The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Blu-ray Review
One thing that could not be criticised in the cinema was the way the film looked, and I am pleased to say that this fidelity is carried forward into the Blu-ray release, which is presented in a theatrically correct 2.40:1 ratio, and is of course in 1080P
Adamson is certainly more adventurous in his choice of palette and camera movement than he was in the first film, and this is brought out well in the transfer on the disc. Whereas the first film gradually showed the transfer from winter through to summer, there is no such obvious contrast to be shown here. The result is that Adamson uses a clever picture technique. The first few scenes of the film, when Narnia is under Telmarine control, is shot through with a crushed colour palette, and the use of a blue, dark light. This is a challenging look that could push home cinema to the limit. Thankfully, the transfer has absolutely no problem rendering the detail present in these early scenes, even with the way it is shot. Just look, for example, at the detail in the castle walls. The architecture is beautifully reproduced by the set designers, and Blu-ray certainly does their work justice. Scenes that stood out in the cinema, such as the peppering of Caspian's bed by crossbow bolts, are as stunning here as they were in the cinema.
Apart from the castle attack, Adamson does not use this palette again, instead opening the world of Narnia up right from the moment when the Pevensies enter the world. In contrast to the first film, they arrive on a gorgeous looking tropical beach, rock formations jutting out into the bay. The level of detail present in this scene, and the depth of field is quite simply breathtaking and reminds you just what a top quality Blu-ray transfer can provide.
Indeed, detail is the watchword of this transfer. As in the previous film, the armourers have gone to great lengths to create the world of Narnia, paying particular attention to armour, and weapons - and the lengths they have gone to is beautifully presented by an excellent transfer
It is not just here where the transfer excels, though, but also in the colour reproduction. Colour is vibrant and real, and skin tones always look clear and realistic. Whether it is in the aforementioned dark scenes, or the bright light of day in Narnia, colour levels are always well balanced, and shadow detail is excellent. Never do you struggle to notice what is going on in the fast paced scenes, and I found myself noticing little details that I had never noticed in the cinema.
Overall, this is certainly one of the best transfers I have had the pleasure to review, and is an incredibly faithful rendition of a difficult source.
Sound wise, Prince Caspian almost matches the quality of the picture, with a superb 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The film has a very wide range of audio to truly push your system, from the majesty of vicious battle scenes, to whispered conversation. The soundtrack deals with all that is thrown at it remarkably well.
The first thing to notice is the impressive anchoring of the dialogue. In many films such as this, you have to manually calibrate for the dialogue over the loud action scenes, but not here. The dialogue is impressively clear all the way through - never do you strain to hear a word, even in the most intense of battles. Often in films like this, the sound designers concentrate on what is going on around you and tend to neglect the stereo separation at the front - but here we are presented with a lovely, naturally wide sound field.
This is not to say that the rears do not see impressive action, however. During the action scenes, the viewer is actively immersed into the sounds surrounding them. Every sword slash, every swoosh of an arrow, is beautifully placed within the mix, whizzing around the room - always sounding exactly where it should in relation to the viewer.
In addition, the sub gets a decent workout - never overpowering the action but underpinning it perfectly as a sub should do.
I do have one reservation, and that is no fault of the transfer as such. The score in the original movie was superb and every track was memorable. Even though the music is beautifully mixed and balanced on this disc it never reaches the standard of the original movie. This is not the fault of the designers though, and overall this mix is a triumph.
We get two discs of extras with the Blu-ray package, all of which are presented in HD. Disc One gets a commentary with the director Andrew Adamson and the children - with Ben Barnes also making an appearance. Those who heard the commentary on the first film will know what to expect here. The banter between the group is excellent, and they entertain as well as inform on the more technical aspects. I am not a fan of commentaries on the whole - but this one is excellent. The first disc rounds off with Circle Vision Interactive a rather clever and superb way of looking at the castle raid feature. The viewer is able to navigate through 360 degrees, throughout the set and picking up on little clips showing interviews and behind the scenes footage as they go. It is a very well realised extra that does good service to the sequence.
Onto Disc Two, and here we have the majority of the extra features. The Bloopers of Narnia is a rather flat gag reel, and we are also presented with some deleted scenes which lasts around ten minutes, and comes with an introduction from the director. The real meat of the extras comes with Inside Narnia : The Adventure Returns a 35 minute feature that manages to be informative, without ever resorting to the puff piece nature of many featurettes of this type. It could have been longer, but keeping it to this length means that interest never wavers. Similarly interesting and detailed is the 25 minute Sets of Narnia : A Classic Comes to Life which looks at how the designers set to work bringing Narnia to life from Lewis' bare descriptive prose.
The 25 minute Big Movie Comes to a Small Town is a rare treat, looking at the effect a huge production like this can have when it rolls into a small Slovenian town. Eye opening and interesting, looking at the effect the shooting has on the local residents and the local natural resources. Very interesting indeed.
We then have a series of short five minute features that look at the creature effects, the duel, and Warwick Davis.
The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian is, I am sad to report, less than successful as a film. After such a promising start, Adamson has lost his way here, moving a little away from the original Lewis, and putting rather too much of himself into the film. This is a great shame as the franchise looked like it could have been a new Harry Potter. Instead, a classic of English Literature has floundered on our cinema screens - and this has led to Disney dropping the franchise.
Adamson does still show many deft touches of filmmaking here, and there are many glimpses of what could have been - but in his efforts to please the summer blockbuster audience his film falls between two stools, being neither gritty enough for this audience nor faithful enough to the book.
Despite this, Disney has presented us with a top notch disc, with superb picture and audio and a selection of extras that inform and entertain in equal measure.
If you decide to go ahead and purchase this disc, you certainly will not be disappointed with the overall package - so if you enjoyed the film this is a definite one for your library. Those coming into the film cold may well find the promise of such top notch presentation may just pique their interest. If it does - I am sure they will find much to enjoy. I just hope that their tolerance towards the uneven pacing of the film is greater than mine.
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