Thursday, May 29, 2008

FILM REVIEW: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

In the first Chronicles of Narnia film, we were introduced to the Pevensie children. In this sequel, we are introduced to their successor--both in the novel and in the future films--Prince Caspian, played by the British newcomer Ben Barnes. Therefore, naturally I went to the screening hoping to be blown away by him and eager to see him in the third film, subtitled The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While I enjoyed his performance, his accent was a tad distracting.

Prince Caspian is a Spanish royal who must fend off his throne-robbing uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellito), and the conquistador-like army that he's unleashed upon him with the help of the Narnians and the Pevensies. Mastering a different accent, when you already possess such a strong one, is tricky. I once saw the New York-centric 50s romantic comedy play Guys & Dolls in London and I was a little wary of how they were going to pull off Brooklyn accents--or even just American intonations--but they did so remarkably well. It must be much more difficult for a Brit to convincingly enunciate with a Spanish accent, since Barnes kind of sounded like a Hispanic caricature--like he was imitating Ugly Betty's dad.

Another distracting element presented in the sequel was the attempt of the writers to add a modern teenage vernacular. Lucy (Georgie Henley) spent most of the film referring to her new dwarf companion as DLF (dear little friend) as if to copy the popular abbreviation BFF (best friend forever), and she even mocked her sister Susan (Anna Popplewell)--in the traditional teen comedy format--for telling Caspian to keep her horn in case he needed to call her again as though it were her phone number. Adding such an element seemed forced and uncharacteristic of the saga.

But those two sore spots can't overshadow how the sequel was ten times better graphically and action-wise. My favorite parts included (SPOILER ALERT) their brief but deadly encounter with the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), Susan's new archery tricks during hand-on-hand combat, the attack of the trees with their roots, the ground falling from underneath the enemy army, the water creature summoned by Aslan's roar, and Peter's final blow in the one-on-one combat against King Miraz.

Although I think Barnes and William Moseley did very well in conveying competitive personas, my favorite characters this time around were the comically grumpy Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) who rarely spoke, but really stepped up his sword fighting skills. The writers endeavored to add more humor to the saga and with the addition of Trumpkin, it was easier to embrace it when it was dispensed by the rest of the cast, even the odd Puss in Boots-type incarnation of Eddie Izzard's sword-wielding field mouse, Reepicheep.

All in all, I remain excited about the third film, which has a summer 2010 release date, and even intend on renting this one so I can see the action again.

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