As the must-see treat of the festive season, the latest adventures of Caspian and the Pevensie children carries a solid-gold guarantee to match or even out-perform the track record of its predecessors. And, of course, the whole ancillary marketing bonanza of Narnia gear has gone into overdrive. Anticipated box office glitters!
With the whole of Britain wrapped in a Narnia-like blanket of snow, it looked as if the White Witch (incarnated by Tilda Swinton) had worked her magic for the Royal premier in London before the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The third part of the franchise (in 3D) throws in every special effect in the business, with flying dragons and serial swordfights aplenty. The two youngest Pevensie offspring take prominent roles because older brother Peter (William Moseley) is studying for his university entrance exams and older sister Susan (Anna Popplewell) is travelling through America with their parents.
Clearly those junior stars in the making, Georgie Henley (as Lucy) and Skandar Keynes (as Edmund), relished the prospect of the limelight. Stealing much of the thunder and the fun quotient is Will Poulter as their ghastly cousin, Eustace Scrubb.
How does the tale set sail this time around? The children enter the magical kingdom through the picture of a ship hanging on a bedroom wall. No prizes for guessing that this is the Dawn Treader captained by the redoubtable Ben Barnes, the new King of Narnia, aided and abetted by Simon Pegg as the voice of Reepicheep, a mouse with predilection for swashbuckling.
All aboard endure temptations and challenges in the form of vanity, gold and power as Caspian vows to find the seven lost lords of Narnia. Encounters are lined up with dragons, dwarves, merfolk and assorted warriors—and the sea turns from salt to sweet!
Liam Neeson is more than plausible voicing Aslan, the lion that defends righteousness in the face of evil, but it's Poulter (as Eustace) who steals most of the best lines and gives a neat sardonic counterpoint to the shenanigans.
In the box office battle for Christmas baubles, Narnia faces stiff competition from the new Harry Potter but it should more than hold its own, definitely appealing to a younger crowd. Bearing this in mind, Michael Apted opts for a certain dated and mannered appeal with a whiff of nostalgia for more innocent times, which lends added enchantment.
I feel sure Her Majesty was highly amused.
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, Laura Brent, Gary Sweet, Arthur Angel, Simon Pegg, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell and Liam Neeson
Director: Michael Apted
Screenwriter: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Producers: Mark Johnson, Phillip Steuer and Andrew Adamson
Rating: PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.
Running time: 115 min
Release date: December 10, 2010