NEW YORK (Reuters) - Director Andrew Adamson knows box office magic with his first three feature films grossing more than $2.1 billion worldwide.
But the pressure to match the success of "Shrek," "Shrek 2" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was never far from his mind while making the second installment in the C.S. Lewis series, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
"If you keep doing this for long enough, at some point you are going to have a film that does not succeed to the level of expectation, and you do just always hope that this one isn't going to be the one," the New Zealander told Reuters.
With some critics and analysts speculating that "Prince Caspian," a Walt Disney Pictures film, could surpass its predecessor and gross more than $300 million in the United States, Adamson may have to wait a little longer for his first box office flop.
But the Academy Award-nominated director is not going to chance it with a third Narnia film, handing over the reins for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" to Michael Apted, saying he has established the Narnia he envisioned.
"Even this film is very different from the last film in some ways. They could have been made by two entirely different directors," Adamson said. "The stories do stand alone and it's kind of like C.S. Lewis wrote them" to become movies.
Shot in New Zealand, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland, the big-budget "Prince Caspian" -- just how big Adamson would not say -- sees the four Penvensie siblings leave London and return to the magical kingdom of Narnia to help the prince battle his evil uncle to return the land to its former glory.
"Where the first film was light and mythological, its successor ... is dark, more sophisticated, and ultimately a richer cinematic experience," critic Michelle Kung wrote in the Boston Globe.
William Moseley, 21, Anna Popplewell, 19, Skandar Keynes, 16, and Georgie Henley, 12, return to play Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Penvensie, while Caspian is played by Hollywood newcomer Ben Barnes, 26, who was plucked from London's West End production of "History Boys" to take up the role.
"It kind of came out of left field a little bit ... I did a screen test and then three, four weeks later I was on a horse in New Zealand," said Barnes, who had a minor role in 2007's "Stardust" movie. "It's very surreal."
USA Today reported that Barnes adds sex appeal to the Narnia chronicles and that he "has visitors to the film's Internet Movie Database message board virtually drooling."
"I wonder what I have unleashed on Ben? I tried to prepare him all the time leading up to this," said Adamson, laughing.
Barnes will carry the Narnia mantle into the third film, due for release in 2010, along with Keynes and Henley. But the roles played by Moseley and Popplewell do not appear in the third film.
Adamson said he felt a strong responsibility to his young charges to continue as director on "Prince Caspian."
"Particularly Georgie, who was 8 years old when she started the first movie. She's maybe at the level now where she's grown up enough where I can pass her to another parent," Adamson said.
"When I see their performances I'm obviously happy with them as a director but I feel proud of them almost as a parent."