I’m probably not alone. The Narnia film series certainly hasn’t enjoyed the mega-blockbuster success of those other franchises – only making hundreds of millions of dollars, and not billions, at the box office. In consequence, Disney, the studio behind the first two films, has jumped ship and Fox is now holding the purse strings, alongside on-going producing partners Walden Media.
There’s a new director at the helm as well, with veteran British filmmaker Michael Apted, taking over from Andrew Adamson for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which finds two of the quartet of plum-voiced child heroes from the earlier films returning for further adventures in the magical kingdom of Narnia.
Lucy and Edmund Pevensie (played by Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes) return to Narnia in the company of their ghastly cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter from Son of Rambow) after a seascape painting on a bedroom wall suddenly comes to watery life.
Hauled from the ocean, they find themselves on the deck of the Dawn Treader, the Narnian vessel captained by their old friend King Caspian (Ben Barnes), who is on a perilous mission to find the source of the insidious green mist that is sucking the life from his kingdom.
Along the way, there are scuffles with slave traders and a fierce battle with a scaly, slithery sea monster; swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) proves his mettle; and Eustace gets transformed into a fire-breathing dragon, before the forces of good finally prevail.
For all my misgivings about Lewis, I have to admit that this third visit to Narnia does have its charms. True, the narrative sometimes gets becalmed, and the tale’s Christian allegory is blatantly unsubtle, but Apted and cinematographer Dante Spinotti (Michael Mann’s DP of choice) do manage to conjure the odd moment of visual wonder out of the quest.
Henley, a much more assured child actor than her Potter counterparts, continues to impress, and Poulter is exceedingly good at being insufferable – until he learns his lesson, of course. The bland Barnes lets the side down somewhat and the 3D is distinctly underwhelming (why bother?), but families looking for wholesome entertainment with mild thrills and an uplifting moral message will be happy to climb aboard the Dawn Treader this Christmas.
On general release from 9th December.