Narnia news is not good. Aslan seems to have done a bunk for 1300 years. Narnian Heritage are even more hopeless at looking after ruined castles than their English equivalent. Worse, a race of piratical nasties has invaded and taken over, and true Narnians are living, again, in their own underground. Prince Caspian’s a nice young man but his wicked uncle Miraz, more Philip of Spain than Osama, is jackbooting around the place with a nasty army of hardback beardies. These aren’t nice hairy Richard Branson, Rowan Williams beardies. These Beardies are Bad, and they have tin beards on the fronts of their little helmets, so don’t you forget it. There’s a big showdown, and once Aslan weighs in, guess who wins. Er... that’s it.
Dawkins Left brain headbangers will probably find less to offend them here than they did in the stone table sacrifice last time round. More imaginative people will enjoy the cornucopia of weirdos and misfits from the Classics department. Where else can you see a Dryad, a Naiad and all-age centaurs, derring do with a talking badger, a Rambomouse, and testosterone-charged gnomes? I hope it’s not giving too much away to say that Aslan’s fighting trees make the whomping willow look like Mary Poppins. It’s a potent bunch of chums, but perhaps too inyerface for Right brain Enya fans — light on poetry and heavy on action. Still, most of us use both halves of our brains, so there’s plenty here for everyone to like in a good natured action romp for all the family.
Even the beheading is tastefully done, according to the film’s slightly Janet-and-John house style. And therein lies the glory, but also the limitation of the main characters. They’re not wooden — just British. It was surely a good call not to stick sneakers on the kids; but this may limit many people’s capacity to identify with them. It comes off because the whole context is so surreal that the back-to-the-future aspects entertain rather than clunking or jarring. One or two tongue-in-cheek one liners cut into the action, lending a bit of irony and fun to the proceedings.
So what is this film really about, on a macro level, apart from chivalry and enchanted critters?
- It's about having the courage to believe in the face of adversity. “Never give up,” Winston Churchill told Harrow School in 1940, and this message speaks into a boring, weedy and faithless age like ours.
- Prince Caspian ain’t no Grease, but it’s got a coming-of-age subtext as well. Having told one gawky paraour to push off in scene one, by the end, Susan learns how to kiss a boy. That’s neat, but she won’t be going back to Narnia.
- There’s also something in here about the small rainbow alliance of misfits beating the big bad regiment of clones that would have played well in 1941 and still has some resonance. Beef up your diversity policies, friends.
How long, O Lord? London Underground smashed Bob Kiley. Who’s next? Ken did his best. Maybe Boris can sort out the mess.