Earlier this week, we were lucky enough to get invited to the Fox lot in Los Angeles to be amongst the first people to see a sneak peak of some of the amazing, yet unfinished, footage from the upcoming film. On hand was director Michael Apted, who, in addition to being the former president of the Director's Guild of America, is an accomplished filmmaker in his own right with such classic films as Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorky Park, Gorillas in the Mist, Class Action, Thunderheart, The World Is Not Enough and Amazing Grace under his belt.
Before we screened the footage from the film, which was almost thirty minutes of the upcoming movie, Apted spoke about making the film. "It's a beautiful book and I have been asked often if I read the book while I was growing up to which I say, no ... the books weren't written yet when I was growing up," the director laughed. "They are typically books that you can read to your children every night, one chapter a night. It doesn't quite have that dramatic thrust to it that it needs for a film and it took us a long time to really nail that. The tone of the book is quite different than the one before it, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The pressure was on us to go back to Narnia, the color of it all, the magic of it all and in a sense recreate what Andrew (Adamson) had done with the first one so we had to go back and sort of revise that," he explained.
With no more further ado, Apted introduced the material. "So that in a way is an introduction to the film. The first thing we are going to see is the first ten minutes of the movie and if I need to introduce that then I'm in trouble," he joked. The film begins by reintroducing us to the youngest of Pevensie children, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), who now are back in London and living with their bratty cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter), who does not believe in Narnia and his cousins fantastic stories. Edmund and Lucy desperately miss Narnia and before too long notice a painting of a ship, which looks like it is moving.
Through a series of events, the water from the painting overflows and all three children find themselves swimming in the ocean back in Narnia. The ship from the picture of course is The Dawn Treader, which belongs to the now King Caspian and the Pevensie children are delighted to be reunited with their friends. Eustace on the other hand is not used to these strange surroundings and just wants to go home, especially as he begins to have a conflict with Reepicheep, a brave talking mouse who was first introduced in the previous film and his voiced by comedian Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz). The children eventually agree to help Caspian on his journey to save Narnia from evil by retrieving the swords of the seven lords, good men that his evil uncle Miraz banished when he took over the throne.While we don't want to spoil too much of the rest of the film for you we did have a chance to watch a few more wonderful scenes which included a duel between Eustace and Reepicheep, Lucy's discovery of a magic book, a magnificent Dragon, the film's dramatic conclusion and of course, the return of Aslan, the series' signature Lion who is once again voiced by Liam Neeson (Taken). The footage that we were shown, while not in 3D and with some final effects work still needed before its release was none the less very impressive and showed many signs of hope for the struggling franchise.
In fact, if the final product is anything like what we saw, fans of the first film as well as the series of books will be delighted to know that the magic that made the original movie so popular is back intact in this one. One of the best parts of the footage that we saw, besides the incredibly real looking dragon, was the relationship between the unlikable Eustace and Reepicheep. While Eustace is completely unlikable at the beginning, through his relationship with Reepicheep the character is redeemed and Poulter perfectly plays both sides of that coin. In fact, the last scene we watched involved Eustace saying goodbye to his new best friend, Reepicheep, and when you finally see the movie I dare you to keep a dry eye as that relationship is the emotional core of the film.