Verdict: A solid instalment of the Narnia chronicles that should keep its young fans happy
English director Michael Apted takes the helm from our own Andrew Adamson for the third story in C.S. Lewis' series of children's novels, the first of the franchise delivered in in 3D and the first since Disney ditched the franchise when its predecessor, Prince Caspian, failed to generate enough box office interest.
Apted takes a steady-as-she-goes approach, bringing together special effects, wonderfully realised creatures and characters old and new into a well-paced and enjoyable adventure.
It looks good (although the move to 3D is underwhelming) and though it finishes on a high note with an impressive battle with a sea serpent, this seafaring fantasy lacks a sense of excitement and thrill.
It's the shortest of the three films yet, due to a simpler quest story and no need to explain absolutely everything that's going on. That said, some prior knowledge of the world of Narnia is helpful. In this episode the youngest of the Pevensie kids, the precocious Lucy (Henley), her brother Edmund (Keynes) and their annoying know-it-all cousin Eustace Scrubbs (Poulter) are sucked back into Narnia through a seascape painting.
The now-King Caspian (Barnes) brings them aboard his ship, the Dawn Treader, and into his mission to collect seven golden swords which must be placed at Aslan's table to stop an evil takeover of a distant Narnian island. It's all a little vague, it's not entirely clear where this evil has come from and what impact it will have on Narnia, but it makes for a good quest.
It's a good thing, too, that Eustace, as painful as he is, has been dragged along as he provides plenty of laughs. For a boy of little imagination, Narnia with its magical, creatures is overwhelming. Thankfully he has heroic mouse Reepicheep, (now voiced by Simon Pegg) to guide him. Like its predecessors, Narnia III is family entertainment, but it never loses sight of its main audience and keeps the material at the level of the readers of the books. This makes for simplistic language and storytelling, but as the Harry Potter series becomes grim and gloomy the simplicity of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader gives it a charming quality.
Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter Director: Michael Apted
Running Time: 115 mins
Rating: PG (Some scenes may scare very young children)