If you've read the book, you might find the plot has been changed slightly, not for the worse, although there were an awful lot of battle scenes. In fact, if I had to give the battles a percentage mark of their own, I'd say they took up at least 90% of the action, but in the opinions of Max and Dominic, this was clearly a Good Thing. The fantastical characters were again created by those masterminds at WETA, and were, for the most part, pretty decent-looking, although I thought the centaurs were a bit clunky this time compared to the first film. I was also slightly distracted by my kids whispering MR. TUMNUS! rather loudly every time they saw a satyr, but I digress.
The story opens with Prince Caspian
It's been only a year London time since the Pevensies were last in Narnia, but more than 13oo years Narnian time, and time hasn't passed pleasantly in either place. The older Pevensies, Peter and Susan, are obviously struggling with having gained and lost both crown and stature, while things in Narnia are even more grim. The Evil Uncle rules the Telmarine, a sort of medieval conquistador people, who seem to do little more than squabble about power in poorly lit rooms. I thought the changes in Narnia were initially dealt with rather heavy-handedly: "If you're treated as an animal you start acting like an animal" (in reference to a menacing bear) was one phrase that had me squirming, but the Telmarines were fun. They were mostly tall, dark, and handsome, and clanked around impressively in their armour, rolling their eyes and their R's with equal dramatic flair. A little clichéed, perhaps, but fun.
Anyhow, once the children are spirited back to Narnia, they start exploring the ruined castle they'd once lived in, their memories gradually returning. Without too much messing about, they don their Narnian clothing and set off, where they run into a helpful but awkwardly surly dwarf, and, eventually, Prince Caspian, who has convinced the Narnians to join forces with him to defeat Evil Uncle. We see satyrs and centaurs, dwarves and talking badgers, and comic relief comes in the form of a talking squirrel with a sword. The head centaur pledges allegiance, Peter and Caspian spar a bit, Lucy agonizes over Aslan, and Susan reprises her exasperated eye-rolling from the previous film. If I sound a tad ho-hum about it all it's because I was, but my kids loved every bit of it, even FDPG. She particularly loved the talking squirrel. I was too busy being shocked by the changes in Lucy and Edmund. Both of them looked as though they'd grown a foot since the last film. Gone was the heartbreaking little girl who'd made me cry so much in the first film, but this Edmund was much improved from the Edmund of old. He was self-assured, shouted useful things in all the right places, and had more than a few good lines.
The film looks as though most of the money and effort was spent on the battle scenes, and they are pretty impressive, but I wish they'd put more time and attention into the battle-free bits. This film didn't tug at my heart the way the first one did. And my oh my but I also wish I'd known about the Hag and the Werewolf, even if we did get a taste of the incomparable Tilda Swinton (who makes me want to say "Oh Ludwig!" every time I see her). I had just enough time to cover FDPG's eyes, but only just. Ug-ah-LEE! as Dominic said. Indeed. There is also one rather distressing scene where a lot of Narnians are left to be slaughtered, but that's all I'll say. For the most part it's typical C. S. Lewis: a blend of mythological themes, bittersweet adult regret, and childish wishes, with the usual Hollywood mania for Big Action, and we all quite liked it.