The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Michael Apted

BY Scott A. GrayPublished Apr 13, 2011

A slashed budget and change in the director's seat haven't proved too harmful for the third instalment in C.S. Lewis's series of influential, allegorical fantasy adventures. While it doesn't have the weighty execution of Prince Caspian, nor the mysterious wonderment and superior story of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Voyage of the Dawn Treader fares mostly well on its less distinctly plotted course. Now that Peter and Susan are grown up (off to college and done with Narnia), Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are living with their fussy brat of a cousin, Eustace Scrubb. It takes but a few minutes to establish the relationship dynamic between them before a painting on the wall starts spurting water and they're swept off to Narnia. King Caspian has brought peace to most of Narnia, and now sails aboard the Dawn Treader on a quest to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia. Some substantial re-jigging was required of the book's plot to make it a compelling cinematic narrative. Rather than simply island hop on the Lord hunt, the screenwriting team introduces an antagonist, in the form a green mist that feeds on fears and insecurities. This tactic essentially gives form to the inner demons each of the primary characters is battling. Edmund still feels like he's denied his rightful place of power because there's always an elder, more authoritative alpha male around to cramp his style; Caspian fears he'll never measure up to the man his father was; and Lucy is overcome by envy of her sister's beauty. And Eustace, well, his character arc doesn't fit quite so neatly into this scheme, but he does undergo the most profound change of all ― the inability to speak forcing him to consider the insufferable complaints he typically spews. Reepicheep, the noble mouse warrior, is once again one of the film's highlights, rendered in great detail and used as an emotional nexus for the characters. Simon Pegg ably replaces Eddie Izzard, voicing the swashbuckling rodent with familial warmth to temper his cockiness. The special effects, particularly the mist, lack some texture and the use of 3D is actually somewhat missed in this presentation; it could just be the DVD version though. Strong creature design was a wise use of CGI dollars ― the Predator-/Lovecraft-looking sea monster and expressive dragon especially. The special features are slim: four unnecessary deleted scenes and commentary by Michael Apted and producer Mark Johnson. To his credit, Apted does a good job candidly explaining choices like the welcome excision of Caspian's nasty Mediterranean accent, the need to introduce an antagonist, along with technical aspects of how they managed to film a sea voyage while barely getting the boat wet. If you're not put off by minor, indiscreet pleas to give God a chance, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a welcome conclusion to the Pevensies' Narnian experience and hopefully a sign that the series has strong enough legs to finish the journey on the big screen.

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