Running Time: 140mins.
Rated: Rated PG (mild fantasy violence, some scenes may upset young children).
One year after the incredible events of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,' the Kings and Queens of Narnia find themselves back in that faraway wondrous realm, only to discover that more than 1300 years have passed in Narnian time. During their absence, the Golden Age of Narnia has become extinct, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines and is now under the control of the evil King Miraz, who rules the land without mercy.
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are magically transported back from WWII London to the world of Narnia, and here they meet Narnia's rightful heir to the throne, the young Prince Caspian, who has been forced into hiding as his uncle Miraz plots to kill him in order to place his own newborn son on the throne. With the help of the kindly dwarf, a courageous talking mouse named Reepicheep, a badger named Trufflehunter and a Black Dwarf, Nikabrik, the Narnians, led by the mighty knights Peter and Caspian, embark on a remarkable journey to find Aslan, rescue Narnia from Miraz's tyrannical hold, and restore magic and glory to the land.
There are seven book in CS Lewis' Narnia series: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician's Nephew; The Last Battle. This is the second in the film series, and Disney has already got The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in preproduction and The Silver Chair is slated to appear in 2010.
In 2005/06 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe grossed over $738 million worldwide. It made over $35 million here. With more action and fewer earnest speeches this time around, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian will do even better. It is the most accomplished spectacular film released so far this year.
This is all good news to Christians, of course, because even though CS Lewis rejected the commentary that the Narnia series was a Christian allegory he did so because he was so precise with language, and he held his own and other's allegorical writing in such high regard. He did concede that the Narnia series was "suppositional'. In his own words, "Let us suppose that reality contained different parallel worlds, and that in one of them the Son of God, as He became Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'
And in Prince Caspian the supposition we explore is the nature of faith: faith in a God we cannot see, faith in those we can see, converting to new faith and discarding faith that is rotten to the core. It is all on offer here, but should not be taken to extremes because Aslan is a very contrary and toying God figure, made more in CS Lewis' image, than in any reality within God, at least I hope so.
It is entirely possible, of course, to enjoy this wonderful movie as a vivid fantasy film or see it as an allegory about the defeat of Nazi evil in WWII or even about the medieval Christian crusades to reclaim the Holy Land (Narnia). But whatever way we enjoy it there is something for everyone here.
41 year old New Zealand director Andrew Adamson, who was originally a visual effects supervisor, shot to stardom by directing Shrek, Shrek 2 and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. With Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Adamson has appropriately adapted and updated Lewis' original text, injecting some contemporary idiom and humour that only adds to the enjoyment of this long film.
And there is so much to enjoy in Prince Caspian. Shot in the Czech Republic, Slovenia (the Bridge scene), New Zealand (Cair Paravel), and Poland, the location scouts have, literarily, had a field day. The cinematography, editing, special effects, sets, art direction, costumes and sound design are all first class.
Except for Liam Neeson as Aslan's voice, Adamson resisted the temptation to cast huge stars in the first film, and here all the principal actors look even more comfortable in their character's shoes.
It is unfortunate, however, that in a world when we are trying to build bridges with Muslims that in Lewis' day the baddies in his book, the "Oriental Calormen', are Muslims by any other name. It is to Adamson's credit that he plays this down in the film. For while this exotic evil empire could be Middle Eastern, they could just as easily be very naughty Spaniards.
The values of the film are also first rate. The recurring theme of "things never happen the same way twice' means, in context, that the way Aslan saved Narnia in the first incarnation will not occur again. Indeed more profoundly this time, Peter, Susan, Lucy, Edmund and Caspian have to trust each other, reflect on what they learnt from their experiences last time and hold to faith in Aslan in the face of insurmountable odds. Aslan is with them always, able to be called upon, but is more hidden except to Lucy, the youngest, purest and often wisest of the quintet. Aslan is preparing our pilgrims through time and space for a leadership that counts: in discerning, forgiving, being just and courageous when confronting evil.
The final showdown where horse and rider are thrown into the sea is more than reminiscent of the Exodus story when even creation arises to do God's bidding, and this scene is as exciting and moving as I assume the one upon which it is based.
The reported budget for this film is $180million, that's almost $1.3million a minute. This represents the best value for money for your movie-going dollar this year. Don't miss it.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.