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HTF DVD Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian



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#1 of 3 ONLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 15 2008 - 10:38 AM

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
3-Disc Collector's Edition




Studio: Walt Disney
Year: 2008
US Rating: PG - For Epic Battle Action and Violence
Film Length: 149 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: French and Spanish




US Release Date: December 2, 2008

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“You get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that's what you become. You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.”


C.S. Lewis was an author of quiet distinction. While his works did not achieve the depth of descriptive fantasy that the inevitable modern comparisons to the likes of J.R.R Tolkien bring, his Chronicles of Narnia, a mythological fantasy adventure series that expressed his love of Christianity and a poetic sense of imagination encouragment, has ignited childhood imaginations for decades. Personally, the BBC production will forever be embedded warmly as a favorite, but while Disney’s efforts to reveal the Narnian world, adventurous children and battles of good over evil have met with moderate creative success, they have fallen victim of diminishing financial returns.

The Pevensie children, young Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are again in wartime London, yearning to return to the wondrous land of Narnia where they were Kings and Queen. The triumph over the Ice Queen and the impact of the great lion, Aslan, still resonate strongly within them. It has only been a year since the children were in that magical land, but for Narnia, time moves much quicker and over 1300 years have passed. And in the magical world, life is hard.

The Telmarines have driven the Narnian’s into hiding for so long many believe they no longer exist. When political machinations result in an assassination attempt on young Prince Caspian, heir to throne, the prince must flee in fear for his life. He stumbles upon creatures from Narnia that he thought were extinct, and with the treacherous King Mariz’s soldiers quickly upon him, he blows a magical horn that myth tells will bring help. The sound of the horn pulls the children back into the magical land to help save the Narnian’s, fight for the Prince and restore balance to the land.

Directed by Andrew Adamson, working from a screenplay he wrote with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Prince Caspian suffers from two quite distinct issues. The first and perhaps the most problematic is the lack of emotional resonance and spark. Without a doubt, the Narnian adaptations were intended to capitalize and even borrow from the popularity of Lord of the Rings, but it never summons the splendor of Peter Jackson’s magnificent accomplishments, nor does it connect in any real way to the audience by invoking heart or emotion. It just doesn’t seem to resonate. It is an epic in scale, but not in accomplishment; a cinematic outing of technical wizardry with the elements that ambitious and grand scale films require, but without the right visionary tie that binds it into celluloid magic. This is true with one exception, the sword fight between the kings to avoid the larger battle – as that is the most invested moment of the entire film, well shot, edited and performed.

The second issue is debatable, but the film is entirely too long. The story that needs to be told may require the 149 minute running time, but since the film at its core is simply a darker retread of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, and a more direct story at that, it is a duller blade, lacking a spirit that makes you feel every act in its entirety since little new dramatically is introduced.

The cast is again very good as the young British actors provide the right balance of strength, innocence and bravery that helped make the first film so promising. Lewis’ very English sense of humor is handily delivered by William Mosely (Peter), Anna Popplewell(Susan), Skandar Keynes(Edmund) and Georgie Henley (Lucy). Warwick Davis is a joy to see with more screentime and a more central character than the briefer roles he has had since Willow, for the most part. The young actor playing Prince Caspian, Ben Barnes, is also a good find. He looks the part, carries the weight of the character nicely and manages to be likeable and strong. Several other characters return, including of course Aslan voiced superbly by Liam Neeson. His calm, sincere voice is perhaps the best casting in the series so far.

The visual effects are frequently top notch, with the great Aslan character coming alive in a fluid and photorealistic way. Many characters are computer generated and their interaction with the surroundings and the actors is splendid. Beyond the visuals, the impressive but light on strong themes score by Harry Gregson-Williams and the solid cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub, Prince Caspian conjures perhaps the most unwanted of responses; indifference. Neither good or bad, impressive or faltered, delightful or dreary – it simply comes and goes but does not linger within the audience when the credits finally roll.




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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is correctly framed in its original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1. Walt Disney has been impressive with its string of first rate audio and visual presentations and the DVD of Prince Caspian is no exception. The colors are rich throughout the nearly 2 and a half hours, flesh tones are natural and the image is crisp but doesn’t appear to be poorly processed or unnaturally sharpened. The bright scenes are clean and free of any distractions or distortions and the darker scenes are well balanced and deep. This is a very good DVD presentation, second only to the blu-ray release.



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The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is very good. There is ample activity in the surrounds, coming through wide and full. The directional effects draw you in to the experience and serve the film well. The sound moves through and around the speakers with good effect. Bellowing bass pumps up the action, especially during the climactic battle and watery finale, but there are occasions where it is a little thin. Not a complete success, but certainly effective and pleasing.



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Disc One
Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Adamson and Actors Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Mosely and Anna Popplewell – Playful and appreciative commentary from the director and young cast. Not a great deal of technical information shared and there are moments when even this large group falls silent, but this is still reasonably entertaining.


Disc Two
Inside Narnia: The Adventure Continues – (34:43) – The cast and crew talk a little about coming back to do the sequel and the challenges inherent in that and in the story itself. We also get a look at the grand scale production effort required to pull this film off.

Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life – (23:42) – Discussions of translating the work of C.S Lewis to the big screen and looks at the major sets and locations, drawing upon Pauline Baynes artwork from the books as inspiration.

Big Movie Comes to a Small Town – (23:17) – The production invades Bovec in Slovenia for the filming of the climactic river sequence. This feature shares interviews with the people of the town of Bovec talking of the production crew and their love of their town.

Previsualizing Narnia – (10:08) – A look at the evolution of storyboarding, previsualization of the grander, more complex sequences in the film. While not a replacement of storyboards, previsualizations afford the creative crew the ability to better design complex and expensive sequences in film.

Talking Animals and Walking Trees: The Magical World of Narnia – (4:50) – This extra looks at the characters that are non-human and how they stoke the imagination and also at how nature is a prominent force to be respected in these stories.

Deleted Scenes – (11:17) – Available with a play all feature and with audio introductions by Director Andrew Adamson, there are 10 short deleted scenes.

The Bloopers of Narnia – (3:06) – Plenty of on set flubs and clumsiness.

Secrets of the Duel – (6:45) – A look at one of the films finest sequences, the duel between Peter and Miraz. The intricacies of the costumes and the boxing ring like set where the action takes place.

Becoming Trumpkin – (4:48) – A look at the wonderful Peter Dinklage in the role of the cynical Trumpkin, creating his face cast, make-up and prosthetic attachments.

Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik – (11:07) – A day with Warwick, from going through the make-up process and becoming the curmudgeonly Nikabrik character to shooting scenes.

Disc Three
DisneyFile Digital Copy of the Film



Final Thoughts

The land of Narnia still has much cinematic promise. A less whimsical, less verdant sequel notwithstanding, the literary fields of Lewis’s work still has much to offer. More focus, improved drama and a more embraced epic feel will serve future sequels well. Prince Caspian is a good film but lacks emotional depth and the magical spark that films of this nature so require.


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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Chas_Michael

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Posted December 15 2008 - 11:48 AM

great review!

so, will there be an extended version a few months down the road as was the case with the first part?
I wonder.

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Arild

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Posted December 16 2008 - 03:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chas_Michael
so, will there be an extended version a few months down the road as was the case with the first part?
I wonder.
Probably not, considering they already included deleted scenes on this release.