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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (3-Disc Collector's Edition + Digital Copy and BD Live) - Blu-ray DVD / action adventure DVD / drama DVD / adaptation DVD review
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (3-DISC COLLECTOR'S EDITION) Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, William Moseley
Director: Andrew Adamson Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 02 December 2008 Runtime: 149 min.
(3 discs)
Format: Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (7.1 DTS HD Master Audio - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Audio commentary w/ director and actors, Circle-vision Interactive: Creating the Castle Raid, BD-Live, The Bloopers of Narnia, Deleted Scenes, Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns, Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life, Big Movie Comes to a Small Town, Previsualizing Narnia, Talking Animals and Walking Trees: The Magical World of Narnia, Secrets of the Duel, Becoming Trumpkin, Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik, DisneyFile digital copy of feature film, Easter eggs

While it may not be as richly deep in its mythology and backstory as Tolkien's Middle-earth, C.S. Lewis's Narnia is nontheless an imagined world whose story is indeed epic in scope, and certainly as dear to its legions of devoted fans (who often discover Lewis before Tolkien). That makes it all the harder not to accord its second installment higher accolades.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian opens with a birth, an attempted assassination, and a midnight flight through a dark and menacing countryside. Heir to the Telmarine throne Prince Caspian flees a group of soldiers on horseback under orders from his uncle Miraz, the royal regent, to "remove" the young man. This night Miraz's wife has given birth to a son, and the unscrupulous older man would see his own branch of the family tree inherit the throne. Caspian's mad ride to escape ends abruptly thanks to a low-hanging tree limb. When two mysterious small persons approach him with unknowable intentions, Caspian frantically sounds an ancient horn given him by his tutor.

The Pevensie children - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - find themselves transported without any warning from a 1940's London underground station to Narnia. Elated to be back after a long, dull year in England, they are unsure in what part of their beloved Narnia they are. After a bit of exploring, they realize that the ruins overlooking the ocean from a high cliff are what remains of their home as Kings and Queens of Narnia, Cair Paravel. They encounter the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) who leads them to the gathered Narnians. Along the way Lucy sees Aslan, but the others refuse to believe it's anything more than wishful thinking.

The Spaniard-esque Telmarine people believe that they exterminated all Narnian creatures hundreds of years ago, but Caspian is the first to learn the truth. After a few false starts, he convinces the Narnians that his cause and theirs are the same: if he wrests the throne from his uncle's control, he will forge peace between Narnia and the Telmarines.

Peter and Caspian disagree on the best course of action to meet the Telmarine attackers, and the tension between the two leaders provides the most believable emotional conflict in the film. When an assault on the Telmarine castle ends in slaughter, Peter, Caspian and the Narnians retreat to Aslan's How, a labyrinth beneath the burial mound that was raised over the broken Stone Table. Their they will make their final stand against the attackers in a battle triptych of a duel between kings, large-scale ground battle, and unexpected reinforcements.

Prince Caspian filmed in New Zealand (as did Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy) and Eastern Europe, and their is no faulting the mythic grandeur of the settings. The CG (done by completely different companies than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is generally smooth, and all the visual aspects of the film are well served by the Blu-ray transfer. The deep blacks and crisp edges do much to draw the viewer in where the somewhat flat emotional arcs cannot (the utter lack of chemistry between Anna Popplewell's Susan and Ben Barnes' Orlando Bloom-ish Caspian, for one). The 7.1 DTS HD soundtrack catches viewers between Miraz and Peter's singing steel blades, puts them just ahead of the thunderous advance of the trees, and right on the shore of the river god's crashing wrath - never mind Aslan's rib-rattling roar. A raft of engaging original Blu-ray features also forgive some of the film's emotional detachment, especially the Circle-Vision Interactive "Creating the Castle Raid" on the first disc.

The movie franchise will go on with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, set for a 2010 release. Edmund and Lucy will return to Narnia with their dreadful cousin Eustace and join Caspian for an ocean voyage to the end of the world. Hopefully the next installment will recapture (maybe even best) the first film's touching sense of wonder - and continue to maintain and improve upon the audio-visual splendor.
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reviewed by Sharon Schulz-Elsing
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