The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Visually Stunning, But Mostly Treads Water

10 12 2010

The third film in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, and the first under 20th Century Fox, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader returns to Narnia for yet another C. S. Lewis inspired adventure. After Disney dumped the franchise when 2008’s Prince Caspian failed to make the necessary box office numbers, 20th Century Fox and Walden Media felt the franchise still had some life yet. Here’s the breakdown:

Lucy and Edmund Pevensie wait anxiously in war-torn London, counting the days till they can join their older siblings in the United States. But in the meantime, they must stay with their annoying cousin Eustace. But things don’t stay boring for long. Transported aboard Prince Caspian’s ship, the Dawn Treader, the Pevensie’s are once again thrust into an adventure for Narnia’s survival.

The Monkey: Visually, this movie lacks nothing. Stormy seas, fierce dragons, giant sea serpents, mystical locales…The Voyage of the Dawn Treader transports audiences to the magical land of Narnia in epic fashion. In particular, the climactic battle with a persnickety sea serpent was not only a highlight of the series, but one of the most thrilling fantasy battles on film.

It was nice to see the familiar faces of Lucy, Edmund, Caspian and Reepicheep; these characters helped tie the story to the preceding installments and made the introduction of new characters less abrupt. Of these new characters, annoying cousin Eustace had the most prominent role. While some may find him too annoying, I thought his character added a much needed dose of humor to the story, and, in fact, was the only character to really undergo any kind of discernible character arc.

The Weasel: The filmmakers knew from the start that the source material was too episodic, so they decided to incorporate elements from the fourth installment in the Narnian saga, The Silver Chair, to help give the story a more solid structure. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader remains an episodic tail, as the audience follows the heroes from island to island, mystery to mystery. The script attempts to set up a hunt for seven lost lords and their magical swords, needed to defeat an evil mist, but the reason for their disappearance, the purpose of the mist and the need for Caspian, current king of Narnia, to undergo such a dangerous task, are all questions left unanswered. If the saying, “a film is only as good as it’s villain” is to be believed, then The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is not very good. An evil mist? Really? Where did it come from? What’s its purpose? Why are the seven swords needed to defeat it? The movie tries to distract the audience from these questions by peppering the film with elaborate, albeit gorgeous, special effects.

There’s never a sense of urgency, never an understanding of why Narnia was in such need of the Pevensie’s help. Eustace is the real hero – so were Lucy and Edmund just dragged along for the ride?

It was also disappointing to see the awe-inspiring Aslan featured so minimally. He was practically tacked onto the end of the movie, and offers so little to the story his scant dialogue might as well have been, “Oh, hey guys, I remember you from the last two movies…why are you here again? To save my kingdom? Why am I here again? Oh yeah, my face is plastered all over the marketing materials.”

Fans of the first two films are sure to enjoy yet another romp through Narnia. While The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is definitely the most visually stunning installment, its story is also the weakest. And with elements already borrowed from The Silver Chair, I highly doubt fans will see any more Narnia films in the future.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did you enjoy the Eustace character? Do you think The Silver Chair will hit the big screen anytime soon? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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2 responses

12 12 2010
Jayson Peters

Yeah, the episodic nature is really it’s biggest flaw, I thought – but I still found the story enjoyable enough overall. And you’re right – the marketers have never really known what to do with these movies. I don’t know how they could screw this up, but they always do.

13 12 2010
Dustin

Yeah…which is too bad, the books are great! They might be able to swing a “reboot” style film and do “Magician’s Nephew”…? I guess we’ll see! 🙂

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