Directed by Andrew Adamson | 140 min. | PG | Starring: Ben Barnes, William Mosely, Sergio Castellitto, Georgie Henley, and the voice of Liam Neeson
The four Pevensie children have found everyday life in London tiresome following the high adventure of defeating the White Witch and establishing the Golden Age of the Kingdom of Narnia. Their reign in peaceful Narnia, accomplished with the help of Aslan the lion (voice by Liam Neeson), had come to an abrupt end as they re-entered the wardrobe and tumbled back into wartime England of the 1940’s.
Especially grumpy is Peter (William Moseley), once High King Peter the Magnificent, who seems to be in constant conflict with his schoolmates. The four children are longing for the land where they spent so many happy years when, suddenly, in the London Underground of all places, they feel themselves pulled back into Narnia. A beach of unearthly beauty appears in front of them and at first they are overwhelmed with joy and a sense of release at being back in their true home.
But this is not the Narnia they remembered; no longer does the water sing, the trees dance and the animals speak. There is savagery and oppression in Narnia, and soon the children discover the secret; they have returned centuries after their reign and their beloved homeland is in dire need of their help. Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), the heir to the throne of Telmar and a fugitive from his uncle King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) — who wanted the throne for his newborn son — has summoned the Pevensie children with Susan’s magic horn.
In the dark kingdom of Telmar on the other side of the river, the inhabitants have long considered the story of Aslan’s salvation of Narnia and the brave deeds of its kings and queens, fairy tales for children and the simple-minded. Prince Caspian, whose parents are dead, was forbidden by King Miraz to learn of such things, yet his wise and gentle Professor (Vincent Grass) had secretly told him the truth. The young Prince hardly dared believe in such nobility, living as he did in a kingdom of darkness ruled by his uncle, a violent usurper of the throne.
Prince Caspian and King Peter form an alliance which is fraught with tension, caused by Caspian’s desire for revenge, and Peter’s pride. Peter has forgotten that he was no king until crowned by Aslan, whose death and resurrection made the stunning victory over the White Witch possible. Lucy (Georgie Henley), however, has seen Aslan, who wants to lead them. Will the proud and impetuous princes heed the faith of a child?
For believers, the Christian subtext of the Narnia series is evident. The battle at the centre of Prince Caspian is a spiritual one which today looks like this: we have enslaved ourselves by our pride to materialism; we have allowed secularists to relegate religion to the realm of innocuous hobbies in their attempt to dissuade us from reclaiming our freedom. Only Christ can empower us to throw off this yoke.
But there is a political subtext as well. Prince Caspian was written by C S Lewis in 1951 when Europe, recoiling from the savagery of World War II, was dismayed to find the nations liberated by the Allies from Nazis under a new oppressor — Soviet communism. The Cold War snuffed the glow of the Allied victory and overshadowed the ensuing decades with the spectre of international nuclear war. Lewis, who died in 1967, never lived to see the break-up of the Soviet empire. One wonders if, by using the name “Caspian”, he meant to evoke the Caspian Sea, which borders Russia, and whether he saw in the rejection and oppression of religious belief in Telmar, the atheistic dogmatism of communism.
Director/Producer/Screenwriter Andrew Adamson seems to imply this by having the swarthy Telmarines speak with Eastern European accents and, by cloaking their kingdom in darkness, suggests an “evil empire”. Telmarine-oppressed Narnia, though brighter than Telmar, reflects little of its former glory; even the animals are no longer civilized. As the Narnian, Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), explains, “If you are treated like a dumb animal, that is what you become.”
At the level of universal values Prince Caspian speaks powerfully of bravery, self-sacrifice, and the importance of remembering one’s cultural heritage as a means of comprehending the present. Pride is seen as a vice, which forgets faith and begets violence, yet violence itself is not eschewed, as Caspian and the Pevensies defend the rights of the oppressed. The heroes of Narnia are no lambs; they are, after all, led by a lion.
Spectacular natural scenery seen in powerful aerial shots combined with the familiar lyrical musical themes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe effectively transport the audience into another world. A teenage girl who attended the movie with me, said, “It’s depressing to come out of this movie because you have to leave Narnia and face reality.” Like the Pevensie children, you find that the longing for Narnia remains a part of you.
Recommended for children ten and up. Some frightening though unbloody battle scenes, a noisy though non-graphic birth scene, one kiss on the mouth, and a disturbing scene of delving into the occult may frighten younger children.
Leticia Velasquez is a regular MercatorNet film reviewer. She lives in New York.