The third Chronicles of Narnia book-to-film adaptation (The Legend of the Dawn Treader) will seem positively familiar to fans of the series, but movie-goers who expect something new and fresh might leave the cinema yearning more.
Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) once again leads the group as the only lead cast member who has passed puberty and does a good job in giving the story some needed adult credibility. The rest of the main cast is remarkably smaller than in previous franchise entries, as the orphaned Prevensie family has been reduced in ranks; with only half of the original cast continuing their Narnia adventure this time around (the two older siblings have lost their sense of childish imagination and have learned all they can from the world of Narnia).
While this makes perfect sense in the context of the story, it does leave a noticeable void, as the two remaining orphans, Lucy and Edmund (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes) seem to struggle to fill up the screen with their very subdued performances. Luckily, a new cast member, Lucy and Edmund’s cousin Eustace (played by Will Poulter) does a fantastic job as the latest ‘Narnian’. Will Poulter plays the role of the ‘evil, sarcastic stepbrother’ with a surprising level of sincerity and believability, as his character convincingly evolves into the next Narnian hero (ironically, the most likable one as of yet).
“Adding insult to injury, the film’s antagonist is so ill-defined and unoriginal that it makes it difficult to feel intimidated by its‘evil intentions’.”
The rest of the ensemble includes some welcome return appearances from a very likeable Mouse/Swordsman, A soft-hearted Minotaur as well as some special flashbacks from the series’ greatest villain (Tilda Swinton) as well as its greatest hero (Liam Neeson). Nonetheless, there seems to be an obvious lack of strong performances, detracting from the movie experience quite a bit.
The very simple, lackluster storyline doesn’t help either, as the cast seem to be without an obvious sense of purposeful direction. Even the action sequences (although very pretty) just doesn’t seem to gel well with the look and feel set by the previous franchise installments. Adding insult to injury, the film’s antagonist is so ill-defined and unoriginal that it makes it difficult to feel intimidated by its ‘evil intentions’. Nevertheless, this seems to be a problem with the source material (shame on you, C.S. Lewis) and not the movie itself – even though it does subtract from the film’s overall impact substantially.
Things do however start to pick-up right after the halfway mark (with some excellent CGI and interesting plot twists), but sadly it feels like a case of ‘too little, too late’, resulting in the worst entry of the franchise to date.
While the latest Narnia adventure could have been much better, it still delivers enough to recommend it to fans of the series. Newcomers should however stay away from Narnia till the following entry comes to redeem the franchise. Is the change of director (From Andrew Adamson to Michael Apted) to blame for the series' regression? I'm willing to bet it is...
Highlight: Eustace’s emotional farewell to his rodent friend.
Lowlight: All scenes with Lucy, Edmund and Prince Caspian (There are a few).
Rating: 3 Meerkat Tails