In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the Pevensie kids have returned once again to Narnia, only to find it is 1300 years later and in ruins, with Aslan nowhere to be found. The Telmarines have conquered, forcing what few true Narnians are left into hiding. Their evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) is eyeing the throne for his newly-born son instead of its rightful heir, his nephew, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). Fearing for his life, Caspian flees and he and the Pevensies team up to fight to restore Narnia to its previous glory.
Unlike the Harry Potter series, which does a little recapping at the beginning to introduce newcomers to the world, this story picks up right in the middle of the action. Writer/director Andrew Adamson (Shrek 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) trusts the audience to either be such faithful fans of C. S. Lewis's series that they will recognize what is happening, or smart enough that they can figure it out. It's unusual not to be spoon-fed at least a little, and I didn't mind being made to work to understand what was going on, but at points it was so difficult I felt a little bit like I was watching other people's insider jokes -- and I was one of the many people already familiar with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
Prince Caspian is squarely aimed at the PG set -- too much battle violence for the littlest kids, but still too Disney-squeaky for real adult grit. Lewis didn't shy away from showing kids the painful realities of life -- i.e. war and loss -- so there is quite a bit of fighting going on, including some truly epic battle sequences. But since they are cleaned up for the youngest viewers, it winds up being some sort of weird, bloodless alternate version of Braveheart with all the sword fighting and none of the gore. And for those in the know, the Christian imagery in Lewis's series is recognizable, but, true to Lewis, not so overt that those unaware of the allegory will feel hit over the head with it.
The best part about Prince Caspian is without doubt the CGI. There is nothing like a big Disney budget to make the look of a movie, from the costumes to the animation, pitch perfect and Prince Caspian is no exception. In fact, I loved the animation so much that my favorite character was an animated one -- the endearingly funny and brave mouse Reepicheep, delightfully voiced by Eddie Izzard.
All in all, Prince Caspian is a well-executed, faithful version of the C. S. Lewis classic. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it feels a little long, but the kids will undoubtedly like it and you will, too.