Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader **
Directed by:
Michael Apted.
Written By: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni based on the novel by C.S. Lewis.
Starring: Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie), Skandar Keynes (Edmund Pevensie), Ben Barnes (Caspian), Will Poulter (Eustace Scrubb), Gary Sweet (Drinian), Terry Norris (Lord Bern), Bruce Spence (Lord Rhoop), Bille Brown (Coriakin), Laura Brent (Lilliandil), Tilda Swinton (The White Witch), Anna Popplewell (Susan Pevensie), Liam Neeson (Aslan), Simon Pegg (Reepicheep).

I am the first to admit that I am cut in the target audience for The Chronicles of Narnia. I am an atheist after all, and C.S. Lewis’ books are heavily Christian in their outlook. Still, I highly enjoyed the first film in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the most famous of the stories, and even enjoyed Prince Caspian, the second film. But this time around, the magic seems to have been drained from the series. There are still some good moments, but this voyage seems much longer than it actually is, and ultimately, leads nowhere.

The two older Pevensie children were told at the end of the last film that they are too old, and as such, will not be able to return to Narnia in the future. To make this even clearer, they are in America with their parents at the beginning of this film, while Lucy and Edmund, are stuck back in England, living with relatives during WWII. They are stuck with their obnoxious cousin, Eustace, and hate every moment of it. They are soon sucked into Narnia via a painting, and Eustace comes along with them. They are rescued by the ship the Dawn Treader, led by the now King Caspian. But they are confused - everything in Narnia is going just fine, so they do not know why they are there. But it soon becomes clear that everything isn’t quite as peachy as they think it is. By the end of the movie, they will fight slave traders and other assorted by guys, as the Dawn Treader heads further into the West - closer to the land of Aslan, where no where has ever gone before.

The reason, I think, that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader doesn’t quite work as well as the previous films, is because the antagonists of the film are too spread out. There is not a single force that everyone has to rally against - its just one thing after another. There are some nice moments in the film - most of them involving the slow dawning humanity of cousin Eustache (which ironically requires him to turn into a dragon first), but overall, there seemed to be a lack of momentum in the film. The characters quite literally drift from one well meaning life lesson to another. Director Michael Apted is an old pro, and he does a nice job with the special effects - the climax with involving a sea monster is actually quite exciting - but I think the problems with the movie go deeper, right into the writing of the film, which doesn’t do a good enough job of telling us why this is all necessary in the first place.

After Prince Caspian didn’t do as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the box office, it looked like The Chronicles of Narnia may not go any further in this cinematic form. But, another studio stepped in, and they made Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I have a feeling that the other four Narnia novels will not be making the journey to the screen any time soon.

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