA (48kHz/24-bit) mix that is, again, flawless. The use of surrounds throughout the entire film is remarkable, although it’s the subtle moments that can raise the hair on your neck. Twigs cracking that awake Lucy come through with such clarity that you would think they were snapping right behind you. There isn’t a sound effect of this track that doesn’t sound amazing and there’s plenty in this track to make the dust move in the room. If nothing else, this film is a clear example of a brilliant transfer through and through.
Moving onto the extras, all of which are presented in 1080p, we first get a Audio Commentary by Director Andrew Adamson and actors Ben Barnes, Georgie Healey, Skandar Keynes, William Mosely, and Anna Perpwell on the first disc, as well as a Circle-Vision Interactive: Creating the Castle Raid game (complete with a 2:01 intro by Adamson). The commentary is packed and informative, and the addition of the actors really helps the film you appreciate and enjoy the epic scope that the film can give off.
Disc two is where we find the major extras, however. Starting off we have Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns (34:38), which recaps the process of starting up the production of the second installment. Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life (23:35) focuses on the various sets used, Big Movie Comes to a Small Town (23:13) details how the film invaded a (very) small town and Previsualizing Narnia (10:03) shows off some pre-vis renders of the film. Talking Animals and Walking Trees: The Magical World of Narnia (4:43) focuses on the CGI in the film, while a round of Deleted Scenes (11:17) with optional commentary by Adamson give us a glimpse into abandoned scenes, as well as insight into why they were left out. The Bloopers of Narnia (3:04) shows some of the actors flubbing lines, while Secrets of the Duel (6:41) focuses on the fatal duel in the film. Becoming Trumpkin (4:46) and Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik (11:11) focus on two of the main dwarves of the film and the process they go through in terms of casting and make-up application.
Overall Prince Caspian is a brilliant looking film with a solid outing of extras. Based on the extras alone my feelings toward the film changed a bit and solely because of how strong the extras are this release comes Highly Recommended. It’s definitely a film that grows on you the more you learn about it and I definitely wouldn’t be averse to checking it out again—if only because of how lush and brilliant the image looks on this Blu-ray release.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.