So we saw this at a matinee on Saturday after helping a friend move their furniture into their new garage. Monday we’ll help them move it into the house (don’t ask why it had to be done in two steps…)

So I was actually pretty sore and a little sunburned while watching the movie and more than a little distracted because the movie had started late and we were all hungry.

There is a major difference between the Narnia movies and movies like “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings.” That difference is that when you make a movie of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, you have to decide what huge chunks of the narrative you are going to have to leave out, knowing that you are not going to please many people by leaving ANYTHING out.

The Narnia books are completely the opposite. They are short novels, almost novellas. For both of the first two movies there is very little actual narrative to work with, and what there is is terribly short of conflict or drama. CS Lewis did not like to write about battles, unlike Tolkien who dwells on massive battles and created massive panoramas of military conflict, or Rawlings who seems to enjoy writing about battles, but whose battle scenes are laughably inept and naive. Lewis would describe a major turning point of battle in a few sentences. The entire battle scene which was the climax of the first movie was no more than a couple of paragraphs in the book. The same is true for other parts of the story.

So for a Narnia movie the question isn’t about what to leave out instead it is more important to decide what to make up! There is precious little in a CS Lewis book that would make a good movie scene, much less a full two and a half hour movie.

So to me watching these movies is like watching a new story, and the second one was virtually identical to the first in that regard. Most of the movie action was barely touched on on vaguely described in a paragraph here or there. Virtually all of the battle scenes are made up out of whole cloth, as is the pseudo-romance between Prince Caspian and Susan Pevensie. So don’t expect a review to be some sort of comparison between the books and the movie, frankly if CS Lewis were to watch one of these movies, I’m pretty sure he’d be horrified by the violence in them.

But as a movie judged on its own merits, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. The CGi in the movie is top-notch. The “children” reprise the roles and each of them (except Peter) manage to pull of a performance that genuinely shows personal growth since the first movie. Peter somehow manages to come off as peevish, immature, impulsive and prone to envy and jealousy.

This movie is much more overtly a “Christian” movie than the first one. The fundamental messages of faith, hope, redemption through God and personal responsibility for spiritual choices (a big point of Lewis’s writing) are hammered home with authority.

There are some excellent moments in the movie, especially with an obviously growing rivalry between Edmond and Peter. Edmond comes off rather well in this movie, which is good since he was essentially the goat in the first movie. Ben Barnes is a solid Prince Caspian, and his struggles with his heritage, his own dark impulses and his downright cute schoolboy crush on Susan Pevensie is all rolled up together into a very tight characterization (if you overlook an oddly out of place Spanish lilt to his delivery).

(Short side note: If you are a fan of “The Princess Bride” and you get to the “You killed my father scene” you are surely going to see a bit of Inego Montoya in that scene instead of the more commonly inferred Luke Skywalker. Frankly the Inego Montoya connection does more justice to the role.)

The basic plot of the movie is that Narnia, once ruled by the benevolent Kings and Queens (the Pevensies, of course) was overrun by the wicked Telmenorians (not sure of spelling or pronunciation of that, and evil wicked humans of course) who have attempted to exterminate every trace of the old denizens of Narnia. Having more or less run the Narnians off, the Telmenorians devolve into palace intrigue, murder and regicide. Prince Caspian (the Ninth) is the true heir to the throne, but his uncle has been acting as Regent since the odd death of his father, King Caspian (the Eighth). Driven from the Telmenorian castle upon the birth of his uncle’s son, Prince Caspian blows a magic horn to summon the true Kings and Queens of Narnia, which is where the Pevensies get back into the action. Of course there’s the obligatory unbelievable battle sequences, but this time punctuated with some truly clever tactics that Edmond employs, all to naught unfortunately as the Narnians get their tails kicked in their first real battle against the Telmenorians, a defeat that is cause for strife between Peter, who failed to call for retreat in time, and Prince Caspian, who succumbed to a desire for revenge and failed to open the gates in time. It was a nice touch, and I don’t recall any such battle in the book, but it must have been quite a shock to a lot of people watching the movie to see the heroes actually get whupped in a movie of this sort.

But of course, Aslan saves them in the climactic final battle scene. What else is Aslan for? Since I don’t want to get into a discussion of what I don’t like about Lewis’s books (or theology) I’ll just say that the ending is as implausible and illogical as any such movie, but that’s not the point of such movies.

I would say this movie was better in every regard than the first one, and I liked the first one. I really liked some of the acting (Tilda Swenson’s reprise as the Ice Queen upstaged everyone else in the movie). I didn’t care much for the Shrek rip-off characters, but then I never really did go for cutesy-pie stuff even in cutesy-pie movies. But it is bearable and provided some nice comedic moments.

Cosmic says check it out.