Review: ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’
It’s fascinating to see the enduring appeal of C.S. Lewis’ [[[The Chronicles of Narnia]]] at a time when people poo-poo the heavy-handed religious imagery and pales in comparison to the far richer world of Middle Earth as envisioned by Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien. The films based on both series have their fans and detractors and the success of Tolkien’s trilogy paved the way for the long-overdue big budget adaptation of Narnia.
Unfortunately, Walden Media, which has been spearheading these films, has decided to aim squarely for the religious and family audiences, which has led to a look of cheapness and familiarity that has robbed the three films to date of their specialness.
Walt Disney bailed on the series after the so-so reception and box office to Prince Caspian, which many involved felt may have strayed from their targets. 20th Century Fox stepped up and is now the studio behind the franchise and last fall released [[[The Voyage of the Dawn Traeder]]]. That film is coming to DVD on Tuesday in a variety of formats including the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy or component parts. The standard DVD was sent out for review and you will have to decide for yourself if you want the more involved versions.
Picking up three years after the last film, we find Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) packed off to stay with family, including their annoying younger cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter). They long to be in America with Susan and Peter and their parent and chafe at being the youngest, notably Lucy who is on the cusp of womanhood, yearning to be pretty and attractive to the older boys in town.
As has happened before, circumstances in the land of Narnia require their attention and they are summoned through a painting of a boat at sea hanging in their dingy quarters. Eustace, of course, comes along complaining all the way. It’s mildly amusing that he continues to journal about his adventure without acknowledging that any of this is real until he inevitably accepts the situation and embraces it. But first, he has to be turned into a fire-breathing dragon.
The story hews fairly close to the third book in the series but it has a look of cheapness about it, notably the CGI dragon and some of the visual effects. The acting is adequate but none of the leads are given much of anything to do. The thin script by an army of writers provides little substance to the characters so we just move from situation to situation in a quest story to assemble seven swords and lay them at Aslan’s table.
Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) remains the comforting deus ex machina Christ figure, a part that is emphasized in the final 15 minutes as we see the barrier between Narnia and Aslan’s lands where the dead reside. Lucy and Edmund, he says, have completed their role and yet what did they really do? It was Eustace who braved the fires of Mount Doom– I mean the less imaginatively named Dark Island. Frankly, much of the Narnia material pales in comparison, from story to character to film adaptation.
This most decidedly family fare and keep that in mind when deciding to see the film or not. While the Blu-ray disc comes loaded with extras, all you will find on the standard DVD are a commentary and a handful of deleted scenes, none of which were missed.