THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER
***1/2 (out of 5)
December 10, 2010
Georgie Henley as LUCY PEVENSIE
Skandar Keynes as EDMUND PEVENSIE
Ben Barnes as CASPIAN
Will Poulter as EUSTACE SCRUBB
Directed by: Michael Apted
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I suppose it’s most fair to start this review with a couple disclosures. First, I have not read the “Narnia” books. Way back when I was a child, my father read the first one to me, and to its credit, the story and many of the words still cling to my mind beyond memories of the animated television special. But beyond that, I never opened any of the other ones.
Second, I like the movies. I really like the movies. With digital effects and today’s Hollywood wizardry, it’s possible to bring C.S. Lewis’s vision to life beyond bad keying and big lion muppets. So, I’m rooting for the series. I’d love to see all seven books made into films, for better or for worse, if for no other reason than a sense of completion.
So, it’s not surprising that I was a little bummed when I heard that Disney dropped the franchise after the second film. Sure, it made sense. “Prince Caspian” made about 60% of what the first blockbuster made, and it had a budget far north of $200 million. Still, I was thrilled when I heard that Fox picked up the reigns.
This new film is scaled down in budget and scope. It’s still got a $140 million price tag, but that’s significantly less than “Prince Caspian,” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” runs less than two hours. These are two factors that play into its success as a family adventure.
In this movie, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are staying with their cousin while their siblings have grown up. When gazing at a picture of the ocean, they see a ship coming at them. Soon, the painting comes to life, floods the room and sweeps them – and their snotty cousin Eustace – back to the land of Narnia. This time, they hop aboard King Caspian’s ship the Dawn Treader and start a quest to save some Narnians that have been taken by an evil force.
With its shorter running time, more adventurous style and less brooding storyline, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is very accessible to kids. It deals with a smaller cast – just Lucy and Edmund this time. While I miss Peter and Susan in the film, it does flow a little better having only to juggle two Pevensie kids…. well, two Pevensie kids and the snotty cousin.
Still, there’s plenty of room for the characters to develop, and it’s actually a little sweet to see how much Georgie Henley, who plays Lucy, has grown up since the first film.
The strength of this film is the good, old fashioned adventure aspect. It’s a lot of fun, and the journey is a blast with your kids in tow. The movie does take some time to find its sea legs, which is about half of the film. I dragged at the beginning, and it actually takes a considerable time to learn what the real quest is.
However, once the movie gets its footing, it’s full speed ahead for the adventure. And if you’re going to have a movie that slights a bit, best it be in the first half rather than the second.
There still are some flaws, of course. With the reduced budget, we see some sub-par digital effects, in particular with the smaller creature works. When we have the major centerpieces of the VFX department – like the dragon and the sea monster – it looks great. Also, while there are lessons to be learned by the kids in the film, they’re not woven in as well as they were in the previous two.
Then there’s the 3D. I’m a huge proponent of the 3D experience, though I think bad conversion 3D can cause problems. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” underwent a conversion, and that’s too bad because it would have been so much better were it shot in 3D.
It’s not the conversion is particularly bad. In fact, the studios are learning to smooth out the artifacting in these films quite well. Rather, there’s not much depth to the film, and 3D should bring more of that to the table. What we end up with is a more family-friendly version of “Clash of the Titans,” which was fun by not a benchmark for the technology.
Still, I brought my kids with me to see this movie, and they both declared it their favorite of the franchise. They are ages nine and seven, though, so take that for what it’s worth.