Much is always made about the religious themes at work in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. The Sunday-school-simple Christian allegory and the familiarity of the plot made the 2005 film adaptation of his novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe feel a little rote. Being Shrek and Shrek 2 director Andrew Adamson's first live-action feature and coming so soon on the heels of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy made it suffer in comparison to that genre standard-bearer.
But Prince Caspian is another matter: a plot that's less familiar, with darker thematic elements than its predecessor and more accomplished visuals from Adamson. Prince Caspian is no poor man's anything. It's just good action fantasy.
The film starts out with the birth of a son to Lord Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), uncle and regent to Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). This is bad news for Caspian, because now Miraz has an heir and an excuse to take the throne as leader of the Telmarines — swarthy, conquistador-looking people who speak English with Spanish-Italian accents.
Meanwhile, back in the good ole post-Blitz England, the Pevensie kids are figuring out life one year after the events of Lion, Witch. The movie's hot to get back to fantasy-land, though, so, as soon as Caspian gets in trouble, the Pevensies are whisked back Narnia-side to help him.
Remember how, by the end of Lion, Witch, the Pevensie kids had spent a whole lifetime in Narnia and were adult rulers of the land, then traveled back to England and got turned into kids again before the closing credits? Well, in Prince Caspian, the Pevensies are overjoyed to return to Narnia as kids once again — and why not? It's the Edenic place of their childhoods.
If Lion, Witch was a coming-of-age story, what's Prince Caspian? A re-coming of age?
The world they return to is familiar but vastly changed. As it happens, 1,300 years have passed since the siblings were last there, and stories of their reign as royalty in Narnia have passed into myth.
In fact, the Telmarines have done a good job of genocidally eradicating any signs that the Narnians ever actually existed. That Christ-like-figure, the lion Aslan (voiced magisterially by Liam Neeson)? Hasn't been seen in more than a millennium and probably was never even real.
Thus is introduced into Prince Caspian the religious-allegory portion of the program: as a comment on modern-day Christianity in an deity-absent world. You get your crises of faith, your soul searchings, and maybe a Narnian-style trust fall or two. It all makes for some interesting and fun overextensions of the Christian allegory, such as how the Pevensies are like the apostles coming back to kick some nonbeliever ass. Or, on the yuckier end of the spectrum, how you get to see Jesus watch approvingly as his followers kill their enemies.
Of course, as the Pevensies and Prince Caspian join forces and build an army to take on the Telmarines, climaxing in a massive, bloodlessly bloody civil war, Lewis' whole allegory thing reduces to folks killing other folks over ideological differences. Same as it ever was.
Whatever. C.S. Lewis is just some guy; he's not God and his stories are as fallible as any other writer's. The movie's good, though.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian