The second installment in the Narnia franchise, adapted from C.S. Lewis popular young-adult fantasy novels, is slightly darker than THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2005), which is not to say that the first film is all sunlight and daffodils. But it does end with the implicit promise that, thanks to the courage and cleverness of the Pevensie siblings, human youngsters who rise to the challenge of righting a world where it's always winter and never Christmas, all wrongs have been righted for the foreseeable future. CASPIAN is predicated on the less comforting notion that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
London, 1941: It’s been a year since Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) made their way to the fairy tale world of Narnia, where they overthrew a wicked witch and became the much-loved kings and queens of a kingdom populated by fauns, centaurs, talking beavers and all manner of marvelous creatures. In the real world of war-torn England, they’re school children from Finchley, but they cling – some more than others – to the memory of their enchanted lives as warrior royalty, the family who saved Narnia from the cold reign of a wicked witch (Tilda Swinton).
And then one ordinary afternoon, they’re called back: One moment the siblings are standing on a London Underground platform, and the next they’re gleefully exploring picturesque ruins overlooking Narnia’s balmy coast. But while they haven't changed, Narnia has: The ruins, they realize to their horror, are castle Caer Paravel, their former home, and Narnia has been occupied for the better part of 1300 years by the Telmanns, ruthless humans who’ve done their best to exterminate the native Narnians.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Pevensies, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) – the Telmann heir to Narnia's throne – has been forced into exile by his ruthlessly ambitious Uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who hopes to one day install his own newborn son on the throne. Lost in Narnia's deep dark woods, Caspian learns that the minotaurs, dwarves, talking animals and centaurs he was raised to think were the stuff of bedtime stories are more than the stuff of myth: They're as real as his uncle's treachery, and convinced that he's destined to help them reclaim their ancestral lands.
Chockablock with intense battle sequences and suffused with a sense of paradise lost, PRINCE CASPIAN is a worthy successor to THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and suggests that Lewis' Narnia franchise has the staying power such fantasy-literature adaptations as ERAGON (2006), THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING and THE GOLDEN COMPASS (both 2007) lack. If CASPIAN has a fault, it's that viewers familiar with neither the books nor the first film may have trouble picking up the strands of the story in the early scenes… but in all honesty, how many Lewis neophytes will choose CASPIAN as their point of entry?
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