With very few films debuting this weekend, Disney has all the room they could ask for to bow their second part of the Narnia franchise which stars an assortment of computer generated characters, teenage heroes, and more Christian references than you can shake a lion at. As a sequel aimed at families and children, the film is poised for a big weekend, while the documentary Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? sneaks into select theatres across Canada.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis‘s crowning achievement in literature is surely the Chronicles of Narnia, a fantasy epic that has been read and re-read by generations of children and adults since the first books were released in the 1950s. With the highly successful film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney was able to bring the tale alive on a scale fans had never seen before.
In the stories a group of children from England find themselves brought to the realm of Narnia, a world inhabited by sprites, fairies, and a Lion with more than a few similarities to Jesus. But each time they come back, Narnia has aged hundreds of years, while time in their own world moves merely a few seconds. In the first film, the Pevensie children faced a wicked ice queen who had taken control of the whole land. On their second return in Prince Caspian, they find the glorious kingdom they knew crumbling and falling apart as a new threat has arrived: the Telmarines.
Regardless of whether you have seen the adaptations of the Lord of the Rings, it was instantly obvious to most fans that the first Narnia film wasn’t exactly living up to the greatness of the books. There was a life and energy in the novels that the film never seemed capable of capturing, and some of the imagery felt ripped right from Peter Jackson’s epics, without any sense that we were seeing the world of Narnia, rather than our own planet Earth.
Now that the latest film has arrived, the question for most fans should be whether Disney and its filmmakers have found a better way to present this fantasy epic, and the partial answer seems to be a happy one. Director Andrew Adamson returned to direct Prince Caspian, and has used what one critic called an old-fashioned approach to storytelling. The film also manages to retain all of the wonder found in the first film, on top of a few surprising special effects, and an overall fun pace.
Some of the same flaws are still around, including underwhelming special effects, second-hand cinematography, and none of the original book’s impressive energy is realized. The film also presses the book’s inherent Christian doctrine to a degree that might be a turnoff to some, but it’s thankfully not oppressive in any way.
Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?
Super Size Me made a name for documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. Living on McDonalds for a month, Spurlock gave Americans something to talk about as he challenged one of the biggest food retailers in North America, showing through doctor’s exams what the food had apparently done to his body.
Now, Spurlock is back with an even bigger topic for the American people: the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Travelling throughout the Middle East, the documentarian visits all manner of places to see what he can find out aboutBin Laden. Interviewing the people he meets along the way, Spurlock uses the topic of finding the world’s most wanted man to open conversation about a lot of other issues surrounding the war.
By nature, Spurlock is more P.T. Barnum than he is a serious documentary filmmaker, but there is something to be said for the way he engages and disarms his subjects.
Does Spurlock manage to track down Bin Laden? Obviously, he didn’t, but the film is much more about asking questions and giving your average person a look at the Muslim people.
Reviewers have been critical of the film and the way Spurlock cuts tension by making constant jokes though. “[Spurlock’s] work here leans closer to Tyra Banks wearing her fat suit than anything directed by Errol Morris or even Michael Moore,” said Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle. A.O. Scott of the New York Times adds, “It’s impossible to disagree with much of what he says… but it’s also impossible to learn anything about war, terrorism, religion, oil, democracy or any of the other topics a less glib, less self-absorbed filmmaker might want to tackle.”
New films arriving next week, May 23:
Harrison Ford returns with director Steven Spielberg and write George Lucas for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Plus the world’s worst director, Uwe Boll, delivers the controversial video game adaptation, Postal.