The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Directed by Andrew Adamson. Starring Ben Barnes, Sergio Casteltitto, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes.

Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), the first non-animated big-screen feature film based on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia books, Prince Caspian is visually spectacular, emotionally stirring and dramatically potent.

The four Pevensie children are called back to Narnia, where they once reigned as kings and queens (a year ago in Earth time, but thousands of years by Narnia reckoning) to join up with the heroic young Prince Caspian and claim the throne that his tyrannical uncle, King Miraz, usurped from Caspian's father. Except for a flashback that explains Caspian's legacy and upbringing, the novel is mostly a battle between Miraz's army (the Telmarines) and Caspian's, made up mostly of "old Narnians."

Director Andrew Adamson, working with co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, reconfigured the narrative to begin with Caspian (Ben Barnes) escaping from a castle with the aid of his tutor, Dr. Cornelius (Vincent Grass), when Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) targets his life. The script is a canny interweaving of plot elements culminating in the alliance--not always a comfortable one--between the rightful heir to the throne and the Pevensies. They are the "sons and daughters of Adam" appointed by the great lion Asian to release Narnia from the chains of a tyrant (the White Witch, played brilliantly in the last film by Tilda Swinton, who makes a brief but memorable reappearance here) and summoned by powerful magic at Caspian's behest to help him do the same.

Adamson and his collaborators create opportunities for drama that Lewis didn't worry about, like a scene in which Caspian confronts Miraz with the murder of his royal father. The Telmarines are distinguished in this movie by their dark, brooding looks and Spanish-accented English. The old Narnians are a marvelously disparate crew: dwarves like Trumpkin (the wry, delightful Peter Dinklage, diving to the bottom of his wine-barrel voice), bronzed centaurs with pre-Raphaelite manes, chivalrous mice decked out in outfits out of a Dumas novel, minotaurs of staggering physical strength and ghostly dancing trees.

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In this version of Lewis's allegorical tale, Asian/Christ is the benevolent yet fearsome force that reanimates the pagan spirits while setting humankind, in its most cultivated form, to rule over them. …