As a bit of a corrective, this follow-up to 2005's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe certainly packs more filmmaking savvy than the other, more recent talking-animal allegory The Golden Compass. And Prince Caspian rises above its kid-friendly Lord of the Rings first installment, thanks to a heaping helping of swinging swords and clashing armies rather than relying on hazy mysticism and preachy New Testament re-interpretations.
One year has passed in war-torn England for the Pevensie clan, but in Narnia, where the young royal warriors are called back to service, a new millenium has turned them into legends and rendered the great Aslan (voiced with compassionate fortitude by Liam Neeson) a nearly forgotten godhead.
The titular royal (Ben Barnes) narrowly escapes assassination by his scheming uncle (Sergio Castelitto) and enlists the aid of the creatures of Narnia and the returned Pevensies to establish a new day, but the final outcome feels like a warmed-over version of Troy, complete with a pointless bit of single combat that merely sets the stage for a repeat of Aslan's triumphant smiting of the foes.
The battles might be bloodless, but their tone is fierce and they announce that the Pevensies have not simply been oblivious to the British situation in the real world. Fortunately, the mood is smartly lifted from time to time by the pinpoint accuracy of performances from Peter Dinklage as a trusty dwarf and the vocal gymnastics of Eddie Izzard. Grade: B
Opens May 16. Check out theaters and show times, see the film's trailer and find nearby bars and restaurants here.