The lion is back, the witch puts in an appearance, but that musty old wardrobe has been put out of commission in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, a worthy if somewhat less wondrous successor to that 2005 fantasy phenomenon.
Several shades darker in tone than the previous edition – which, to be fair, did not carry the burden of expectation that a sequel must bear – the return to Narnia still casts a transporting spell that should nicely build on that $745 million (Dh2.73 billion) worldwide foundation.
The second installment in CS Lewis' seven-part fantasy series, Prince Caspian finds the four Pevensie siblings (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell) a year older and quite a bit wiser when they are summoned back to Narnia.
But 1,300 years have passed in their beloved home away from home, which has become a more savage place under the tyrannical reign of the evil King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who plots to ensure that the rightful heir to the throne will no longer be his nephew, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), but his own newborn son. The young Caspian is forced into hiding as his uncle plots to kill him.
Having fled his would-be killers, Caspian joins forces with Narnia's youthful kings and queens to take down Miraz, with a little help from Trumpkin the Red Dwarf (a heavily disguised Peter Dinklage) and Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard), a valiant mouse rather reminiscent of Shrek's Puss in Boots. A badger named Trufflehunter (voiced by Ken Stottand), and a Black Dwarf called Nikabrik (Warwick Davis) also join the gang.
Given that the sequel is again directed by Andrew Adamson, who also was behind those first two Shrek movies, that should not come as a complete surprise, but the more sombre Caspian also shares elements with the second Lord of the Rings installment, The Two Towers, as well as the later, moodier Harry Potter editions.
The loss-of-innocence theme of the first Narnia is significantly deepened in the script, written again by Adamson along with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, lending itself to that darker look.
But there is still much to appreciate in those gorgeous special effects and grand-scale battle sequences, not to mention Dinklage's terrific turn as the curmudgeonly Red Dwarf who handily manages to outmanoeuvre the title character as Narnia's most colourful new inhabitant. Exciting stuff.
$200m: Production budget of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, as reported by allmovie.com
$115m: The film's total American box-office revenue, according to boxofficemojo.com
$167m: The film's worldwide box-office takings, as reported by boxofficemojo.com