DIR: Michael Apted • WRI: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni • PRO: Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer • DOP: Dante Spinotti • ED: Rick Shaine • DES: Barry Robison • CAST: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley
When we meet the Pevensie children again, many changes have occurred in their lives. Older siblings Peter and Susan are evidently enjoying adulthood and are living the high life. Meanwhile, younger siblings Edmund and Lucy are caught up in the midst of war. They are forced to spend months in the company of their insufferable cousin Eustace, who dreams of pinning his cousins to the wall like insects. Edmund and Lucy are, of course, infuriated by this turn of events, they have lived adult lives in another world, and the world they are trapped in seems to give them nothing but trouble. What they need is, you guessed it, a trip to Narnia!
This instalment of the series is immediately darker than the previous. As their entry into Narnia is slightly more violent than they are used to, with water beginning to fill up the bedroom, they frantically swim to find the surface, which happens to be in Narnia. Unfortunately cousin Eustace is in the wrong place,, at the wrong time, and is also brought to Narnia, much to his dismay. They climb aboard the Dawn Treader, and so begins the movie.
Ben Barnes resumes his place as Prince Caspian, a character who has undergone a transformation and is no longer the bore he was in the previous film. Caspian has lost his accent, and with it gained a beard, a personality, and some sex appeal, the Narnia films have been sorely lacking in a heartthrob and it is nice to see this situation rectified. At the other end of the scale is Will Poulter, playing irritating and irritated Eustace. A difficult character to play as he must be both unlikeable and empathetic at once. For a young man, Poulter pulls the character off perfectly and creates a new hero for the series. A hero who, I would argue, has more personality than all of the Pevensies combined.
Newcomer to the series Simon Pegg glides effortlessly into the vocal chords of Reepicheep. Reepicheep is a firm family favourite and whilst Pegg had large heels to fill to match the character Eddie Izzard had created, the change goes almost unnoticed. This instalment sees Reepicheep come into his own and Pegg masterfully adds a caring and compassionate aspect to a tough-as-nails character.
The Chronicles of Narnia are an example of money well spent on family entertainment. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader takes a darker turn, but stops short of frightening its loyal following. With special effects to rival some of the bigger adult blockbusters, and 3D which evades the gimmicky pitfalls of its peers, it is a rare feat for a family film.
There are, of course, some things which fall just short of excellence. Youngest sibling Lucy, played by Georgie Henley, is somewhat superfluous in many scenes. In scenes where she features heavily, it becomes evident that she suffers from a very short attention span as she continues to gaze around in amazed wonder at a world she has grown up in and visited twice. It’s very easy to see why she isn’t sent on any major missions; she would be likely to wander off. There is also the addition of another little girl, Gael, whose lines we can count on one hand. Her only purpose is to remind the viewer that ‘Oh look! Lucy has grown-up, look how big and mature she is in comparison!’
As always, there just isn’t enough Liam Neeson as Aslan to go round. His odd appearance towards the end of the movie was a little preachy for my tastes, but the sight of his glorious mane always elicits some happy gasps from the younger ones in the audience. It all succeeds greatly in reminding us that, whilst politicians continue to complain, we should take a leaf out of a children’s book and take some joy in the simple things.
Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is released on 9th December 2010