Monday, June 02, 2008

Prince Caspian rules! After the disappointment that was Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, the sequel is a much more spirited effort at fleshing out the main characters and their role in the events that follow, rather than just letting a great story tell itself via a different medium.

While "Caspian" doesn't live up to the grandior of LoTR -- the props and set looked very much recycled from LoTR -- the human characters really hold their own in this movie. Five angsty teenagers, each bearing a mighty responsibility; and as a parallel of our world it is a choice that we ourselves have to make soon: to save what we can of our natural resources, or strip the earth bare with our machines and machinations.

Because the deus ex machina, Aslan, only shows up at the end, the famous five are left on their own to muddle through a horribly sticky situation. How to reinstate a deposed Caspian to the throne so that his tree-hugging policies will restore peace and balance to the natural world, a.k.a. Narnia? At odds with them is the environmentally-unfriendly, technologically and logistically superior yet fractious human alliance of Telmarine.

High King Peter's first-strike manouvre reflects his hot-headed tendencies. He lets his fists think for him, as we see in his scuffle at the Strand ending with an adult's admonishment to "act [his] age." Peter learns a hard lesson as he watches his Narnian forces get decimated as a result of his ill-planned assault on the Telmarine keep itself.

The fight sequences in this installment are so much better arranged and are more memorable than LWW. The kids are more gung-ho in combat, going all-out with no quarter, and they look like they are fighting for their lives. Even Susan goes at it with her bow, but in close-quarters combat she uses the shaft and point of her arrows just as effectively as her unerring marksmanship. It's also gratifying that despite his dimunitive nature, Reepicheep's "cute" factor gets played down in favour of his capability as a master fencer. Come to think of it, no one's cute. Not the dwarves, the centaurs, the minotaurs, not even the stupid squirrel. Big grin for that.

The Telmarines themselves, power-hungry backstabbers that they are, think they are in for an easy victory. Their forces vastly outnumber what's left of the Narnians, they have an effective cavalry and artillery complement and their morale is high. But by then the teenagers have figured out how to work together, spelling the end of the Telmarine regent's tyrannical reign.

Peter and Edmund lead the hold-off forces, Susan rides armed escort for Lucy's recce mission, while Caspian brings in the cavalry. And the Telmarines fall victim to natural disaster as Aslan finally makes his appearance. It's no joke being swallowed by a tsunami. Like the Telmarines who blithely mess around with their natural resources, we had best heed that warning as well.

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