Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Take heart, The Mouse may have abandoned us but now we’re in the paws of a Fox.


Theatrical Release Date: 12/10/2010
Director: Michael Apted
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Pouter, Gary Sweet, Simon Pegg (voice), Liam Neeson (voice)


Trailer:

Ummm … should we stand this close to a lion?

Do you like films with unnecessarily long titles? No? Well, ignore that for the moment because this review is about “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

The franchise changed hands, moving across Hollywood from Disney to Fox. Other than that though, I doubt anyone would notice a difference. We’re still talking about a group of kids who are mystically transported from WWII England to the land of Narnia – where most animals talk, spells are cast, and a lion named Aslan stands in for Jesus Christ (and in most respects, his dad as well).

The specific adventure on display this go around involves an evil, amorphous force gaining strength on a far away island (Why? – Because.). Our heroes must bring seven swords to Aslan’s table in order to thwart the malicious magic (Why? – Because.). To do so, they journey by sea on the aptly named Dawn Treader from island to island, gathering information and swords along the way. It’s sort of like “Lord of the Rings”, only instead of walking they’ve got a boat (Why? – What does it matter at this point?).

The cast from the previous films returns, though the two older kids (Anna Popplewell,William Moseley) are given about five minutes of combined screen time as young Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) work with King Caspian (Ben Barnes) to keep their irritating cousin (Will Pouter) from hurting himself while they get things done. Thankfully, Simon Pegg comes back to voice Reepicheep the sword-wielding mouse and Liam Neeson’s dulcet tones once again spring forth from the mouth of Aslan the lion; so they perk up many of the conversational lulls.

The CGI effects are better here than they have been in previous films. The team behind them clearly worked hard to make the numerous interactions between talking animals and humans feel as natural as possible. However, try as they might, the effects wizards could do nothing about Poulter’s acting.

From the moment you meet him, the character feels forced and as if he’s memorized his lines the night before in preparation for a school play – rather than a major motion picture. He exudes frustration, anger and petulance but cannot pull off the change to the character that predictably happens over the course of the story.

That too is a problem, the story itself. It’s ultra simplistic and predictable. We hop from island to island, allowing the central characters to get into trouble, figure a way out, and move onto the next plot point. Rinse, repeat. Also, while I know this is a product of the books themselves, they might as well stop calling the franchise “The Chronicles of Narnia” and just go with “Deus Ex Machina” since every story ends with the savior, Aslan, making things right just when all is about to be lost.

Now, one last bit to mention before delivering the final rating is that they did shoot the film in 3D. This isn’t a conversion. However, they sure fooled me because the third dimensional rarely exists here (on-screen or in the script) and looks like some half-hearted rush job so the studio can take advantage of the higher ticket prices. The elements with the most depth are the opening credits, so unless you think seeing 3D credits is worth an extra few bucks, save yourself the cash.

Still, when considering whether you want to see this (in 2D of course), it all depends on your affinity for the franchise. I’m a fan and really like fantasy/adventure tales so on that basis I’m giving “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” a 3 out of 5. It does what it sets out to do; which may not be much but it’s what was intended. It definitely begins to drag halfway through as the step-by-predictable-step process unfolds and I will caution parents of very small children that a few scenes might be too much for them but they may have checked out long before that and not notice anyway, so take that for what you will.

3 out of 53D No