Dir: Michael Apted. US. 2010. 115mins
With its re-jigged cast, rampaging monsters and uneven 3D effects, the third installment in the Chronicles of Narnia franchise is both livelier and more generic than its commercially disappointing predecessor Prince Caspian. The different feel may help Walden Media and new partner Fox reclaim some of the family audience that Caspian lost but it seems unlikely to produce as impressive a gross as franchise originator The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’s $745m.
Directing his first Narnia outing, Michael Apted keeps the story moving and finds more humour in the adventure than was offered in the darker Caspian installment.
Families will be Fox’s target when the studio opens Dawn Treader on the weekend of December 10 in North America and much of the international marketplace, giving the film the same pre-holiday slot as the first Narnia installment had (Walden’s then partner Disney opened Caspian at the beginning of the 2008 summer season). A good international start will be particularly important given that both earlier films took more than 60% of their totals outside the US.
True to the third of C S Lewis’ seven Chronicles books, only Lucy (played again by Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes again), the younger two Pevensie children, make the third journey from wartime London to Narnia, though they are accompanied this time by their unfriendly cousin Eustace (Will Poulter, from Son of Rambow).
In Narnia, the children join forces with Prince Caspian (the returning Ben Barnes), warrior mouse Reepicheep (this time voiced by Simon Pegg rather than Eddie Izzard) and the crew of Narnian ship the Dawn Treader to tackle - with the occasional help of Aslan the lion (again voiced by Liam Neeson) - an evil force that threatens the kingdom.
Directing his first Narnia outing, Michael Apted keeps the story moving - though the children each have their adolescent issues to face along the way - and finds more humour in the adventure than was offered in the darker Caspian installment.
But there’s not a lot of substance in the plot and the new characters and creatures - notably the grating Eustace, the dragon he temporarily turns into, and a sea monster that could have been borrowed from Pirates of the Caribbean - make Narnia seem distinctly less magical than it was when the franchise started.
The film’s post-production conversion into 3D makes for some unconvincing sequences and a noticeably dim picture.
Production companies: Fox 2000 Pictures, Walden Media
Worldwide distribution: Fox
Producers: Mark Johnson, Andrew Adamson, Philip Steuer
Executive producers: Douglas Gresham, Perry Moore
Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni
Cinematography: Dante Spinotti
Production designer: Barry Robison
Editor: Rick Shaine
Music: David Arnold
Main cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Liam Neeson (voice), Simon Pegg (voice), Tilda Swinton