Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FI: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
UK/US, 2010
Directed by Michael Apted

It's important for me to point out, up front, that I grew up as a HUGE fan of CS Lewis's Narnia books. I received a box set of them for Christmas one year, and must have read them each a dozen times throughout my childhood. This has inevitably colored my opinion of the film adaptation of Dawn Treader, in both good and bad ways.

Dawn Treader focuses on the younger two Pevensie siblings, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), and their obnoxious cousin Eustace (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter). The three children wind up in Narnia, where they're rescued at sea by King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and join him on his quest to find seven lost lords. Or their swords. Or to fight an evil green fog. Or to find Aslan's country. Apparently the filmmakers felt that none of these quests alone provided enough of a through line to bridge the book's island-hopping adventure structure.

Oddly enough, that the film winds up sort of distant and unengaging has little to do with the story's episodic tendencies. Rather, the "fight your inner darkness"-subtext simply fails to connect. The script by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni is surface-focused, in terms of characterization, and the film suffers from forced tension and lack of real emotional depth. The only character whose arc is at all believable is Eustace, and he's insufferable—if well-played—prior to a mid-film "transformation." This isn't helped by the film's glossy-yet-flat look, which strips much of the menace away from the occasionally dark subject matter (such as slave trading). Late Harry Potter this is not.

There are some entertaining moments, and thankfully little of the series's Christian baggage until the very end (which comes more or less straight from the book), but unless you grew up with the books, you probably won't care enough to get through the arbitrary plotting and underdeveloped secondary characters at each island way station. Dawn Treader is not a bad film, or at all as forgettable as its prequel Prince Caspian, and the young leads are all turning into decent actors. I just wish they'd been given a deeper, less obvious story with which to prove it.


  1. I will probably watch this movie when it inevitably ends up in heavy rotation on some cable network.

    I did not really like the other films but they are an interesting enough diversion when I can't find anything else to watch.

  2. @spurge -

    Yeah, it's perfectly suited for that sort of viewing scenario. I found myself distracted and pausing the movie with relatively high frequency, so perhaps regular commercial breaks will help :-P