Doobservations: Prince Caspian DVD

Standard disclaimer … I’m no audio or video expert, and I can’t tell an anamorphic from a 5.1. My observations on this and future DVDs aren’t meant to be full reviews, just my quick opinions on what I’ve seen.

The DVD release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian hit the shelves on Tuesday and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Prince Caspian is #5 on my 2008 favorite movie list so far (and it’s been a very good year). While I liked the first film I thought this one far surpassed it though keep in mind, I've read none of the books so I'm not at all comparing the films to those. Prince Caspian is simply a great large-scale, family action film. But beyond the almost non-stop action there are also likeable main characters, a fair amount of humor, absolutely beautiful locations and fantasy characters that don’t drive me crazy. As a rule I don’t like fantasy films but Prince Caspian is a huge exception.

So it’s with that background that I opened the DVD. I only saw the film once on the weekend it came out so it certainly wasn’t fresh in mind. I started with the audio commentary and quickly remembered why I love the movie so much. I had to force myself to focus on the commentary rather than just watch the film again. But the commentary itself is pretty well done. The biggest downside is there are 6 people talking (the director, all four children and Prince Caspian), and they all have accents so it can be tough to figure out who’s who at times. But you get used to it. The commentary (like all the special features) is very family friendly which is what you’d expect on a family DVD but welcome nonetheless. It’s also clear during the commentary that these people like each other and get along well as there’s lots of good natured ribbing – especially between the two Pevensie boys – that’s fun to listen to.

I’m going to steal a page from Toon Talk’s Kirby and give a few of the things learned in the audio commentary

  • Georgie Henley (Lucy) didn’t know Warwick Davis was in a Star Wars film (she’s only 13)
  • There are lots of crew members and their kids as extras and bit parts in the film.
  • The scene where the Gryphons are carrying the children is the only all green screen scene in the film.
  • All good family films start with a birthing scene – at least according to director Andrew Adamson
  • Georgie’s dad has a hard time watching a scene where her character Lucy is in duress.
  • After having success using music to set the proper mood in a big special effects scene the director started playing music on the set all the time including Eye of the Tiger.
  • In addition to the commentary there are several other featurettes, deleted scenes and bloopers on Disc 2. They include:

    Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns (35 minutes): Typical behind-the-scenes stuff but particularly enjoyable since A) I liked the movie so much and B) so much of the movie is special effects it’s fun to see what things actually looked like on the set without the effects. We learned a lot about the difficulties of doing a movie in rough locations with lots of weather. It's also touching when the cast and crew discuss how this is the last film in the series for the two oldest siblings.

    Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life (23 minutes): This really well done piece is narrated by C.S. Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham. It begins with him reading a scene setup from the book then shows the illustration from the book and culminates in showing the actual scene from the film along with background on how it was selected and created. I thought it very clever to take advantage of the fact that this film is based on an illustrated book and include this feature.

    Big Movie Comes to a Small Town (23 minutes): Visit the small town where the river and bridge from the film were set – Bovec, Slovenia. Meet the townsfolk, lots of subtitles, lots of mind drifting for me. Not my favorite special feature.

    Previsualizing Narnia (10 minutes): Previsualizing, as described here is A) The movie before it’s shot B) Designing action sequences before they shoot them C) An evolved version of storyboards. IE: Lots of computer stuff. Nothing disinterests me like the behind-the-scenes computer stuff special features on DVDs of movies with lots of visual effects.

    The Magical World World of Narnia (5 minutes): Mostly the cast and crew talking about the characters and talk of the importance of nature in the series. Short but sweet.

    Secrets of the Duel (7 minutes): The sword fight between Peter and King Miraz was one of the highlights of Prince Caspian and this making-of was fun to watch. Psst…Peter (William Moseley) does his own stunts. King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) usually does, but not always.

    Becoming Trumpkin (5 minutes): My feelings on make-up featurettes are right up there with visual effects featurettes. You may feel differently.

    Warwick Davis: The Man Behind Nikabrik (11 minutes): Another make-up featurette but this one includes some day-in-the-life stuff which I like. Plus, it’s Willow himself, so that’s a big plus.

    Deleted Scenes: Includes introductions by the director. The best part of this was seeing scenes that were nearly complete – sound, score, etc. – but with little or no visual effects so characters were still walking around in green screen tights and such.

    Bloopers: Every movie has these and they all seem pretty much the same. Yet I still love them. These in particular makes a very likeable cast and crew even more likeable.

    The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was a great film and this DVD presentation is worthy of the movie. I have no problem recommending it highly.

    Bottom Line: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

    The Film: 8.5 / 10
    DVD Presentation: 7.5 / 10