Carrying a much-too-lenient PG rating, considering the extent of the carnage shown, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' is an overblown, extravagantly CGI'd epic.
It runs to a bloated two-and-a-half hours, the middle of which in particular tests the concentration spans of its audience. Director Andrew Adamson seems to have gone with the mantra 'more is more', not only with regards to the running time, but also with the computer graphics and high body count of the endless battles.
This is the second of CS Lewis' Narnia series to be made into a film, the first was 2005's 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. The actors from the first instalment reprise their roles here, and we meet them a year on from their last adventures, living as school kids in World War Two-era London.
But Peter (Moseley), Susan (Popplewell), Edmund (Keynes) and Lucy Pevensie (Henley) are soon whisked off in dramatic fashion from a grey tube station to the fantastical land of Narnia, after a distress call summonses them.
Many centuries have passed in Narnia, and it has been ravaged by a cruel race called Telmarines, leaving it a shadow of its previous self. Where once there were talking animals and mythical beasts, now the surviving Narnian creatures have been driven into hiding in the forests.
Cold-blooded Lord Miraz (Castellito) leads the Telmarines, and plots his takeover of the land, seeking to claim the throne from the rightful heir, his nephew Prince Caspian (Barnes). Upon the birth of his own son, he orders the murder of Caspian in order to pave his way to the throne as King.
Caspian escapes his evil clutches and, with the help of the Pevensie children, pulls together a hotchpotch counterforce to the Telamarines, featuring centaurs, griffiths, a kindly dwarf and a gutsy mouse.
And thus they begin their epic battle to reclaim the throne and save Narnia from the forces of evil. There is a level of tedium to the inflated battle sequences due, in part, to the inevitable similarities to 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. The battles feature much clashing of swords, whizzing arrows and even a beheading, and although the violence is non-gory, it is sure to be unsettling for younger viewers.
With a dose of imagination the film can really shine, such as when the White Witch (played by a haunting Tilda Swinton) tries to seduce the young Caspian to the dark side, along with a duo of terrifying creatures. An even more horrifying scene sees a number of Narnians trapped in the castle during the climactic siege at the end, with the escaping majority left to look on at their impending deaths.
To break up the terror, efforts at humour are attempted, most often coming from the sword-wielding mouse with an inferiority complex (voiced by Eddie Izzard). Unfortunately, a lacking script fails to deliver any laugh-out-loud moments. A dash of romance is also added to the proceedings, with brave Caspian catching the eye of Susan, but this subplot is so underdeveloped as to be completely pointless.
Performances are varied. Ben Barnes is a rather vapid hero as Caspian, while Georgie Henley is sweetly strong as young Lucy. Despite being at times chilling and exciting, the film fails to really touch or inspire. Ultimately, the real downfall of 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' is that the technical wizardry of the CGI overwhelms any real magic.