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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The science of sequels has bedeviled Hollywood for years. Which elements should be retained? Which altered? The makers of the follow up to The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe faced an even more vexing problem. Should they go with the next C.S. Lewis book in the series, which has a compelling story but very few of the characters from the previous book, or should they skip ahead to the next book that has most of the central characters that appeared in the boxoffice hit, even if its story is moderately less involving? Well, they kept the characters and the cast for the 2008 production, The Chronicles of Narnia Prince Caspian, and did a reasonably good job of it, but were unable to break through the summer blockbuster gauntlet, and so the next sequel, which also has most of the characters, has been cancelled by Disney. Maybe they should go back to the book they missed now. It would be less expensive to make, at least.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released Prince Caspian in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. It is not exclusively a battle movie, and in fact the filmmakers have done their best to include thematic conflicts, character development and spiritual drama, but unlike the first film, which climaxed in a magnificent battle segment after a long and rewarding build up, Caspian feels like a battle movie and little else. (They also made the mouse character three or four times larger than he ought to be, which may have been necessary for the movie’s visual dynamics, but makes him look more like a rat and loses much of the humor they pretend is still there.) The heroes from the previous film-all nicely performed, but without the same excitement of discovery draped upon their shoulders-are whisked back into the fantasy world where they once ruled as kings and queens. It is centuries later, the lands have fallen on hard times, and they must help a prince regain his throne in order to protect the mythical creatures and beings that once thrived when they ruled. Where the first film was an outstanding family feature, the follow-up is just plain fantasy action entertainment, but that said, it makes a terrific DVD. The familiarity of the characters locks the viewer readily into the plot, and the battles are spectacular, with the accompanying 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound being equally rousing. That’s one thing that Hollywood does do well-even failures and superficial entertainments can be enormously satisfying if you aren’t too demanding.

The color transfer is okay, although some sequences seem to have unusually weak contrasts. The 150-minute feature has alternate French and Spanish tracks, and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The director, Andrew Adamson, and cast members Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell supply a relaxed but worthwhile commentary track, mostly reminiscing about the shoot as each scene appears. They talk a lot about the challenges they encountered, what was changed as they went along, and what the other cast and crew members were like, but in addition to that, you get a good feel for their own camaraderie and can begin to understand why it translates so effectively to the screen.

Disney has also released a 3-Disc Collector’s Edition. The first platter is identical to the standard release and the third platter contains a copy of the film that can be downloaded onto handheld viewing devices. The second platter has 11 minutes of sensibly deleted scenes, 3 minutes of mostly pratfall bloopers and 119 minutes of good production featurettes. One of the featurettes also mentions the now cancelled third film, and offers a tantalizing teaser from the pre-visualization animation that had been done for it.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at www.DVDLaser.com

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