‘NARNIA MAY still have need of you.” These are among the last words that the Pevensie children hear before, as the closing credits loom, they are dispatched back to the real world. I wouldn’t bet on it, kids.
Twentieth Century Fox rolled the dice when, following mildly disappointing box-office returns for Prince Caspian, the studio took over the third part of the Narnia franchise from Disney.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is not a terrible film. It’s more coherent, infinitely better plotted and considerably more actionpacked than, say, the most recent Harry Potter picture. But it does look a wee bit cheap, and the relentless moralising of CS Lewis’s original text is beginning to wear very, very thin. If I were one of the juvenile actors, I’d have a back-up plan in mind.
The family has been broken up. The two eldest children have been sent to the US, while the two youngest find themselves billeted with Eustace Scrubbs (the excellent Will Poulter from Son of Rambow), a badly behaved cousin, in the outskirts of Cambridge.
Getting over the preliminaries rapidly, Michael Apted’s film propels the junior representatives – Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes return as Lucy and Edmund – into a painting of a lonely ship on a sprawling sea. Before long, they are accompanying King Caspian (Ben Barnes) on his quest to recover a bunch of magic swords, repel a mysterious green mist and rescue a group of terrorised islanders from obscure oppression. Aslan the lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) pops in for a chat. Eustace gets turned into a dragon. You know the sort of thing.
There’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned entertainment, but the new film, unlike the epic first part and the brooding Prince Caspian – feels old in the way that damp socks, shops closed on a Sunday, congealed fruit gums and bus seats that smell of cigarettes feel old. Aslan is animated with such scruffy economy that two men in a threadbare lion suit may as well have taken the role.
And then there’s the Godbothering preachiness. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. If I wanted to be told off in this manner I would have attended my local Free Presbyterian Church.
“In your world I have another name,” the lion deity intones. Is it Simba by any chance?
Voyage to the bottom of the box-office: Lucy (Georgie Henley) on the Dawn Treader