Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson
Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni, C.S. Lewis (Novel)
Commentary By Director Michael Apted and Producer Mark Johnson
Blu-Ray has quite a bit more. This is for the single-disc edition.
Truth be told, I was starting to wonder if there would be a third film in the Chronicles of Narnia cinematic adaptations, despite being fully aware that there was such an intention. The second film in the series, Prince Caspian, was a boring and dreadful mess after all the promise and wonder of the series opener Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe. It's not particularly surprising that Disney didn't sign up for this third film in the series, with Walden partnering with Fox this time around for distribution.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader is, unfortunately, much closer to Prince Caspian than it is the first film in the series, but one must give kudos to director Michael Apted for at least returning to the screen a sense of the innocence and wonder that made the original film so popular even if he does also make the absolutely dreadful decision, likely studio demanded, to convert the film to 3-D in post-production with absolutely disappointing results.
When are studios going to learn that post-production 3-D conversion simply doesn't work? For that matter, 3-D in and of itself is not always warranted no matter how special the special effects.
The wonder of the Chronicles of Narnia films has always more involved the characters living amidst the fantastic stories of C.S. Lewis, and most certainly not the fantasy imagery that can be birthed out of the stories. While the images, creatures and scenarios that unfold are truly awesome, it's C.S. Lewis's planting of humanity within it all that truly makes these stories ones that have resonated for years.
Fortunately, while the 3-D conversion is abysmal here and gives even the humans a non-realistic look, Apted also has a gift for infusing humanity into his films and it is this humanity that elevates Voyage of the Dawn Treader into a slight yet watchable film likely to please children who will enjoy the larger than life imagery and adults who will resonate with Lewis's religious allusions.
In this World War II set film, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Hensley) are left in the care of an aunt and uncle in Cambridge, England along with the undesired companionship of an obnoxious cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter) while their parents head off to America with their older siblings, Peter and Susan. Before long, all three find themselves swept aboard, you guessed it, a ship called the Dawn Treader with, you guessed it, Prince Caspian at the helm. They not so pleasantly encounter Reepicheep (comic relief Simon Pegg) and, of course, set off on an adventure that includes encountering Aslan (Liam Neeson) once again.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader starts off quite beautifully with an early scene where our Pevensie children and Eustace are swept aboard the Dawn Treader, a scene that falsely implies that perhaps this film is going to return us to the majesty of the initial film. Unfortunately, the film falters greatly after its opening scenes and never really gets back on track until its climax, a heartfelt and genuinely moving closing that may very well captivate audiences enough to create interest in a fourth film should this one find some success at the box-office.
Apted's ultimate downfall is the over-utilization of special effects in a film that simply doesn't require them to such excess. Apted beautifully directs his young cast and, indeed, Keynes and Hensley have lived in these characters long enough now that their scenes radiate tremendous comfort and chemistry. While Poulter is occasionally a touch over the top, he too complements his young counterparts quite nicely and the film could have easily rested upon their able shoulders. Apted even proves quite able to balance Lewis's sub-text while never losing sight that the film remains largely aimed at adolescents. Quite simply, 3-D has done nothing but nearly ruin the entire experience.
If you've enjoyed the first two Narnia films, then you will undoubtedly enjoy and appreciate this third film in the series. If like most moviegoers you found the second film in the series a tremendous disappointment, then this third adventure may not be enough of an improvement to win back your loyalty. A decent film that has far too much Hollywood and not enough faithfulness to the material, Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader may unfortunately signal the end of this high investment, modest reward cinematic series.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic