THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN-TREADER (PG)
There’s action and adventure ahoy in the third book of CS Lewis’s enchanting Narnia series, published back in the 1950s.
Following on from the daring escapades of Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sets sail without the two eldest Pevensie children, Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell), and press-gangs some fresh talent to carry the series into the choppy waters of the fourth book, The Silver Chair.
Director Michael Apted bows down to the current fad of 3D format but this version of the film barely takes advantage of the eye-popping possibilities.
Most of the cast return with the notable absence of Eddie Izzard as the voice of sword-wielding mouse, Reepicheep.
He’s replaced by Simon Pegg, who rouses the cast into action by telling the children: “There is no honour in turning away from adventure.”
The film opens with Peter away at university and Susan in America, consigning Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) to a miserable stay with stuffy cousin, Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter).
He collects insects and can’t think of anything nicer than pinning his relatives to the wall like butterfly specimens.
“Note to self: investigate the legal ramifications of impaling relatives,” he writes in his journal.
During a fight between Edmund and Eustace, a painting in the guest bedroom magically transports all three children to Narnia and on to the titular vessel captained by Drinian (Gary Sweet).
Eustace is aghast but Lucy and Edmund settle in quickly as Narnian royalty, reuniting with King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and Reepicheep (Pegg) aboard The Dawn Treader.
It transpires that Caspian is on a quest to locate the swords of seven lost noblemen and the Pevensie children pledge their support, encountering the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and the majestic lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) along the way.
“Until you lay down the seventh sword, evil has the upper hand,” reveals the magician Coriakin (Bille Brown).
“To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself,” he adds helpfully.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the most crudely constructed of the films, loosely stitching together the set pieces with comical altercations between Eustace and his courageous cousins.
Inevitably, the new boy discovers the hero within, while Lucy learns valuable lessons about self-confidence and beauty.
Production design is impressive and the script introduces two monsters for the special effects-heavy finale that should delight younger audiences.
Poulter matures from comic relief to would-be hero – he’s the central character of the fourth book – while Henley and Keynes make the most of their underwritten roles before they too bid a tearful farewell to their fantastical friends.
Our eyes remain dry.
STAR RATING: ***