Michael Apted’s fantasy adventure feels curiously stilted with its Jason and the Argonauts-style set up.
Jilted by Disney after a two-picture marriage, Walden Media and 20th Century Fox picked up CS Lewis’ much-loved Chronicles of Narnia and present this third outing, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Michael Apted’s fantasy adventure feels curiously stilted with its Jason and the Argonauts-style set up. Call it Homeric if you want to, but this ship sails hither and thither with little gusto.
With the two oldest Pevensie kids – Peter and Susan – too old for Narnian adventures, we return to the magical land laden with Christian allegory with Lucy, Edmund and their exceedingly annoying cousin Eustace. This time the kiddiewinks are sent on a quest with Caspian (Ben Barnes again) to retrieve seven swords in order to defeat some CG sea-mist.
The actors playing the Pevensie clan were always a bit of a collective lead weight. It’s as if the original casting call read: "Wanted: posh kids with limited/no acting ability for fantasy adventure flick". Throwing them into a world of green screen blankness and asking them to emote to a tennis ball on a stick doesn’t inspire strong performances from anybody, let alone, young performers.
Other noticeable weaknesses are present. Although original director Andrew Adamson Disneyfied the films they were at least consistent. Michael Apted belongs to that distinct British breed of filmmaker whom earned their stripes in television and documentary. He’s a true journeyman director.
In other words, Apted is such a safe pair of hands it’s hard to distinguish what he’s bringing to the table other than very safe and very polished experience of big productions.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader does benefit from Dante Spinotti’s golden-sunset photography, but falling back on the old 'at least it looks nice' excuse is indicative of somebody pressing hard to find positives.
This third instalment ensures the franchise will end with a whimper and not a bang. It’s very hard to see there being a screen outing for The Silver Chair – the next chronicle in the list. Cameos from Aslan (Liam Neeson) and The White Witch are obviously tacked on to provide a bit of audience recognition. Tilda Swinton’s role smacks of 'back by contractual obligation’.
And where did the filmmaker find such an odd-looking child actor as Will Poulter to play Eustace? He’s a strange, prissy screen presence. Top marks for that.
The jilted bride of Disney returns!
Passable family entertainment and that’s about it.
Let’s not go to Narnia again. It’s a silly place.