Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Machine Girl (2008)

The Machine Girl (Noboru Iguchi, 2008)
Japanese Title: Kataude mashin gâru

The average adult person has around five liters of blood. The average adult person in The Machine Girl has a lot more than five liters. With geysers, fountains, and waterfalls of blood bursting from every possible wound, it can be assumed that human beings, at least for writer-director Noboru Iguchi, are only as useful as the amount of blood they can spill. Iguchi therefore exploits that dehumanizing notion, creatively finding ways of making each and every bloodletting as outrageous and unique as they can be. There's no pretense of depth or meaning as each plot detail, each stylized setting and each introduced character are only there to serve one purpose: to turn gory deaths into laughter-inflicting spectacles. Sure, the movie exists primarily to mine into our collective depravity. However, such being it's only raison d'etre, it accomplishes it with enough careless enthusiasm and verve to make the experience of watching this trashy movie into one memorable ride.

Iguchi doesn't waste time with talky introductions or artsy opening credits as he starts off with Ami (Minase Yashiro) violently blasting through a gang of bullies preying on a nerdy schoolboy. During those first few minutes, we see limbs sliced, heads exploding, and gallons and gallons of blood splattering wherever. "Murderer!" exclaims the rescued schoolboy, and the label prompts Ami to reminisce on how she turned from an athletic college girl into a one-armed machine gunning murderer.

The story is premised on vengeance, or at least a most simplistic and elementary reading of the primal human emotion. Ami's younger brother and his friend have been targets of a gang headed by the son of a yakuza boss. The younger brother and his friend are murdered, forcing Ami to chase each and every person connected to her brother's untimely demise. On the way, her arm gets sliced off, she earns a friend (Asami) out of her brother's pal's grieving mom, and gets a machine gun attached to her armless limb. As it turns out, as Ami kills, she gains more murderous enemies out of the family members of her victims. There might be a commentary on the vicious cycle of violence which revenge causes, but the real value of the growing amount of vengeful persons is for the movie's penultimate battle where Ami and the army of deadly relatives fight it out to the death, using weapons ranging from samurai swords, flying guillotines, and the drill bra.

Of course, The Machine Girl is anything but novel. The idea of a limbless hero has been exploited from Chang Cheh's classic The One-Armed Swordsman (1967) and the multiple sequels and spin-offs it inspired, to Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror (2007). The movie espouses dehumanization in favor of the commodification of death and violence, a standard of the genre of direct-to-video trash flicks The Machine Girl belongs to. While Takashi Miike, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Shinya Tsukamoto, directors who all worked or are currently working for the ill-reputed genre, might have done wonders both aesthetically and thematically with the material, Iguchi doesn't seek to revitalize the genre or give it some newfound respect. Instead, he purposely and obediently comes up with a product which the film's American funders envisioned: bloody, violent, fun, and funny without the burden of guilt and introspective prodding that most plot and theme-heavy films encourage.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Serbis (2008)

Serbis (Brillante Mendoza, 2008)
English Title: Service

Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis (Service) is hardly a perfect film. In fact, it is so riddled with flaws that it would utterly be improbable and impossible for me to enumerate each and every one of them. I have a faint understanding as to why it has caused such a divisive uproar when it was screened in Cannes, where critics and viewers either absorbed it or delegated it as pornographic trash. Perpetually swimming in a perpetual cacophony of traffic and chaos, Serbis details a day in the life of the Pineda family, owners of an Angeles City movie theater that screens soft-core pornographic films to hustlers servicing gay men in the comfort of the theater’s damp and dark interiors. Even absent portions of the two explicit sex scenes (one involving a man and his girlfriend making love despite the discomfort of a boil in the man’s buttock, and another involving the projectionist receiving a blowjob from one of the theater’s patrons), which the local censors forced the film’s producers to cut for local exhibition (a blatant undermining of Constitutional safeguards in protecting due process, as completely explained in my paper which calls for the abolition of the obsolete law that created the present censors board), the film elicits a legitimate response of either disgust or fascination

I was undoubtedly fascinated. Serbis seems to be Brillante Mendoza’s most ambitious and most intriguing work. Serbis is a film that can be both seen as a traditional network narrative that juggles the stories of the residents of the decrepit movie theater, and a film going experience itself, since it seems that it was purposely meant to titillate, arouse and shock to replicate the characteristic sleaze of these ruined movie houses that have been transformed into cruising spots for the horny and adventurous.

Serbis takes its cue from Jeffrey Jeturian’s brilliant Tuhog (Larger Than Life, 2001), also scribed by Serbis-screenwriter Armando Lao. Tuhog details the tragic tale of a barrio lass (Ina Raymundo in her most believable performance to date) who was raped by her father, a story that is sold to unscrupulous movie producers who transformed it into an exploitative parade of boobs and butts in several acrobatic sex sessions. As structured (with the first half of the film detailing what really happened to the lass and the second half screening the movie based on the lass’ experience), Tuhog makes apparent the psychology behind the exploitation, eliciting a response of pity and disgust to the blatant commercialization and bastardization of other people’s tragedies.

Serbis, from the moment its opening credits takes the appearance of an overused reel before opening with the sight of a girl (Roxanne Jordan) completely naked in front of a mirror while whispering I love you’s in a seductive tone to its end where the “reel” burns at the moment wherein we are overhearing what turns out to be a negotiation between an old homosexual and a young bystander for sex services, is aiming at mixing reality and fiction and blurring the fine line between film viewing and voyeurism, the same way Tuhog examined the hurtful discrepancies of crossing that same line that divides life from film. What differentiates Serbis is that Mendoza’s film works best as an experience, which brings to mind the numerous walk-outs the film has elicited, which to my mind is a result of a lack of acceptance of this film’s goal of replicating the atmosphere in these dilapidated porn theaters that dot urban centers in the Philippines.

The film's plot crisscrosses to and from the dilemmas of the individual members of the Pinedas, a family characterized by strong women and inutile and irresponsible men. Nayda (Jaclyn Jose) tends to both the theater operations and the problems of her family, which includes Alan (Coco Martin), who got his girlfriend (Mercedes Cabral) pregnant but is hesitant in having everything end up in marriage; Ronald (Kristoffer King), the film projectionist who is busy being serviced by transvestites while exchanging sticky longing looks with Nayda; Lando (Julio Diaz), Nayda's gullible husband who is tasked in managing the canteen while doing other household chores. The storyline is as complicated as the labyrinthine corridors of the theater, with the characters not necessarily explicating their existences through traditional narrative structures. Instead, these characters are products of their settings, rotting at the same time as their beloved theater, and rapidly escaping from the clutches of Catholic morality just like the theater's patrons have abandoned the normal premises of privacy and decorum.

The final representative of the past's fading splendor is Flor (Gina Pareño), the family's matriarch who miserably laments the failure of both the theater and her family. She alone adamantly stands with grace amidst the deterioration that drapes the setting, a deterioration that has almost completely eaten up her theater and her family. As Flor, veteran actress Pareño gives a brave and glorious performance, allowing Mendoza and cinematographer Odyssey Flores to expose her at her lowest and most vulnerable. In one scene, we see Flor taking a bath, Mendoza's ever-present camera eagerly lingering behind her naked body, evidently aged. It's a scene that might be argued as unnecessary but in reality, merely showcases the character's trajectory from utter disgrace to undaunted resilience. She dons a splendid black dress, as all memory of her recent failures temporarily erased, and then replaces Nayda in the ticket booth, glowing with the dignity of a near invisible past.

In Serbis, Mendoza and Lao lace their neo-realist intentions with lovely moments of absurdity: of a police chase that extends to the theater's interiors and abruptly ends with the snatcher hanging for his dear life, of a lost goat suddenly interrupting a film screening, and of an unsightly boil that has turned sex into an uncomfortable chore. It is this deadpan humor that is probably the only similarity Serbis has with Tsai Ming-liang's beautiful and elegiac Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), a film that is also set in a rundown theater that has become the setting for several dubious activities. The two filmmakers have differing mindsets. Tsai both mourns and celebrates cinema with the final screening of Dragon Inn (King Hu, 1966) on a movie theater's final night of commercial existence. Mendoza, on the other hand, fathoms the extent and the repercussions of deterioration of culture, and the way the same interacts with the lives that are affected (the Pineda family) and the audiences (the inattentive patrons depicted in the film and us, as enchanted or disgusted viewers of this film) that feed on such mutated culture.

Serbis is not Mendoza's best film, a distinction that still belongs to one of Mendoza's most neglected films, Manoro (The Teacher, 2006), a heartfelt tale about a young Aeta girl who taught her entire tribe to write in time for the presidential elections but fails to convince her own grandfather to vote. However, it is undoubtedly his most complicated film to date, one that works in so many levels that each viewing would surely elicit a different reaction, response and understanding.

This is my contribution to the Movies About Movies Blog-a-Thon at goatdogblog.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Urduja (2008)

Urduja (Reggie Entienza, 2008)

A cursory glance at the filmography of Reggie Entienza, writer and credited director of Urduja, which is purported by the film's marketers as the first Filipino full-length fully animated film (despite the fact that in 1997, Ibong Adarna (Adarna: The Mythical Bird, Gerry A. Garcia) was released in cinemas; In 1995, Isko: Adventures in Animasia (Gerry A. Garcia) was also released but that movie had portions that are live action), reveals an animator, exactly like the thousands of talented animators from the Philippines, who has been working under foreign producers and bringing to life stories that are connected to him only on a distinctly professional level. Entienza has mostly worked on direct-to-video cartoons which utilize the Disney-perfected formula of adapting public domain stories for the youth market. There is simply no doubt that Urduja, which is an adaptation of a Filipino story about a local princess during pre-colonial times, is a product of utter sincerity, at least for Entienza who has long suffered bringing to life foreign tales simply because no local producer is brave or moneyed enough to fund a local animated project. There is no question as to the movie's good intentions, but the biggest query remains to be "does it work?"

Unfortunately, my answer is a categorical no. Urduja reveals all the faults Entienza must have learned studying animation in a purely commercial perspective. In its effort to replicate the seamless flow of better-funded animated films from other countries, the movie more so showcases its crudeness, which in this case, turns out to be more of an annoyance than charm. Independent filmmaker Roxlee has long specialized in animation, creating gorgeous short films that are memorable precisely because of the fact that they are crude yet reminiscent works of art. His commissioned short for the Cinemanila Film Festival, which details a wooden idol transforming into a filmmaker, is an astoundingly simple yet beautiful work. Raya Martin's Maicling Pelicula Nañg Ysañg Indio Nacional (A Short Film About the Indio Nacional, 2005) and Now Showing (2008) have animated portions that despite their crudeness add character to the films. While the aspirations of Roxlee's shorts and Martin's films are hardly comparable to Urduja's, all i am saying is that Urduja has none of those films' simplistic and addictive charm and instead wallows in borrowed tedium.

Although, I would have opted to view Urduja for what it is (a long-delayed initial foray into animation as a legitimate film industry), I can't help but compare since Entienza has himself intentionally copycatted scenes from popular Disney movies, like a song number between a talking rat and a talking tarsier (voiced by local comedians Michael V. and Allan K., respectively) that is reminiscent of Hakuna Matata from Disney's The Lion King (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, 1994), or vine-clinging stunts by local tribesmen that do not have the same grace as Tarzan foot-skating from tree to tree in Disney's version (Chris Buck & Kevin Lima, 1999).

What is most glaring and unforgivable is that Entienza also borrowed Disney's very liberal adaptation techniques: the bastardization of world literature for middlebrow American audiences. Urduja, from the hazy accounts of historian, is the female ruler of a pre-colonial (reputedly mythical) kingdom of Tawalisi. Her history is rich and draped with much mystery. The story of Entienza's Urduja is quite frankly a disservice to the fabled princess. The movie naively forwards a type of feminism that is still male-centric, as it encourages damsel-in-distress fantasies with its equation of the legendary Filipino heroine as one with Disney's roster of helpless princesses. On top of its botched sense of feminism, it insensitively portrays Filipinos in a bad light, turning Simakwel (voiced by Jay Manalo), into a treacherous villain, as it romances Urduja's infatuation with a Chinese pirate Limhang (voiced by Cesar Montano), a pirate who is chased by the Chinese for his thieving ways. The producers and director of Urduja might explain that the liberties taken were for purely commercial purposes (as history is rarely a box-office magnet) and that the target audience of the cartoon are children and not sensitive historians. I disagree. This unabashed and probably innocent Disney-fication is more harmful than helpful to the industry as it purports Western thinking in the minds of its gullible audiences.

Critics are often blinded by so-called cultural advancements, hence the unanimous A rating by the local Film Ratings Board. Urduja is technically apt, well voice-acted, and sometimes interesting. However, beyond it being the first (or second, or third, if you count the two tepid movies by Garcia) full length Filipino animated film, it is really nothing more than an example as to the direction Philippine commercial animation is going. As it turns out, despite Urduja being locally financed and produced, it still partakes of a way of thinking and doing business (although less pronounced) that I have detested ever since the animators at the Mickey Mouse studio had turned Kimba the White Lion (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1965-1967) into The Lion King, without crediting the former. As such, Urduja is a mishmash of many unsavory things: borrowed aesthetics, misplaced adaptations, and misaligned virtues. Thus, I'm still waiting for that true first Filipino full-length animated film since this one is as Filipino as Disney's Mulan (Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook, 1998) is Chinese.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)

When Ang Lee's Hulk (2003) was released, it was deemed by many critics and viewers as a failure. The movie was a tad too slow, a tad too talkative, a tad too deep, and a tad too stylized for this generation of Diet Soda-drinkers and video game addicts. As years went by, Hulk has amassed a number of defenders, carrying out the slogan that Lee's film is by no means a failure since it succeeded in doing what it set out to do: to contemplate, philosophize the comic book movie and psychologize its conflicted hero. While the complaints of Hulk's detractors range from something as serious as the film's unwieldy depth to the something as trite as the purple tights the gamma-radiated brute is predominantly seen wearing, it cannot be argued that Lee's film remains to be an intriguing failure or success (depending on which fence you are sitting from).

Louis Letterier's update (or attempt to erase from the public consciousness the film that was Ang Lee's Hulk) of the Marvel comic book character is more in tune with middlebrow sensibilities, thus it is not very surprising to hear viewers shouting alleluias to this louder, dumber, and less challenging slump of a movie. The Incredible Hulk is nothing more than an over-budgeted commercial for the sequels, tie-ins, and every other gimmick the unscrupulous capitalists aboard Marvel Studios are thinking of. It attempts to amaze with a generous serving of wanton, destruction, and unabashed escapism only Hollywood can serve, with one half of the movie spent in explosions, gunfights, and wrestling matches between two computer generated mutant brutes, and the other half spent lighting Liv Tyler (who plays Betty Ross) to make her look like a Middle-Earth elf in academe clothes, supposedly the better to emphasize the unabashedly sappy romance between him and Bruce Banner (Edward Norton).

Letterier, who is famous for helming The Transporter's lousy sequel (2005), and a surprisingly refreshing Unleashed (2005) , all of which are movies that relied more on stunts and spectacles than actual storytelling, does a serviceable job making sense out of a storyline whose preamble is quickly breezed through during its opening montage (there's some sort of botched experiment where Banner turns into the famous Hulk and nearly kills his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's dad, General Ross (William Hurt)). The film officially starts in a Brazilian favela, where Banner is hiding while desperately trying to look for a cure for his gamma radiation.
The entire sequence in the favela might very well be the film's most ambitious moment, where Norton (a terrific and very intelligent actor) gets to showcase a semblance of depth to his comic book character. The scenes in the favela showcases Letterier's aptitude for setting up rousing action sequences, where Norton is chased through the labyrinthine alleyways of the densely populated area by military operatives while maintaining an unexcited state. The moment Norton's green-hued computerized alter-ego appears, the film deflates into something repetitive and tedious: routine showcases of uncontrolled, flat and pixelated rage, of buildings and machines exploding, of roars, screams of unintelligible mutterings.

It's an unfortunate necessity nowadays to supplant talent with faddist coolness. The Incredible Hulk works most when we Banner revealing his human side; when he desperately searches for a cure to his radiation; when he stares longingly at his ex-girlfriend; when he is interrupted from having sex by a threat of turning into the Hulk midway through the lovemaking session. Even his nemesis Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), military officer who gets addicted to gamma radiation and eventually turns into a Hulk-like brute called The Abomination, showcases a facet of human imperfection, power lust and the inability to accept obsolescence, especially when Roth, puny when compared to the Hulk and even to General Ross, subtly injects an air of insecurity to the character. Unfortunately, the human elements of the story are quickly replaced for bangs, thuds and millions of dollars worth of fireworks.

At least Lee's Hulk had the temerity to reorient a superhero's persona to accommodate the director's ponderings on human psychology. At least Lee's Hulk had a computer generated creation that really acted (that film's most beautiful moment was when the gigantic Hulk looked into Betty Ross (played by Jennifer Connelly) and expressed a semi-real pain, regret and longing), instead of just grunt and destroy things. Letterier's film is as insignificant as the next movie to come out of this year's summer line-up. The hype, the cameos, the underused acting talent, and the promise are just bulk, just incredible bulk.

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Kung Fu Panda (Mark Osbourne & John Stevenson, 2008)

At the very soul of DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda is a quotation from the father (James Hong) of Po (Jack Black), the titular panda: "The secret ingredient to the secret ingredient soup is that there is no secret ingredient." The pot-bellied panda does not need decades of kung fu training or the secrets of the Dragon Scroll to defeat the deadly Tai Lung (Ian McShane), he only needs himself and his voracious appetite for food. As such, the soul of Kung Fu Panda is as generic as the quotations written on a Hallmark Card; and the same has been the perennial soul of almost every movie coming out of the mediocre animation studio: from the ogre who rescues both a princess and a kingdom despite his being an ogre; to the janitor fish who with the help of a vegetarian shark was able to survive a shark mafia; to the domesticated zoo animals who were able to adapt to the wild.

I guess in a market that is saturated with computer animated films, I desperately needed one with a secret ingredient and none of that "the secret ingredient is that there is no secret ingredient" crap. Luckily, Kung Fu Panda turns out to be a genuinely entertaining romp despite its unabashedly meager ambitions. The movie is funny most of the time (thanks mostly to Black's personable voicing). The action sequences are kinetic and at some moments exciting, despite them being animated, and despite the animation being computer generated.

It helps that the directors Mark Osbourne (who directed some episodes of the successful and hilarious Nickolodeon show Spongebob Squarepants) and John Stevenson have a bit of sense in their heads. Apart from the fact that the animation here ranges from serviceable to spectacular, the movie has a palpable personality. While Black leads the cast with his zany voice work, the rest of the cast (most especially Dustin Hoffman (as serious kung fu master Shifu), Randall Duk Kim (as grandfatherly Oogway) and Hong) provide ample star power and flavor. The five kung fu greats, Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Crane (David Cross) don't get to do much, but they add a bit of variety to the romp. By shying away from easy laughs (fart jokes and other toilet-inspired humor) and mining the wealth of its basic idea of kung fu fighting animals in China, Osbourne and Stevenson were able to come up with something worthwhile, an unhealthy but tasty mix of Hong Kong influences and purely Hollywood commercial sensibilities.

Kung Fu Panda is a good start, at least for the young ones who might dig tales of underachievers going on to do great things. In fact, a bit of research for the movie's millions of viewers would open for them a treasure trove of forgotten gems that might provide longer lasting satisfaction than a summertime spectacle. If only to spark a genuine interest for the little ones to browse through the titles that are gathering dust in any video store's bargain bin, Kung Fu Panda is a definite recommendation (but of course, I would prefer people to just skip on this and munch on the classics).

Easier to find is Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle (2005), where some of the gags and stunts are borrowed from, but let's really start with the influence for the panda which is the inimitable Sammo Hung who despite his physical heft, can kick ass like no digitized character can. Start with his The Magnificent Butcher (Sammo Hung & Yuen Woo-ping, 1979) or Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind (Sammo Hung, 1980). Then there's Jackie Chan's non-Hollywood flicks, most famous of which are his Drunken Master movies, where he plays a lad who trains in the art of the Drunken Fist (conveniently, since he loves his wine) to defeat an evil martial arts master. Further down history are the works of King Hu (Dragon Gate Inn (1966), A Touch of Zen (1969)), Chang Cheh (The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), Golden Swallow (1968)), and Liu Chia-Liang (Executioners from Shaolin (1977), The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)). There's just a lot more in this world than hungry pandas and irate tigers.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Andrew Adamson, 2008)

Perhaps I've misjudged Andrew Adamson as a mere craftsman of empty-headed spectacles. Thus, it is quite surprising that his adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (his second time an adaptation of a Narnia book) is quite an enjoyable treat. Sure, Adamson still relishes in showing off his adeptness in creating eye-popping visuals (the Peter Jackson-esque battles with computer-generated tree roots wreaking havoc and pixelated river gods drowning legions of baddies) but there's something more to the movie than the artificially crafted extravagance, which I thought was the major downfall of his cinematic reimagining of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005). That movie was far too glossy, far too blockbuster-oriented that it conveniently skirted on what made C. S. Lewis' Narnia books special in the first place. In the end, it became a lose-lose situation for Adamson and his team: ordinary moviegoers found the movie too Christian, and fans of the novels found the movie too commercial.

While Prince Caspian still adheres to more commercial sensibilities, especially with its unfettered reliance on epic battles, sword fights, and spectacular scenery, the movie manages to have a near-authentic air of melancholy amidst the pageantry of digitized vistas and mythical creatures. The Pevensie siblings return to Narnia after a year, not knowing that an Earth year is equivalent to a thousand or so Narnian years. Thus, they discover Narnia as a totally different place, ruled over by Telmarines, migratory men and women who conquered the Narnians shortly after the Pevensies returned to Earth. The Telmarines are themselves in a bit of trouble, with Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) trying to take over Narnia by attempting to assassinate the king-to-be Caspian (Ben Barnes) the night his wife gave birth to a son. Caspian escapes, rallies the Narnians (basically different kinds of creatures ranging from minotaurs to knightly mice) and teams up with the Pevensies to restore peace to the land.

The biggest problem with this adaptation is that Caspian is portrayed as dashing and swoony man-boy, complete with the requisite Mediterranean accent and flowing black hair yet ultimately lacking in personality and character. In short, Caspian has all the appearance of romance book hero yet none of the libido, a mere Fabio-in-waiting. Adamson sneaks in romantic hints between Caspian and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell), culminating with the two teen heroes locking lips at one point in the film. Of course, it's all for kid-friendly titillation; something that will ultimately please the juvenile market, the same market that voraciously feeds on Disney's fads. The decision to transform Caspian into an action hero is a mistake. In the book, he appears brave and wise beyond his years, a deserving king of Narnia. As a heavily accented soap opera star, he ends up the spineless standard-bearer who inherits a throne out of sheer destiny.

If Caspian seems to be a dull crowd pleaser, at least the Pevensies are given enough time and room to distinguish themselves from each other. From the moment Susan coyly avoids conversation from an admirer from a neighboring school, Peter (William Moseley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) are pulled out from a brawl, and Lucy (Georgie Henley) never gets the attention she deserves because of her youth, we are aware that the Pevensies have both changed and are changing. In the end, Susan erupts from her shell, Peter learns self-restraint, Edmund and Lucy both flounder and flourish on their faith. Prince Caspian, beyond the battles and the creatures, is a coming-of-age story for the Pevensies.

Adamson, although this is quite hard to admit on my part since I've never liked any of his films (both Shrek and Shrek 2 are animated spoofs, while The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a mystifying bore), was able to craft something genuinely intriguing, probably not in the way Lewis imagined his beloved characters would be, but in a more conventional, traditional, yet very familiar way. There's a palpable depth when any of the siblings risk life or limb for Narnia. They've graduated from being cardboard cut-outs to actual characters that feel and grow. The storming of Miraz's castle for example (although a deviation from the book), is both an exhilarating action sequence and a showcase that these characters Adamson has nestled since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are living, breathing, and feeling entities, with a genuine concern (worth thousands of years) for the citizenry of Narnia. If only for the well-drawn personalities of the Pevensies, I would give Prince Caspian a hesitant thumbs up. Of course, there's so much to nitpick on, but I'll save that for next time.