Narnia fran­chise does a belly flop

tg­wsat­ur­day The Chron­i­cles of Narnia: The Voy­age of the Dawn Treader DI­REC­TOR: Michael Apted CAST: Ge­orgie Hen­ley, Skan­dar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Liam Nee­son, Tilda Swin­ton RUN­NING TIME: 114 min­utes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOOD MOVIES - TODD MCCARTHY

AF­TER slip­ping badly with the sec­ond in­stal­ment two years ago, the Narnia fran­chise does a full-on belly flop with this third and, at this rate, one can only hope fi­nal, en­try in the film se­ries based on CS Lewis’s beloved chil­dren’s books.

Per­func­tory per­fectly de­scribes ev­ery as­pect of The Chron­i­cles of Narnia: The Voy­age of the Dawn Treader, from the by-thenum­bers script and lack­lus­tre di­rec­tion to uni­for mly unin­spired per­for­mances.

The lure of 3D no doubt will spike box-of­fice tak­ings in the short term. But Dis­ney saw the writ­ing on the wall and de­camped af­ter global grosses dropped, from the first to the sec­ond film, from $745 mil­lion to $420m, the lat­ter a fig­ure Fox no doubt would be re­lieved to achieve given the yawny na­ture of this new jour­ney.

It’s even pos­si­ble that Lewis purists might be an­noyed with this adap­ta­tion, given the ex­ten­sive lib­er­ties that have been taken to al­le­vi­ate the repet­i­tive­ness of the odyssey and to pro­vide more ex­cuses for elab­o­rate and var­ied vis­ual ef­fects.

But to a se­ries con­vert or not, the sin­gle flaw in the sto­ry­telling here is that ev­ery­thing that hap­pens seems en­tirely ar­bi­trary; char­ac­ters come and go and make de­ci­sions for no ev­i­dent rea­sons, plat­i­tudes rather than cred­i­ble mo­ti­va­tions are pro­vided for be­hav­iour, and no scenes are built up to or de­vel­oped for more than a moment.

What is ar­guably the best vis­ual ef­fect comes very near the out­set. With their two older sib­lings, Peter and Su­san, hav­ing grad­u­ated from Narnia duty, Ed­mund and Lucy Peven­sie (Skan­dar Keynes and Ge­orgie Hen­ley) and their bratty pubescent cousin, Eus­tace (Will Poul­ter), peer at a paint­ing of the ship and sud­denly are in­un­dated with wa­ter, which con­veys them to their mag­i­cal world.

Con­ve­niently picked up by Caspian (Ben Barnes, re­turn­ing from the most re­cent film), the kids learn that, un­like Eng­land, which is in the thick of World War II, Narnia is at peace.

But that state of af­fairs won’t do for a swash­buck­ling ad­ven­ture, so a dis­tant threat is con­jured that re­quires them to visit sev­eral is­lands, gather the seven swords of the missing Lords of Tel­mar and place them on the lion As­lan’s din­ner ta­ble so all will not be lost.

As the crew looks for swords on small is­lands, fights en­tirely blood­less bat­tles with slave traders, is en­veloped by emer­ald mist on the sea and is warned by a ma­gi­cian about what awaits them on Dark Is­land, “a place where evil lurks’’ (can you imag­ine?), Ed­mund and Caspian man up while Lucy wor­ries about be­com­ing a woman and not be­ing as beau­ti­ful as her older sis­ter.

For his part, Eus­tace, in the film’s other no­table vis­ual ef­fect, is trans­formed into a winged golden dragon.

Just as it’s hard to fig­ure out why Dorothy would want to go back to Kansas af­ter all the fun she’s had in Oz, it’s hard to be­lieve Eus­tace would rather re­turn to be­ing a snot-nosed kid than fly around breath­ing fire.

But so be it. – Reuters

ALL AT SEA: Even die-hard fans may be ir­ri­tated with this lat­est adap­ta­tion of a CS Lewis tale.

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