DVD Review: PRINCE CASPIAN
Posted on Dec 06 2008 by Greg
This second in the Chronicles of Narnia
series was not the box office bonanza that The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
was, but that may have been more due to its competition from Indiana Jones. A bit darker and more of a war epic than its predecessor, Prince Caspian
benefits from sweeping visuals (more actual locations than before) and a fine international cast.
Among the excellent, network-quality bonus features is a comparison between the book text and the settings realized on the screen, hosted by C.S. Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham
(who also hosts the radio drama version available here
is a shorter, less detailed novel in the Narnia series, so much so that the BBC TV adaptation found it necessary to combine it with Voyage of the Dawn Treader
(which should be especially great as a Disney/Walden movie).
The current epic film develops the characters of the four Pevensie children to a degree but focuses primarily on Caspian, played by Ben Barnes
, a very capable actor and far more personable on the commentary than he is in the film. One wonders if he was cast by the studio for his Tiger Beat
possibilities as well as his acting.
The first portion of the book, in which we meet Caspian's professor and nanny, who illegally discuss the Miraz-taboo subject of Narnia, is given short shrift to get to the action at the expense of deepening the audience's empathy for the young prince. Thanks to the Lucas/Spielberg
school of film storytelling, set ups such as this are becoming rare in film blockbusters. When the device works, it's fine, but often it's too much too soon, sort of like starting MGM's The Wizard of Oz
during the cyclone.
The film is actually very encjoyable on the home screen, where the attention is able to focus and the characters are able to move into the foreground. The extras are also well worth the price of the DVD, with a particularly beautiful mini-documentary about the river on which the climactic battle takes place, with townspeople offering their opinions of the region and the event that the moviemakers brought upon their sleepy village.
And yes! There is an audio commentary, as mentioned before, featuring director Andrew Adamson
and all the lead cast members. It's a sheer delight, chock full of facts and fun, especially the gentle kidding the young cast tosses at one another, like the constant reference to the hyperdramatic "blue steel" poses (a reference to the steely pout of the male models in the comedy Zoolander
). Ironically, Barnes image on the DVD cover is total blue steel.
The 3-disc collectors edition
includes a disc that connects with iTunes so you can download the entire film at no extra fee (unlike the Journey to the Center of the Earth
DVD package, which requires a small charge). It's a nice extra and also interesting because it signals a transition point from one media provider to another -- and certainly Disney is carefully monitoring how many people enjoy the downloads. Of course, an epic like this gets kind of puny on a iPod, but it's sure convenient!