'Chronicles Of Narnia' Series Nabs Michael Apted To Direct Third Flick

'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' shooting for May 2009 release; second film, 'Prince Caspian,' due in 2008.

Michael Apted — the acclaimed director of "The World Is Not Enough," "Gorillas in the Mist" and the "Up" film series — has been tapped to helm "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," the third installment in C.S. Lewis' fantasy serial, Walden Media announced Tuesday (June 19).

"We're thrilled he will be directing 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' " Oren Aviv, Walt Disney Studios president of production, said in a statement. "This latest adventure will take people to an entirely different side of Narnia that no one has ever seen before and is filled with lots of action, adventure, magic and wonder."

Aviv isn't kidding. Set three years after "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" sequel "Prince Caspian" (see " 'Narnia' Sequel Keeps Cast And Director, Shoots For 2007 Release"), "Dawn Treader" follows the newly installed King of Narnia and his companions Lucy and Edmund Pevensie; their cousin Eustace Scrubb; and the brave talking mouse Reepicheep. The group leaves the mainland and scours the sea for the seven lost Telmarine lords, noblemen who had been loyal to Caspian's father before the War of Deliverance.

Among the many fantastical places Caspian visits are the Lone Islands, Deathwater Island, the Island Where Dreams Come True and the Island of the Star. All pale in comparison, however, to the fate that awaits them at world's end, where a giant wall of flowing water guards the entrance to Aslan's Country.

It's a special-effects smorgasbord that Apted seems perfectly molded for, executives said. "Michael Apted's extraordinary body of work has prepared him to tackle this enormously exciting adventure," Walden CEO Cary Granat said in the statement. "We are confident that Michael will deliver a terrific film."

"Dawn Treader" is also, perhaps, the series' most theologically centered. Already set up as a Christ figure in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," Aslan (the lion) becomes a full-blown allegory in "Dawn Treader." Asked by Edmund whether Aslan exists in their world, the lion responds, "[Yes,] but there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name."

A big-budget film with a spiritual message? All in a day's work for Apted, Aviv noted.

"Michael Apted is one of the most versatile and talented filmmakers working today, and he has proven himself to be a fantastic storyteller in a variety of genres," he said.

Returning for "Dawn Treader" will be British actor Ben Barnes, who plays the titular character in May 2008's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" will begin filming in January and is set for release May 1, 2009.

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