Two books into the "Chronicles of Narnia" series, the odds of a full seven feature-length films are starting to look pretty good.

Take that, puny "Lord of the Rings" trilogy!

"Prince Caspian," the latest adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic stories, is a solid follow-up to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" -- a little less charm and wonder, a little more violence and action. Though the series will never match LOTR, it continues to be a worthwhile time at the theater.

In Prince Caspian, the intrepid Pevensie children are once again whisked back to the magical land of Narnia. For them, it's been just a year; for Narnia it has been 13 centuries, and everything has changed. The nasty Telmarines -- a race of humans with Spanish-Italian-French-English accents -- have taken over the land and forced the magical creatures that remain into hiding.

Young Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) is the rightful heir to the throne but has been forced to flee for his life by his murderous uncle Lord Miraz. It is his blowing of Susan's magical horn that has summoned the kings and queens of old -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- back to save the land.

The movie has a mostly somber, serious tone, with a few moments of levity, notably from the swashbuckling rodent Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) and the surly dwarf Trumpkin, played wonderfully by Peter Dinklage ("The Station Agent").

This time around, however, there is more actual, physical violence, as the persecuted Narnians fight back and are faced with the vicious, superior forces of the Telmarines. Warning for parents of small children: There are beheadings and slaughter along with plenty of death, though blood is actually not so evident.

The action is very well done and the CGI effects are excellent. The Pevensies have grown a bit since the last film, both the characters and the actors. Peter (William Moseley) is stronger and bolder; Susan is independent and has an eye for Prince Caspian; Lucy (Georgie Henley) has an almost cultish obsession with the Christ-like lion Aslan, but in a cute way; Edmund (Skandar Keynes) is daring and deadly, in no way traitorous or annoying this time.

Today's fun fact: Keynes is the great-, great-, great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

The character of Prince Caspian is supposed to be noble and brave and really attract the teenage girl demographic (I think that's what C.S. Lewis was planning). I wasn't particularly drawn to him -- too much of a pretty boy, teen-idol type, but perhaps that's just me. In any case, his pseudo romance with Susan is a particularly lame subplot not to watch for.

The film also suffers a little because the bad guy, while really mean, is not even close to as interesting as the White Witch (who has sort of a cameo here) of the first film.

"Prince Caspian" features, but doesn't flaunt, some fairly overt Christian symbols and themes -- Aslan, for instance, can only be seen by those with faith. That, again, will likely slide over the heads of youngsters, who will just think it's cool to see a centaur skewer somebody.

Next up: "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," coming to a theater near you in 2010.

Rental Recommendation: Warwick Davis, who plays Nikabrik here, starred as the reluctant dwarven hero "Willow" in 1988. Grade: B-.

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