By Amy Nicholson
“In your world, I have another name,” purrs Aslan. Gee, I wonder? C.S. Lewis’ second secret way of calling the big cat is the reason why Focus on the Family has staged the complete Chronicles of Narnia, and it’s also the reason why every time the lights dim on another sequel, you hear the whisper of a hundred studio executives crossing their fingers and praying to the almighty box office that they’ve done right by Christians and everyone else. Oh, and they also have to make a good popcorn epic, which has proved to be the toughest feat for this handsome, but lifeless franchise. (Disney shut the door after two films, but let Fox buy their way into the wardrobe.) Since 2008’s Prince Caspian, eldest Pevensies Peter and Susan have aged out of Narnia—talk about reneging on a royal title— leaving Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) alone to make the wet trip through a portrait of an ocean to the Narnian real deal, tagged along by cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). C.S. Lewis was never one to sanctify childhood. His kid characters scheme, keep secrets and harbor adult-sized jealousies. But among his brats, Eustace is singularly terrible—he’s a five-foot flat Christopher Hitchens, a bore who’s all science, intellect and logic. He’s us moderns, people who lack Lucy’s full-tilt faith, and a whiner lousy enough to be locked up in Willy Wonka’s factory. (And in the novel, he’s even—gasp!—a vegetarian.) Directed by Michael Apted, the movie drifts far from the book, but the very broadest strokes are still the same: the clan, the crew and King Caspian (Ben Barnes) are aboard the Dawn Treader on a quest to solve the disappearance of seven lords. After an intro that feels like a class reunion where no one’s bothered to spike the punch, they face their own weaknesses and wants (here given literal form as a green mist), and must overcome 71 percent of the Seven Deadly Sins, facing a final climax that nods to Ghostbusters. The fantasy world is as gorgeous and inventive as it’s ever been, even if the 3D is fairly flat, and the movie sails straight and true, allowing us to gawk at the scenery even if we never feel the wind in our hair.