I've not read any of "The Chronicles of Narnia" books and don't know anything about the stories themselves, so all I've known so far is what was presented in the film version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". I enjoyed the movie, but I've only see the film once, when it was first released theatrically, so I don't remember all that much about it. I had been hoping to see the film again before seeing the sequel, but unfortunately, circumstances and timing did not allow, so I was a bit concerned that I'd have a hard time following the story. I was in the same position when "The Two Towers" came out, except that I *did* have a chance to see "The Fellowship of the Ring" again about a week before, which really helped since I understood so much more about the first film, things I didn't pick up the first time around, and it got me re-situated in that world. I'm sure I would have been hopelessly lost (more so, I guess I should say) otherwise.
As it turns out, if there was anything I missed by not remembering much of the first movie, it sure didn't dampen my enjoyment of the second film. Because there were characters in the film who weren't much aware of the prior events, it gave them the ability to do a little bit of recap, but it was nicely done in a way that didn't seem forced, like it can sometimes be in some films. And they didn't recount all the events - just the ones you really needed to know. The film stands quite well on its own, though of course it is enhanced if you know some of the backstory from the first film. Since I'm coming into these films blind, relying only on what the film presents me to understand the story, I have been quite impressed that they've done a really good job of it. I feel that I understand the situations and the characters quite well, and I'm not feeling lost about who someone is or whose side they're on or what's going on, and with as complicated a story as this, that's quite a feat.
A year has passed since the events of the first film, and it's apparent that at least one of the kids has had a hard time readjusting to normal life. However, just as they're all about resigned to living out the rest of their days in boring old England, they are again magically whisked away to Narnia. But they soon discover that it's a very different land from the one that they left. More than a thousand years has passed, and they have not passed peacefully. The people of a neighboring land have taken over Narnia and made Narnians all but extinct, but they're having their own internal strife. The rightful heir, Prince Caspian, has just barely managed to escape being assassinated by his uncle, who wants the throne for himself and his newborn son. Prince Caspian ends up enlisting the help of the Narnias, and the four English children, to regain his throne and bring peace to both lands.
The story of the ousted heir fighting to regain his throne is definitely not a new one, but there were a few additional twists to the story. Even when the uncle was defeated by Peter in one-on-one battle, I didn't see coming the betrayal by the other member of the council which led to the onset of the battle anyway. Except for Lucy, who really is still too young, I liked that the three older children are engaged in actual battle, just like the adults. The conflict between Prince Caspian and Peter was a little predicable, and you knew that it was going to resolve by the end, but the journey was fun to watch.
I really enjoyed the main battle sequence when the enemy has come to destroy their castle. I didn't understand why Peter and Edmund were just standing there. I knew they were waiting for something, but I didn't know what, and when Prince Caspian went to lead the Narnias, I wasn't entirely sure what that relatively small group was going to do against the enemy army. And then they were running and running and running, but they never appeared on the battlefield. But as soon as I realized that they were travelling *underneath* the battlefield and then taking out the supports so that the ground literally collapsed underneath the enemy (I didn't feel bad for the horses because I knew they weren't actually getting hurt), I was really excited. That was an awesome idea!
The trees coming to life was pretty awesome too (I liked these trees much better than the ones in "The Lord of the Rings" because these didn't talk - talking trees are weird and creepy), but I don't remember them doing that in the first film, which I'm led to believe they did because they reference the fact that the trees stopped moving and Lucy is stunned that they no longer dance when they used to. But there is one lesson you definitely learn from this movie: don't piss off the trees. As soon as the cannonball took out one of the trees, you knew that one of the other trees was going to take out that device, and it was cool watching the roots quickly tunnel through to destroy it.
I also loved the sequence after that, when the enemy army is trapped on the bridge when the water monster summoned by Aslan attacks. Oh, and right before that, I did think it was funny that a little girl with a tiny knife stops the army in its tracks.
There was a lot of humour in this film, mostly provided by the mouse warrior, voiced by Eddie Izzard. I was laughing hard when Lucy says, "he's so cute!" to the offended mouse, not to mention the mouse's ongoing frustration at people pointing out the obvious. He's not the only source of laughter, though. There is a fair amount of humour spread throughout the film and among many characters, including Lucy mocking her older sister's behaviour toward Prince Caspian, and the humour is a nice break from the tension generated by the pervading story.
I liked the cameo by Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, and it didn't bother me that they didn't explain her whole backstory, because even without the knowledge of the first film, you got the sense that she was not someone whose help should be accepted, and I liked that it was Edmund who shattered her image. The point is especially significant if you know from the first movie that he was the one she had enticed to help her, so he definitely knows the power she can hold over someone, and he in some small way can atone for the damage he caused by being mesmerized by her.
I thought all four of the kids did a terrific job, as they'd done in the first film. I'm ok with Peter not being in it anymore, but I'm sad that Susan won't be. I really like her, so I hope I'm able to see her in other movies.
I loved seeing Peter Dinklage in this film. I've been a fan of his since "The Station Agent", and I've seen him getting more and more prominent roles, so I'm glad to see that he'll get even more exposure from a big-name film like this one.
And it was interesting that Warwick Davis, probably best known for portraying an Ewok in the "Star Wars" series, ended up portraying one of the bad guys. He was terrific as well.
While the films still haven't convinced me to make the time to try reading any of the books yet, they do make me look forward to seeing more of the films.
But there is one part I really hated - the popcorn. No, there was no popcorn in the movie. It was actually all over me. The movie had already started for 5 or 10 minutes when people came into the theatre, and they sat behind us. I was a little irritated because they were talking as they were finding a seat, but I figured once they got settled, they'd stop talking. And then I felt half a box of popcorn pour down my back, some of it bouncing onto the husband. And the bitch behind me said nothing, not sorry, not a single frickin' word. And I was so pissed off from having the popcorn dumped on me and having her not say anything that I grabbed handfuls of the stuff from my seat and flung them back at her, and I also stood up for a couple seconds to angrily say to her that she couldn't even be bothered to apologize. And the whole time, she just stared at the screen, completely refusing to acknowledge my existence. So I sat down and flung a few more handfuls of popcorn at her. I was pretty pissed off, but the movie had just started, and I really did want to enjoy the movie, so after brushing off as much popcorn from my seat as possible, I tried to focus on the movie. The husband noted that it would have been the popcorn at the top of the box that landed on me, the part that the butter was most on, so I also had to deal with buttery smell and feel on parts of me as well. I'm going to assume that she didn't spend the money on popcorn for the purpose of pouring it on someone in general and me specifically. I can understand if accidents happen, and I'll admit that I would have still been irritated if she had apologized, but at least that would have been an admission of her error, and I probably would have let it go faster. But to do something like that, and then knowingly not even take any responsibility or apologize for it? BITCH!