Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

"Because there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

Dawn Treader is flawed from the opening shot. The film skips over what is perhaps the best opening line of any novel. "There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Instead, we are treated with a stunning 3-D shot of a cathedral, then exposition establishing the war, and some clumsy business showing us Edmund's desire for duty and Lucy's for beauty. I suppose that such a commercial movie demands some exposition tying it to the other films for uninitiated audiences, but one of the strengths of the book was that it stood so well on its own. Lewis' humorous description of the Scrubb family opens the book with a healthy dose of satirical social commentary. This turns into the subtle underlying message of the book; that modernism has destroyed our senses of wonder and creativity. This message is still relevant, but is largely abandoned for one of "faith and family". While some Christians may appreciate this, it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of most viewers.

C.S. Lewis' Dawn Treader is a classic and wonderful story. It is hard to improve upon his writing, and the book's adaptors do it no favors. An irony of the film business is that a greater number of screenwriters attributed to a film often corresponds to decreasing quality of writing in said film. This unfortunately applies to Dawn Treader. Treader suffers from an unimaginative "re-imagining" of the plot. Lewis' simple plot of high seas adventure was deemed to be lacking in the "high-concept" department, so the lamest plot device of all time was introduced. Narnians are being mysteriously eaten by the cheesiest special effect of the decade. A ravenous green mist plagues Narnia and resides at the fear-inspiring "Dark Island." The green mist is obviously inspired/copied from the Death Eater effect from Harry Potter, copying even the hissing sound effects and merely changing the color to a cheerful bright green. Furthermore, some of Lewis' most poignant episodes are heavily abbreviated, subverted, and combined so that they lose the magic of the original.
You know you have plot issues when your antagonist is a green mist.
I wish I could give director Michael Apted the benefit of the doubt. He was, after all, saddled with a subpar screenplay. Even so, I cannot absolve him of all blame for the state of this film. Apted shows off the eye candy. We get sweeping shots over boats and islands, letting us know just how much money they threw at this film. Yet, the human characters are handled awkwardly. There are certainly many shots that inspire awe in this film, but the beautiful and poignant moments that made the book so good are for the most part fast-forwarded through or skipped altogether in order to get to the action. A great flaw in the Narnia films is the emphasis on Lord of the Rings and, in Treader, Pirates of the Caribbean style action scenes. In Caspian this is most obvious, but it shows in Treader where the intricacies of the plot feel rushed and the action scenes drawn out. The film even puts off and ultimately abbreviates one of the most poignant scenes in the story, Eustace's repentance and transformation, all so we can get a little dragon on sea-serpent action.

I could go on further, but I have already complained enough. My annoyance doesn't come so much from the quality of the film. To be honest, it is not awful and probably better than most of the children's films you can see in theaters currently (I'm looking at you, Gulliver's Travels). It is C.S. Lewis after all. My annoyance not that it was a bad film, it's that it could have been so good. The first installment in the series was by no means a perfect movie, but the loving care with which that film was crafted could have made Dawn Treader great. This story will remain one of my all time favorites; I just wish I could say the same for the film.

A note about 3-D in the film. This film was converted into 3-D after it was shot in traditional 2-D. That means it is a desperate ploy for your wallet. For a post-conversion, it is for the most part acceptable. The flying scenes look quite good, but these, like the other parts that look good, are mostly CGI. The live action scenes converted to 3-D are often "off" in ways that tell you it is fake, both subtly and obviously. If you see this movie, save your money and see it in 2-D.

Overall rating: Dislike


  1. chronical the narnia will be a nice movie

  2. There was one scene from this movie that I thought was quality. The scene where Reepicheep leaves for Aslan's country. The rest was mediocre at best.


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