Lowdown: It’s time to believe again.
One of the first films I got to blog about was the first Narnia film, which I have found to be annoying and rather mediocre in quality. Do not, however, claim that I am not into giving second chances away; Narnia’s sequel, Prince Caspian, has earnt the honor of being my first ever Blu-ray watch. Indeed, Blu-ray delivered the quality in spades, which is much more than I can say about Prince Caspian as a film.
Caspian tells the story of the same gang of four kids from the first Narnia film. As the film starts they are back in World War II London going through the motions of being teenage kids (that is, fighting with other kids). Quickly, however, they are drawn back to the world of Narnia when Prince Caspian calls them using a magic horn.
So what’s the prince’s story? Well, he belongs to this race of humans that speak English with a Spanish accent and look slightly darker than your average Anglo Saxon (that is, they look Spanish). This race has come to Narnia and did its best to exterminate its magical citizens, pretty much the way the Spaniards did South America. Now, however, they are ruled by an evil tyrant who plots to murder Caspian, the heir to the throne, so Caspian won’t be king and the evil dude's son will instead. Caspian, in turn, escapes and calls on the Narnia kings & queens (that is, our four kids) to return and help him sort things out in Narnialand.
And come back they do. On the way they encounter magical creatures (most notably a badger and a knight rat), they fight some wars, and essentially don’t do much to determine the course of things despite all the hoo-ha. Through their belief, though, they manage to survive things out to the end of the film and its inevitable happy ending. Belief is at the core of this film, as it is obvious Prince Caspian has been created to act as a propaganda machine for the prorogation of religious views.
Although never truly annoying, there are many problems with Prince Caspian that make it a rather lesser film than a swords & sorcery fantasy film with such a high budget should be. The first and most obvious of these is the film’s length: at two and a half hours it’s way too long and although never boring it feels the plot progresses like a river streaming uphill; for a film this long, there is no real dominant plot to drive things along. Prince Caspian is just never exciting enough to justify dragging itself over two and a half hours; given that it’s a film made for kids, the length becomes an even bigger issue.
Second, there is the issue of belief. Our kid heroes face many a challenge during the film, but the message that the film does its best to deliver is that anything is possible if you just believe in it. Talk about an awkward and misleading messages, hey? What about some realism, please? Or should I just start believing that tomorrow all my problems will disappear and I will earn a million dollars (or better yet, that tomorrow everyone else will realize their lives will be much better if they were to give me 10% of their worldly possessions)? I know Caspian is a kids’ film, but let’s not fill our kids’ brains with hot air.
And third, there are some severe ethical issues with Prince Caspian. The films’ baddies, the Spanish looking humans, are being killed left and right by our heroes; yet it is very clear that these Spaniards are not evil but rather that they are ruled by evil rulers who lead them down the wrong path. Wouldn’t it be wiser and more just to just go at the head, instead of hitting the body first in order to get to the end? How can one pretend to be truly good if one is killing innocent people in the cause of good? The analogy of Narnia as the land saved by the crusaders is very much evident in Prince Caspian, and it doesn't really flatter the film.
Maybe I should focus on the positive side. There is some great cinematography in Prince Caspian, with some really spectacular shots…
Most annoying scene(s):
Aslan, the mighty savior of all that is good in Narnia, is repeatedly asked during the film why he wouldn’t move his ass slightly quicker and jump to the rescue slightly before everything looks doomed. His answer, which he repeats several times during Prince Caspian, is that “things never happen the same way twice”.
The first question I have is to do with the need for repeating this statement. Is it that the film is so long lines need to be repeated again and again just in order for us to be able to remember them, or is there a need to repeat them under the assumption that if repeated enough times we the viewers will learn to accept the statement as true?
Well, I won’t accept that statement as true no matter how many times mighty Aslan repeats it. Here’s why: I pick up a ball, raise it a meter above the floor, and let go of it; the ball falls down. I pick the ball up again to the same height and let go of it again, and guess what? It falls down again! Who could have anticipated that! Who would have guessed things can happen the exact same way twice? Don’t tell me I could repeat this again and again, no way!
In short, my point is that there is a lot of bullshit in Prince Caspian. Then again, given that Aslan is just a thinly disguised Jesus and that the entire world of Narnia reeks of good old Christian values with its lot of bullshit, what can one expect? Or rather, what can one expect from yet another Walden Media production?
Picture quality: Well, it’s excellent. Colors are amazingly detailed, and the beauty of the New Zealand scenery where at least some of Caspian was shot is so well laid out this could be a tourism ad. It’s the first Blu-ray disc I ever got to see so I cannot compare it to its peers, but its delivery of a high definition is obviously better than anything I have seen before in a home environment.
Sound quality: As soundtracks go, this one is good but not reference quality. The main event with Caspian was my first exposure to DTS-HD sound, a lossless sound encoding system delivering sound at the sound master’s original quality. Well, I can’t say that the extra sound quality knocked me off my seat in comparison to the standard Dolby Digital sound we get on DVDs, but there was a definite lack of the hard edges that you get with Dolby Digital; it was like listening to a CD as opposed to listening to an MP3. If anything, the experience reminded me of listening to PCM encoded soundtracks from good old laserdiscs, only with the advantage of having discrete full bandwidth 5.1 sound as opposed to the stereo signal being crudely separated to four channels.
Overall: The magnificence of the Blu-ray format aside, Prince Caspian is a very average film (and that’s a compliment). I rank it as a 2 plus stars film out of 5.