The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG, 112 mins)
Director: Michael Apted
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
The first impression it gives is of being nowhere near as epic in scale as the first two films, probably in part due to a budget cut following on from the box office underperformance of the previous film. More discouragingly though, it’s also nowhere near as fun, as thrilling or as involving.
With World War II in full swing, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) are staying with their uncle when once again they're transported the magical land of Narnia, this time via a painting that comes to life. They wind up on a ship called the Dawn Treader, where they reunite with Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) from the previous entry.
Narnia is at peace, so why have they been brought there? Trying to find out, they sail to the Lone Islands, where people are being sacrificed to a mysterious mist. It’s from here that this episode loses its way somewhat, with a plot that’s both undernourished and by the numbers.
There’s some guff about seven lords with seven swords that must be reunited in order to defeat evil, and it all makes for a rather follow-the-breadcrumbs fantasy quest that bumps along from one fight or escapade to another with little narrative cohesion.
It’s more of a Greek seas or Pirates of the Caribbean style adventure than the Christmas snows and epic battles we’ve been used to, and compared to the likes of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, quite weak in its mythology.
Temptation is the key theme, but it seems foisted on in order to give the characters some sort of arc to ensure the film isn’t just a special effects extravaganza. Even on those terms it’s hardly earth shattering, and what’s especially disappointing is that it’s actually quite an ugly film, with clumsy action that’s really quite tedious in places.
There’s solid if unremarkable acting from its young leads, but the newcomer to the series, Will Poulter, who plays Lucy and Edmund’s annoying cousin Eustace, is the only thing about the movie that approaches freshness.
There’s a little amount of magic and a well staged finale, but it’s quite an arduous journey for the audience to get there for a reward that’s not quite worth the effort.