Labels

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Film Review - THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN: Close The Book, This Franchise Is Officially Dead!

I've been going to the movies for over twenty years now, and have seen the odd advance screening. Usually they are quiet affairs, with contest winners wandering confusedly into a film they have no real knowledge of. Tonight, however I had my first run-in with Walt Disney's group of hired movie-militants. After being corralled like Mad Cow-diseased bovine, we were slowly filtered into a crude interrogation section where purses were rummaged through and warnings were issued regarding bringing recording equipment into the theatre. Then the metal detectors and even-more-formal harsh warnings and threats of audience surveillance came into play...

It was among the most demeaning experiences of my life, at least it was up until and they blasted the trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua at us in deafening digital audio. As I sat there, confoundedly attempting to make some of sense of this cinematic catastrophe, and distracted by the "friendly" Disney SWAT team darting around the aisles looking for video-cameras, I was both amused and angered by the sheer insanity of it all. At the end of the day, we're just there to see a movie, not declare jihad on the downtown cineplex. It was an ugly look into the ruthless corporate entity that hides behind the Magic Kingdom. In retrospect though, I can see why they were desperately afraid that pre-release footage from Prince Caspian would get out. Because if anyone sees a few minutes of this turkey on-line in the next few days there's no way they'll be showing up at the theatres this weekend.

I reasonably enjoyed 2005's The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. It was nicely shot, with a deliciously evil and seductive villainess in Tilda Swinton's White Witch (Who shows up briefly in Caspian in a scene so awful it must be seen to be believed). She, and Liam Neeson's regal voicing of the Jesus-lion, Aslan, helped overcome some of the bumpy effects and often terrible acting from the four children at the heart of the story. It was like Lord Of The Rings-lite, engaging and amusing... And occasionally even terrific fun.

Alas, there is nothing good to say about the new follow-up, the agonizingly dull and lifeless Prince Caspian. This time around, the young heroes Peter (William Moseley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) find themselves transported back to Narnia, and in direct confrontation with the evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto - made to look exactly like Gerard Butler in 300), who aims to wipe the mystical inhabitants of the land off the map. To further aid his plan, he has driven the true heir to the kingdom, the titular Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) into exile. Soon the children must make an uneasy alliance with the Prince and, with the aid of the magical creatures of the forest, take back Narnia and restore it to its former glory.

While in brief synopsis form the storyline of Caspian is far from wretched, the execution is never anything less than woefully inept. Director Andrew Adamson, who helmed the previous film, as well as the first two Shrek outings, shows absolutely zero flair for the material. His shots are lifeless and devoid of energy. As well, Prince Caspian is among the cruddiest looking blockbusters in recent memory. There is a prolonged castle siege that is so muddy and foggy looking that one begins to wonder if someone spilled ink onto the print. Similarly, the sweeping fields and hills of Narnia have no splendour or majesty. They're point-and-shoot travelogue shots.

The battle scenes are particularly horrible. It's quite obvious that all of the stars are in desperate need of some extensive swordplay summer schooling, and thus every fight is a hack-and-slash edit job without grace or impact. There is a LOT of swash-buckling here, and not an iota of it looks even slightly competent. It's really pathetic when a major summer film like Narnia can't even provide a half-decent action scene.

This brings us to the acting... Or lack thereof. The young leads are hopeless, delivering all their lines in disbelieving monotones. There's no passion or drive, and they seem to care little about the apparently massive stakes of the story. Sadly though, they still manage to blow Ben Barnes right off the screen and back into central casting. I cannot recall a more bland performance by a lead actor in many a moon. This mannequin makes Hayden Christensen's prequel performances look like the work of Orson Welles. Looking like Timothy Olyphant's emo brother, and displaying limited facial mobility, Barnes mumbles his witless lines through a bizarre Greek-sounding accent that seems calculated to irritate. As well, special notice must go to the award-winningly bland villainous turn by Castellitto, who would probably have been better off as Ray Liotta's sword-boy in In The Name Of The King.

The script (HA!) for Prince Caspian, by director Adamson, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, makes sure to give each character only a single minor personality trait so as to prevent them all from congealing, in the viewer's mind, into a single mass of slithering blandness. I dare anyone to even attempt to care about a single character here! (The cute sword-slinging mouse not included). And therein lays the problem, for all the tortured (and often incomprehensible) revelations and twists in the plot, there is nothing to care about. Instead of watching a story unfold, we are subjected to simply counting off an endless amount of flat scenes until the underwhelming and plodding conclusion.

Honestly, I can't imagine there being a worse major film this summer than Prince Caspian. It is an epic blunder that kills any chance of me paying to see the next chapter, as well as any chance for an even half-decent trilogy. It's cynical audience-manipulating dreck without a single ounce of cleverness or wonder, and among the longest 2.5 hours I've ever spent in a theatre. There are going to be a lot of disappointed and bored families walking out of this clunker, and more than likely a massive number of complaints about the far-over-PG level of violence and scariness. At one point little Lucy declares "It feels like magic!" No, Lucy, Prince Caspian is where magic goes to die.

1 out of 5

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

You didnt like it then!

Sounds like the main problem was that Disney didnt flatter your ego enough.

The review gave me a good chuckle so thanks. - it must surely win the award for most OTT negativ review of the film.

Keep smiling.

Fauvism

Anonymous said...

I find it rather odd that you call the experience demeaning and yet you don't seem to be thankful enough that you actually got to see an advanced screening of the film. You seem a little full of yourself and to hear you complain about the security checks you had to go through makes me sick. This is your job. Do it without complaining! Be thankful that you actually are privileged enough instead of complaining about it.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you didn't like, makes me think I will like it all the more! The reasons (or lack thereof) you gave for hating this film were silly and (I agree with Fauvism) not flattering to your ego. How can you complain about them checking your bags or telling you not to video it?! I'm sure that EVERY pre-screening does the same thing, so to include that in your review seems pointless. It looks like you were just trying to find reasons to hate this movie. Sad.

Despite your silly review, I am still looking forward to this movie very much!!!

~DeLancey

Anonymous said...

Wow. . . what a blitzkrieg.

It's OK that you didn't like it, that's your prerogative. But you made Prince Caspian out to be absolutely horrendous. I find that very hard to believe considering the other reviews and interviews I've read and all the movie clips I've seen (also, as a huge fan of C.S. Lewis, I found the LWW to be satisfactory - the sequel can't be too bad).

I think Prince Caspian will be great.

Maybe you could do a better job?
Get a production team around you and make a movie.

I'd go see it. . .

- Retrofit

Anonymous said...

I think it's about time you gave up writing movie reviews...

Janine said...

This movie blows. I was there at the contest winners screening, and let me tell you, thank GOD I DIDN"T PAY!!! This movie was bad. Not even the kids seemed amused. i liked the first movie, and lets be honest, that damn mouse won me over, but the acting. Ugh. This movie could only be loved by those nutso religious freaks who only give a damn that the fact its the story of Jesus. anyone who likes that bullshit could enjoy watching a mold grow. And as for filming that film, yeah, like I'd waste my time using my digital camera which can only record 20minutes.... way to confiscate that.

wunderkind26 said...

Well...It appears that you didn't give good enough reasons to disliking this movie. I know I will see it and love it, as I've been anticipating this film ever since LWW ended when I first saw it. Seriously, man, what do you have against Prince Caspian? From all the clips I've seen, all the characters are still deeply beloved to me, especially Lucy.

Oh, and the franchise isn't dead...it's only beginning. ;)

Anonymous said...

is it just me or should to catch a preditor be after that guy??

Rilian said...

When I see incredibly negative reviews like yours, I give them an ear, considering that perhaps there's some negative things about the film I overlooked.

But when you profess to know how everyone else will hate it, disappointed families, the film will fail and so on, that tells me you are not at all competent at reviewing films.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the title of your review should be "Open the Book and Use your Own Imagination" as this interpretation is a bitter disappointment. I think a good indication of the reaction of the preview audience was the thundering silence that followed the viewing, instead of the appreciative applause that I am accustomed to.

Cam Smith said...

^^^^^^^^
Very true. In my entire audience, not a single person clapped when the film wheezed to its conclusion. Very, very unusual for an advance/opening screening. I'm predicting a huge opening and massive drop in its second week. Disney has a real dog here.

Lynx11 said...

You seem to be a very unqualified reviewer; instead of giving us solid reasons for the film's flaws, you just throw out "Ha!" and "Turkey" and other random insults. And generic notes like "woefully inept" are too ambiguous, hardly a valid critique. Since your entire movie review just sounds so childish, Im going to watch the movie based on the trailer I saw and the reviews Variety and the Hollywood Reporter gave. Even if I'm not a fan of the source material.

Also, when people clap during or at the end of the movie it usually means the audience are uncouthed and/or lower class citizens. I saw, and enjoyed, Iron Man and the rednecks couldn't stop clapping and cheering. If they were children or at a Film Festival, maybe. But not mainstream adults.

Anonymous said...

yea saw the movie to and it suckd. was like a funeral everyone hate it no reaction from the ppl maybe the worst movie of the year

Anonymous said...

Only a pretentious fool would suggest that his opinion should somehow be taken as authoritative (i.e., "official").

Anonymous said...

Who are you? Nobody?

Anonymous said...

I had a problem with the entire movie looking like lord of the rings. There were countless scenes of choreography, scenery, cinemaphotography, etc. that seemed exactly like lotr. also, they ripped off 300 a lot too.

Anonymous said...

Cam is right, they destoryed this movie, I have read the books dozens and dozens of times and one again just for old times sake just before the relese of the movie. I am ok with some creative licence, but they destoyed all the major plot lines, changed the charaters personaltys, and over all trashed the whole movie, with the exception of Reepacheep. I almost walked out on a movie I have been waiting 2 1/2 years for with very much excitment. I could not follow the storyline as it was so mangled it was incomprehensable. so I do not blame Cam he called it correctely, a sad sad blunder and a sad day for Narnia and us Fans.

Anonymous said...

I saw it this weekend (some friends really wanted to go), and you're right: it's utter trash. Ugly character design, vacant performances from dead-eyed teen actors, painful steals from Peter Jackson's LOTR movies, manipulative score.

I'm embarrassed to have contributed to its box-office take.

Anonymous said...

This was an incredible movie! You're such an old fart! This is one of the worst reviews I've ever read! Reading this was such a demeaning experience! This is an ugly review and you are an ugly person! I'm sure Prince Caspian didn't even want you to watch the movie! Hahah! People don't listen to her! She's a frekin pansy! Prince Caspian is a terrific film for all ages! I'm going to go watch it now!