Thank heavens for a family blockbuster that manages to combine religious symbolism, rip-roaring adventure and genuine directorial verve – the form has been tainted recently by Chris Weitz’s appalling pseudo alternate-universe mess The Golden Compass (2007), based on Philip Pullman’s God-awful novel of the same name.
Thank heavens, again, then, for C.S. Lewis, whose sequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) has been brought to the screen by Andrew Adamson (director of the first film, as well as Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004)) with the magic of Lewis’s imaginative, fantasy world still very much in place.
Replacing some of the first film’s innocence and wonder with a studied (if Disney-esque) analysis of what it really means to be ‘grown up’ sits well in the context of the story, which, to be fair, is the nearest that Lewis came in his original novels and Disney is likely to come to making a war story.
Young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) has been driven out of his castle by his megalomaniacal uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellito). In desperation he summons the Pevensie siblings back to the magic land they left – the Narnia from the first film is now lost 1,500 years in the past, even though it’s only been a year for the Pevensies. The Lion Aslan’s land has been rendered a much darker territory thanks to human invasion – the world’s magical creatures have been murdered and sent into hiding. Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) arrive to discover everyone they knew to be long since dead, but they strive to help Caspian unite Narnia’s surviving dwarfs, centaurs, talking badgers, and other magical beings into an army to fight off Miraz and his hordes of Tellamarines.
Wardrobe’s CGI gripes seem by and large to have been resolved for the sequel, which brings an extra depth to the battle sequences, which are truly spectacular. Comparisons with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy seem inevitable, but, then again, there was more than a little in common between Tolkien and Lewis’s original literary visions. The acting overall is sound – the young cast’s occasional awkwardness in fact adds to the charm and, while The Chronicles of Narnia still seem to lack some of the subtlety of the very best of the fantasy genre, Adamson is still bidding fair to emboss his directorial seal over what seem likely to continue being very enjoyable adaptations.