On DVD: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” the third book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series and the fifth chronologically speaking, is often cited as a favorite among fans of the C.S. Lewis fantasy books, which is a shame because the writers here have taken extensive liberties with the story. Although I’m one to frequently remind people that films are films and books are books, “Dawn Treader” the movie is mediocre no matter how you look at it or which order you visit the story’s islands in.

It’s apparent now why Disney dumped the “Narnia” franchise after “Prince Caspian” yielded disappointing results compared to “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Fox tried to give it new life on a smaller budget, but sadly the lesser funds make it come off truly second rate. Better to not make any more films if you can’t increase the wonder or impressiveness in the next installment. The green mist (that was made up by the writing team in the first place) serves as a terrific example of doing television-level special effects in a big-screen feature film.

Set on the high seas, you might consider “The Dawn Treader” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” of the “Narnia” series (and the film even “borrows” some musical themes from the Disney franchise’s iconic score), so the potential for greater wonder exists, but with a budget $70 million less than “Prince Caspian,” that makes it tough. The imaginings of some of the book’s most iconic moments lack a true artistic touch or inspiration.

In this adventure, only Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) return from the first two films, which would be factually correct — that’s not an example of the budget cuts. They’re joined by their cousin Eustace, one of the most obnoxious children in literary history played brilliantly (although much to our chagrin) by Will Poulter. When a picture in Eustace’s house starts to leak water (one example of good special effects in the film), the three find themselves in the seas of Narnia where Caspian (Ben Barnes), now king, picks them up in his finest ship, the Dawn Treader. Although all seems well in Narnia, the kids join him on his quest to find the seven lost Lords of Telmar, which Caspian feels will give him some closure regarding his father.

In “The Odyssey” fashion, the story takes the crew from island to island where they encounter a green mist, a growing evil force of darkness that looks to exploit fear and corrupt (think Darkseid in “Superman” or Galactacus in “Green Lantern”). Each main character has a flaw (some bigger than others) that will be exploited and tested on the journey.

Dragons and a battle with a sea serpent make up the main draws for visual effects and excitement. The battles are far from epic, but a PG rating will do that to you, especially on a smaller budget. The most that “Dawn Treader” has going for it is this un-hatable positive spirit powered by that child-like sense of wonder. Primarily through characters such as Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg), the film retains its charm and it keeps it afloat long enough. Lewis had an undeniable gift for the magic of fantasy and director Michael Apted helps keep that alive in some respects.

Like Narnia no longer needed the services of Peter and Susan as will be the case with Lucy and Edmund, the audience these films needed to keep going strong has simply outgrown it or faded away with disinterest thanks to a focus on family-geared entertainment. I suspect the “Narnia” films (if they are able to make all seven), will always make an entertaining stop by, but without a slightly drastic change in vision, there’s no reason to expect a return to grandeur.

2.5/5 Stars

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Directed by Michael Apted
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni, C.S Lewis (book)
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter


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