The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Blu-ray)
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080pAVC codec
Running Time: 149 minutes
Audio: DTS-HA MA 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 40.99
Release Date: December 2, 2008
Review Date: November 24, 2008
The second installment in the continuing series of The Chronicles of Narnia is subtitled Prince Caspian, and though he is a new character amid a host of others, you’d be hard pressed to find much else different between the two movies given that the majority of the new film like the previous one involves a number of intricate battles to reclaim Narnia from its oppressors. That sameness in tone and tome between the two movies lends a déjà vu banality to the proceedings which the massive production values, expert special effects, and appealing actors can only go so far in thwarting. On its own Prince Caspian is entertaining enough, but hopefully future sequels will find something else to plot besides endless variations on the same battles.
A year after returning to wartime London after reigning in Narnia as kings and queens for a generation, Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie are summoned back to Narnia to aid young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in retaking his rightful throne from his treacherous uncle Lord Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) who has killed Caspian’s father and usurped the crown now that he has a male heir of his own. Caspian and Miraz are a part of the Telmarine race who took over Narnia shortly after the Pevensies went back to London, and over the generations (Caspian is the tenth successive Telmarine prince) the creatures of Narnia were banished to the forest and thought to be extinct. Led by Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and other assorted dwarves, mice, badgers, centaurs, and other mystic creatures, the war is on again to free Narnia for all.
Because the battles are of primary importance this second go-round (very little time for the charming and fascinating character interactions such as those between Lucy and Mr. Tumnus in the first film), much of the 149-minute running time is given over to a night raid on the Telmarine castle (the best single sequence in the picture) which initiates the all-out war between the Telmarines and the Narnians which then accelerates in three stages of combat. As is customary in these kinds of cinematic battles, there are surprises sprung on the enemy (and on us who aren‘t privy to all of the planning), and director Andrew Adamson stages and films them with attention to detail, always maintaining a clear perspective on who’s winning and who’s losing at any given moment. Some other special effects work is handled erratically, however. There’s a gorgeously swirling cloud of dogwood blossoms that absolutely mesmerizes while the climactic river god sequence isn’t the overwhelming effects extravaganza its makers might have wished it to be.
Having aged into their roles, the four young actors playing the Pevensie children are just as appealing this time around if not more so with fewer adolescent tantrums and childish pranks for the audience to endure. Ben Barnes doesn’t quite have the charisma necessary for the monarch-to-be, and he seems a trifle stiff in his delivery of both lines and action. Sergio Castellitto is on solid ground as the scheming villain, and his second -in-command General Glozelle is played with much stature by Pierfrancesco Favino. The always excellent Peter Dinklage makes the best addition to the Narnian side of the fighting. Both the majestic lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) and the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) from the first film turn up as well in this outing but in much less showy roles than before.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered on this Blu-ray disc in 1080p using the AVC codec. Despite some minor, irritating fluctuations of flesh tones during the movie, the overall quality of the image is quite awesome, easily equal to the picture quality of the first film’s high definition transfer. Color is majestically saturated without blooming, and black levels are impressively deep with superb shadow detail in the darkest corridors of the castle and in the recesses of the forest. A grand sense of dimensionality is consistent throughout the lengthy film, and no digital artifacts were observed. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is everything one could wish for in an action-adventure thriller such as this one. Bass is incredibly deep, and the seven surround channels are interestingly designed with ambient sounds and Harry Gregson-Williams' score woven through them on a continual basis.
The audio commentary once again belongs to director Andrew Adamson and his four stars Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, and Skandar Keynes. Because the children are older now, there is less giggling and generally irritating behavior as they reminisce about the filming of the movie. It’s an enjoyable and full talk, somewhat nostalgic for two of the actors who won’t be returning for the next installment in the series.
All of the bonus features on both discs one and two are presented in 1080p.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is the Circle-Vision Interactive, a viewer selected series of featurettes, vignettes, pop-up facts, and audio commentary about all facets of the production but specifically dealing with the castle raid sequence. There are actually thirty-five separate featurettes lasting from 1 to 8 minutes dealing with the film (some of the material is repeated in bonus features on disc two). There is also a handy index to use in case you have skipped any of the features in this interactive environment.
The disc is equipped with BD-Live which includes a Narnia game which can be played on-line with other users and a series of downloadable features for the younger members of the family.
The disc offers previews of Pinocchio and Earth, among others.
Disc two in the set contains a host of bonus featurettes and Easter Eggs.
“Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns” is the set’s “making of” documentary, a 34 ¾-minute look into the differences between the two Narnia movies, the heightened sense of importance and the extended number of locations in the second film, a greater emphasis on stunts, the size of the cast, the special effects needed for the film, and the changes in the young actors from the first film to the second.
“Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life” is precisely what the title infers: 23 ¾ minutes of specific information on nine different set locations used in the making of the movie.
“Big Movie Comes to a Small Town” is a loving tribute to the village of Bovec, Slovenia, which housed the company for 2 ½ weeks of shooting the climactic river/bridge sequence. This featurette runs 23 ¼ minutes.
“Previsualizing Narnia” is a 10-minute vignette on the use of storyboards and computer animated Pre-Vis all done before any actual shooting took place.
“Talking Animals and Walking Trees” is a too-brief featurette on the importance of nature in both the stories and in real life and some information on how the film came up with its talking creatures.
There are 10 deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 11 ¼-minute bunch. Each is introduced by director Andrew Adamson with explanations as to why it was dropped.
There is a 3-minute blooper reel much of it involving various actors falling down or losing balance during moments of action.
“Secrets of the Duel” spends 6 ¾ minutes discussing the months of training that various actors in the film went through to be ready for their battle sequences, particularly William Moseley and Sergio Castellitto for their intense one-on-one combat scene.
“Becoming Trumpkin” introduces us to actor Peter Dinklage who plays the beloved character in the film. It’s a 4 ¾-minute tribute.
Similar in nature is “Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik.” We spend a 16-hour working day with the actor as he gets into his elaborate three hour make-up and wardrobe for his day’s work. This feature lasts 11 minutes.
I found four Easter Eggs on disc two (there are likely many more) covering such subjects as the assistant director describing his work, a monster cam video, a brief word from Shane Ragni (a suit actor), and three of the four young stars goofing off between takes.
Disc three in the set is Disney File, Disney’s version of digital copy for downloading to a PC or Mac device.
Though its tale is overly familiar, the heart and spirit of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian still make for an entertaining blend of story and spectacle. The Blu-ray is an outstanding achievement, one fans of the books and the movies will most certainly want to add to their collections.