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Chronicles of Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The

8/10

Stars: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, Laura Brent, Gary Sweet, Arthur Angel, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Terry Norris, Bruce Spence, Bille Brown, Colin Moody, Shane Rangi, Arabella Morton, Rachel Blakely, Steven Rooke,Tony Nixon, David Vallon

Voices: Liam Neeson , Simon Pegg.







Director: Michael Apted

Now that the ever-continuing adventures of the mini-magician of Hogwarts are beginning to pall, along comes the latest instalment of the CS Lewis fantasy series. Happily, under new management (20th Century Fox replacing previous producers Disney) and with a new director, the result is a splendid spectacle for youngsters in search of magical entertainment and, possibly, for Narnia buffs. Not having read the books, I canÂ’t pretend to know whether the film is true to its source, but then weÂ’re talking about the movie and not boasting about our scholarship.

‘Dawn Treader’ continues the extraordinary adventure of English youngsters Henley and Keynes who are unexpectedly snatched back to Narnia by a maritime painting that magically comes to life in their bedroom in WW2 Cambridge and dumps them, along with their bratty cousin (Poulter), on board the eponymous dragon-prowed sailing ship captained by the new King of Narnia, Caspian (Barnes). And the vessel takes them on a fantastical voyage that confronts them with dragons, dwarves, all kinds of warriors and mermen as they search for seven magical swords…

The series benefits from the new director, Apted, who uses fine special effects to considerable dramatic effect but never at the expense of the characters. Henley and Keynes have grown into their recurring roles, Poulter is good value as an irritating lad who leans about life the hard way after being turned into a dragon, and Barnes is a suitably virile hero while, happily (for me, at any rate) charm-free ice queen Swinton only appears briefly. The lordly lion Aslan is voiced with useful dignity by Neeson while Simon Pegg is a considerable improvement over Eddie Izzard as the voice of the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep.

Apted vividly veers from character-based drama to stunning spectacle, striking a fine balance between strong, character-led storytelling and special effects spectacle. The battle with a colossal sea serpent is particularly good and, all in all, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader more than compensates for the previous rather weak offering in the series (Prince Caspian) and should entertain youngsters and adults alike.

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Dec 2010