Walt Disney Pictures continues its quest for a Potter-sized fantasy franchise with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG), the sequel to 2005's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
A year has passed in London since the Pevensie children (Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley) helped the messianic lion, Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), regain his throne in a magical land. Narnia is in a much different time zone, with 1,300 years gone by when the Pevensies return to help another deposed ruler.
Hunky Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) has been marked for death by his uncle, the evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). Aided by the siblings, Trumpkin the red dwarf (Peter Dinklage) and a brave mouse (voice of Eddie Izzard), Caspian seeks his rightful place on the throne.
Disney craftily played to the religious allegories of C.S. Lewis' book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, creating grass roots interest in church pews nationwide. Now that Narnia is a theatrical brand name, the studio is playing up epic comparisons to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises in advertisements.
Keep in mind, though, that Aslan and his magical forces, which dominated the first film's ad campaign, didn't appear until the last two reels. Let's hope that director Andrew Adamson focuses upon battlefield action rather than a musty closet and that creepy faun Mr. Tumnus again.
Prince Caspian opens Friday and will be reviewed Saturday on
Steve Persall, Times film critic