The good news is that Caspian is less horrifying and more logical, which is to say more linear—this is religious allegory and none of it makes sense—with an exciting opening and a galloping escape into the woods by the handsome young prince, Caspian (Ben Barnes). The bad news is that Prince Caspian is beside the point in a movie that bears his name; the quartet of British children return to Narnia and slowly suck the air out of the movie.
No longer selfish Edmund (Skandar Keynes, who can act) is still the only one who thinks, saving the day several times from the villains, who aren't nearly as evil as the wicked White Witch. She does make a memorable if irrelevant appearance and, when she does, it is a jolt of energy—her character is at least coherent.
Eldest Peter (William Moseley), who competes with Caspian, continues to lead the entire family—who remain parentless in the real world—into danger by all but forcing the Pevensie children into helping others, which repeats the theme that one's moral duty is to sacrifice one's self. Youngest child Lucy (Georgie Henley) is again running around looking for Aslan the Christlike lion (voiced for ten seconds by Liam Neeson) who died and was resurrected in the first picture, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. One can practically play Count-the-Crucifixion images.
After Caspian escapes into the forest and bonds with several creatures, including the movie's comic relief, a dwarf (Peter Dinklage, sputtering some fine lines), he meets the Pevensies and falls for the middle girl, Susan (Anna Popplewell). They unite the outlawed Narnians—several hundred years have passed—in scenes that recall Ewoks and rebels in Return of the Jedi and they band against baddies that resemble Spanish Conquistadors (wasting the talents of actors Sergio Castellitto and Pierfrancisco Favino).
"I think it's time we found out what's going on," one character boldly ventures, saying out loud what must be on every 11-year-old's mind at this point in a glacially-paced exercise in taking man down a notch. Caspian is noticeably anti-human, with anthropomorphized fur balls spewing hateful thoughts about man, who must kneel before animal and nature—Caspian hugs more trees than Al Gore—introducing the faith of environmentalism into the series.
During a surprise nocturnal attack on the evil king's castle, previously unseen beings come to the rescue. Intelligent Edmund suddenly fumbles like a fool and cocky, unlikable Peter is humbled—humility is portrayed as a top virtue, natch—and Caspian, reducing its title character to an emasculated teen idol, careens toward its Judeo-Christian message that reality is unknowable and all one can do is kneel, pray and submit to God.
God has a cameo, too, yielding an unintentionally laughable scene riffing off Evan Almighty in which hordes of humans are slaughtered in His vengeful wrath. He's big, brawny and bearded, in a familiar likeness, and the turn is a hilarious bit that tops the White Witch's flamboyance in Lion, Witch and Wardrobe.
Aslan roars, English youths prattle and poor Ben Barnes as Caspian registers a zero on the adventure scale, though it's not his fault—God and the faith-based Pevensie clan steal his thunder. Little Lucy still trots from corpse to corpse administering—selectively, it should be observed—her magic potion, which, apparently, only she is able to distribute. She is not exactly merciful but she is consistent with the gist of fantastic Narnia: the cult of the arbitrary.