Review: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader


Directed by: Michael Apted
Written by:Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni
Starring: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Simon Pegg, Gary Sweet, Tilda Swinton
Released: December 2, 2010
Grade: B

It’s back to Narnia we go for another adventure.  This time around, it’s just Edmund (Keynes) and Lucy (Henley) making the journey.  Peter and Susan have grown up and moved on to the next phase of their lives.  There is a new addition however.  Their doubting cousin, Eustace (Poulter), has been unwillingly taken along for the ride.

On arriving in Narnia, the trio find themselves aboard the Dawn Treader and under the protection of good friend Prince Caspian (Barnes).  Nothing seems to be amiss and this leaves Edmund and Lucy puzzled.  What’s going on?  Why have they been called back to Narnia?

They soon realise that their renowned courage will again be required.  A strange green mist has been sweeping its way across the kingdom.  It plays on people’s darkest fears and causes them to hallucinate.  It has also been responsible for the disappearance of many townsfolk.

Given directions by an old lord, the crew of the Dawn Treader set off for a distant island that holds to the key to the mystery.  To rid the kingdom of the powerful mist, they must find seven special swords and place them on Aslan’s table.  Caspian, Edmund, Lucy and Eustace will all be tested en route.  Their biggest challenge may not be defeating a “physical” demon but rather those that lie within.

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is slow to start.  I just wasn’t that excited by the storyline.  As a result, I found myself easily distracted by the stiff dialogue.  It’s hard to watch great actors like Australian Gary Sweet (who plays the ship’s captain) trying to deliver such cringe-worthy lines.  Don’t even get me started on the deliberately annoying Will Poulter (as Eustace).  I wish I could have jumped into the screen and punched him.

Some of the early action is also unconvincing.  I can only assume that director Michael Apted (the 7 Up series) is trying to keep this as a family-oriented flick.  This is nothing new but I’m always puzzled as to how to friends can have a “playful” sword fight.  If two people are thrashing sharp objects about, isn’t there a chance that one of them will get seriously hurt?

Ok, that’s enough of my petty ramblings.  The good news is that the film improves in the third act.  There’s a great action sequence (which I won’t spoil) which will get the heart pumping.  I throw out a warning that it might be a little too scary for young kids.  I attended the screening with a friend who felt that it wouldn’t be suitable for his 7-year-old daughter.

What follows is an emotive climax with surprisingly strong religious overtones.  I haven’t read any of the novels myself but those more informed have told me this is also the case in C.S. Lewis’s novels.  I’m not sure if kids will pick up on the religious references but they might generate discussion amongst adults.  It was the part of the film I found most interesting.

Most cinemas in Brisbane are flooding their screens with the 3D version of this movie but my suggestion would be to attend a 2D screening.  Very little is added in terms of 3D effects and it’s not worth the extra price tag.  I think the film would be better served with more colour (by not wearing the dark glasses) as opposed to the alternative.

The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader was filmed here in Queensland but don’t go trying to find any visible landmarks.  Much of it was shot in a studio with a heavy reliance on visual effects.  I should have auditioned as an extra when I had the chance!

There’s nothing really special about this latest instalment in the Narnia franchise but it finishes strongly and is worth a look.