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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) *1/2

December 10, 2010


Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni

Produced by: Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, and Philip Steuer

Directed by: Michael Apted

Rated PG for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action

115 min.

U.S. Release Date: December 10, 2010

If CGI-heavy “family films” are an ocean, then the film world is in the middle of high tide.  So far this year, we’ve seen – and this is just the “big ones” – Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After, Tangled 3D, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and we can’t help but compare each film to its immediate predecessors.  The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third installment in the series of film adaptations of C.S. Lewis’s famed books by the same name.  It just so happens that this film is releasing to wide audiences on the heels of some of the year’s biggest and best “family” films.  Dawn Treader features such striking similarities to that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 that it almost forces audiences to compare it to Potter.  Is it damaging to a film, even though it is a beloved series of books, to be so similar to a “rival” film series (see “Harry Potter”) in almost everyway, especially when the release dates are only separated by a few weeks, or are there enough unique elements to keep Dawn Treader on its own two feet?




In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) return to the land of Narnia with their annoying and overly theatrical cousin Eustace (Will Poulter – who pretty much steals the show).  When they transport into Narnia, they are literally dropped directly into the sea in front of Prince Caspian’s (Ben Barnes) seafaring vessel, The Dawn Treader.  The three humans join Caspian for a trip across the sea in a rescue mission to save many lost people under the spell of a mysterious green fog in the far reaches of the ocean.  The crew encounters dragons, mermaids, and plenty of inclement weather along their way to the edge of the world.



After seeing the most recent installments of Harry Potter and Toy Story, Narnia just falls short.  From the scriptwriting (and I don’t mean C.S. Lewis’s original story) to the execution by the actors, this movie is a second rate version of a big budget “family” film.  Since it has been a while since I read Lewis’s novel, I couldn’t manage to remember all of the plot points, which shouldn’t be needed in a film since they should stand on their own.  The scriptwriters of Dawn Treader either trust that their viewership is intimately familiar with the story, or they are trying to forgo any “boring” background information to cut to the action, because within about 3 minutes of the opening credit sequence Edmund and Lucy are dropped into Narnia.  Almost no background on the story is given at all.  Even further along in the story, the gang is presented with a mission of world-saving implications, and no explanation is given as to why they must complete this mission, or why the safety of the world is at stake.  Given this problem, viewers can do no more than sit back and enjoy the “wow” of the special effects.


In addition to the, dare I say, irreverent scriptwriting, the acting does nothing to bring the film out of the muck.  All three main actors – those playing Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian – deliver very stiff performances that do little to draw the audience in and invest in their wellbeing.  Later in the film, when the characters are presented with their own individual temptations to deter them from their goal, the subpar performances don’t sell the fact that the stakes are high, and the characters could actually die if they fail in their undertaking.  The young Will Poulter, however, begins his performance with heavy-handed theatrics that border on vaudevillian, but transforms into a multi-dimensional scene-stealer in nearly all of his appearances.



It should be noted that this film is one of the many in 2010 that comes in the flavor of 3D.  Unlike many of its 3D live-action predecessors, Narnia actually features some well-done 3D effects.  Though it doesn’t add much to the story, the swooping and twirling camera shots around The Dawn Treader make you feel “inside” the screen.


Overall, the moviegoing experience with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was very disappointing.  The film’s two predecessors showed signs of “bad”, but this one escorts the series into full-on stank.  If you go into the theater expecting nothing more than some cool special effects and a fun 3D experience, you won’t be disappointed.  If you have read Lewis’s books, and realize the massive potential for amazing films in them, then Dawn Treader will hurt your feelings.

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