The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Release Date: May 16
Director: Andrew Adamson
Writers: Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematographer: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Starring: Ben Barnes, Peter Dinklage, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell
Studio/Run Time: Disney, 144 mins.

A seven-film series based on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia must have once seemed like a great idea.

Disney executives wanted something to compare to Warners' Harry Potter films, and Narnia had the makings of a slam dunk. But lacking Potter’s clear storyline and well-chosen cast, this series is already struggling. Director Andrew Adamson returns for this second installment, but rather than extending the appeal of the first, he's opted for a dark, dull tone inspired by the Lord of the Rings.

A year after journeying through a wardrobe and enjoying a full life as royalty in Narnia, the four Pevensie children are struggling to come to grips with life back in London. When unceremoniously called back to the magical land, they are confused to find a thousand years have passed and their exploits are regarded as legend rather than history. A race of men known as the Telmarines have conquered and destroyed much of Narnia. After an assassination attempt, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), the rightful Telmarine heir, forms an alliance with the land's remaining creatures against the kingdom's regent—his evil uncle.

Prince Caspian, though bloodless, is almost shockingly violent. In one encounter after another, the Pevensie kids kill Telmarines with gusto. During a raid on the regent's castle, human soldiers similarly tear into Narnia's centaurs and minotaurs. There's little to carry the film through the battles, however. Ben Barnes is a pretty but pallid lead, and the four Pevensie kids never gel into a rich quartet. Peter Dinklage projects irascible dignity as the dwarf Trumpkin, and Eddie Izzard earns laughter by voicing a rapier-wielding mouse.

Despite one or two well-made setpieces, this is a two-and-a-half-hour slog through shallow fantasy. It’s made all the more fatuous by the end-game appearance of Aslan the lion, who swoops in to save the day whilst pandering a thin message of faith.