The fantastic world created more than 50 years ago by Belfast-born author C.S. Lewis returns to the screen in a sequel to the 2005 hit The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Alan Silverman has a look at the new Narnia film adventure, Prince Caspian.
The Pevensie children - Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter - return to the magical world that they discovered in the first adventure. Narnia is a place of mythical creatures like centaurs and gryphons ...a land of talking animals and warrior dwarves. In their first visit, they ruled the land as the High Kings and Queens under the guidance of the noble lion Aslan; but, although only a year has passed in their lives as London school students, centuries have elapsed in Narnia and they find a ravaged landscape with the Narnians threatened by a warrior race of humans, the Telmarines.
To defeat this brutal and militaristic enemy the Pevensie children get an unexpected ally in the title character, Prince Caspian, a Telmarine who also believes that peace must be restored and honored.
The young British stars of the original film are back: Georgie Henley as Lucy, Skander Keynes as Edmund, Susan played by Anna Popplewell and William Mosely as the oldest, Peter. Also returning, New Zealand-born director and co-writer Andrew Adamson, who says the story had to account for the actors growing from kids to teens and young adults.
"One of my biggest fears was how much they were changed because I was very happy with them in the first one and you always worry that they're going to go through that gangly stage or just some unfortunate stage that kids go through;" Adamson explains, "but all our kids grew and matured really well, both physically and in terms of who they were as people. I met Anna and auditioned her for the first film when she was 13 and she is now studying literature at Oxford. Will was 15 [in the first film] and he just turned 21. So there have obviously been a lot of changes, but one of the things that I have been really happy about is not just how they've changed in terms of their abilities as actors, but that they have stayed true to who they are as people."
New to the ensemble: British stage actor Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian, who says he grew up reading the C.S. Lewis fantasy novels and appreciates the film's faithfulness to their spirit and morality.
"What I like about ...Caspian is there is not one particular moral message that comes to the fore, but I think that there are good lessons in there," Barnes says. "There's moments where he makes mistakes and you learn about his regret of those mistakes. There are moments where he has to trust in other people around him and their ideas and learn to concede. Then there's the sort of over-arching message about believing in something that is greater than yourself ...and nature is the thing that saves the day at the end. Fifty years ago when these books were first written that was a much more allegorical message and now it's something that looks really cool. So I think there's a lot of interesting layers and a lot of interesting moral messages in there if you choose to see them; and if you don't there's cool battle scenes."
In fact, the battle scenes are far more intense and perilous than any depicted in the first film; but director Adamson believes Prince Caspian presents this good-versus-evil struggle in a way that young audiences can handle.
"I think children are okay as long as you don't traumatize them and that's the balance: you have to able to let them get scared, let them get tense (and) go to all those places, but not take it so far as to be gratuitous and traumatizing," Adamson says. "Sometimes it's duration ...how long you stay in a dangerous moment; sometimes it's the use of sound (or) a matter of letting the action play and letting the emotion be carried by the music. All of those things are how you shape it in order for it not to be traumatizing or harmful or abusive. Other things are just how far you go. There is really very little blood. A lot of time you see the sword swipe, but you don't see the impact. You hear the arrow hit, but you don't see it. Those kinds of things."
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian features an international cast including American Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin the Red Dwarf. Italian actor Sergio Castellitto plays the tyrant Telmarine King Miraz. Irishman Liam Neeson returns as the voice of the lion Aslan; and English comic Eddie Izzard gives voice to Reepicheep, the swashbuckling mouse. As in the first film, the heroic score is by British composer Harry Gregson-Williams.