Set page style to Deep Space Set page style to Venusian Set page style to Hull Grey
Capt. Sage's Review of
The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The third adaptation of "The Chronicles of Narnia" novels made a unified and exciting tale that remains generally faithful to the book, including its moral messages. Unlike the last film, which departed from the novel in ways that often distracted, this movies' departures from the novel either are consistent with the novel's themes, or simply don't make sense. For example, instead of the episodic format of the book, the movie decided on a more central plot by expanding on the "Dark Island," from the novel, and adding to it evil green mist. Although this resulted in a strong narrative arc that successfully carries the movie, it results in bizarre, faceless, and inexplicable green mist being the movie's antagonist. Making up for this are command performances from the remaining Pevensies, the newcomer Eustace, Reepicheep, and Caspian.

One of the things I most wondered about this movie was whether Eustace would be cast correctly- and he was, in the person of Will Poulter. He successfully portrays a character who is hateful, but not unbelievably so. In the film, as in the book, he successfully provides a humorous counter-perspective to the grand and fantastical goings-on in the film. He also displays the ability to portray a three-dimensional character. (See the spoiler section below.1)

Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) were also in top form, and it was a privilege to see how their talent has blossomed over these three films. (See the spoiler section below.2) Additionally, Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard)'s performance was excellent, and his interactions with Eustace were some of the high points of the film. Caspian (Ben Barnes) also excellently executed a complex performances. (See the spoiler section below.3)

The technical effects for this movie were, once again, quite well-done. The CGI is tasteful and not out of place. Some moviegoers may be able to see this film in 3-D. Unlike James Cameron's "Avatar", this movie had the 3-D effects largely stay within the screen instead of staying outside of them. For example, in an scene with a large room with snow falling, the 3-D made the screen appear three-dimensional, so there really was a room behind the screen with snow falling at various depths within it, not as though snow were falling on the front-row seats of the theater.

Despite occasional, semi-serious hiccups (See the spoiler section below.4), the story moves very excitingly and makes sense at least in its broad strokes, at least as far as movie stories go. However, the most serious flaw of the film is the green mist plot device. About a third of the way through the film, green mist is introduced as the reason why the journey which the characters are on must progress beyond all charted seas. Green mist is not in the book, which made me initially leery of it. Despite a herculean effort by all involved, it never was very convincing for me. Moviegoers are advised to simply accept it as "the reason the story must go on." (See the spoiler section below.5)

This is too bad, because the green mist is also made the story device for forcing the characters to face various temptations, and these scenes were generally fair in quality, although I think somewhat more faithfulness to the book may have improved them. (See the spoiler section below.6)

Overall, this movie was better than the last one, even if not necessarily much more faithful to the book. It's restored my confidence that film adaptations can be true at least to parts of the spirit of the book, and that the next group of adaptations can be done well. Here's hoping that they will be done well.

SPOILERS

1: Eustace is a protagonist in two more books, so having him cast well was very important to me. I think the series will do very well going forward since a good Eustace (Will Poulter) has been found. He somehow managed, before his conversion, to portray both his annoying front and the occasional weakness the front was supposed to protect, and after his conversion, a more honest and humbly strong character. The other actors' reactions to him were also spot-on and really helped make this part of the story as good as it should be.

2: In the books, Edmund and Lucy not returning to Narnia felt more natural; indeed, it almost felt as though the question was why they weren't ready a book earlier. It always felt sad, but not in the same way that it felt sad in this movie. Somehow, seeing it in film made it more poignant, seeing them go. I felt that way about the characters, and the actors. It seemed a pity that we've seen part of the actors' years of growing up, and seeing a movie with such good performances from them, only to bid them adieu. Hopefully "The Last Battle" will someday be made and they'll be back, but this is their last major outing. At least it was a good one!

3: Since the previous film adaptation, "Prince Caspian," expanded speculatively upon how Caspian might feel about having his father stolen from him by his uncle, it was a nice touch of this movie to finish that plot thread, even if it wasn't in the book. When the movie began, I wasn't sure about this thread, because it wasn't in the book and it can be badly done, but Ben Barnes' reactions greatly convinced me that it was a good part of the film.

4: One of the most serious hiccups was at the Lone Islands, which is too bad, since it's one of my favorite parts in the book. Bizarrely enough, the movie implies that the slavers waited all day long, or at least for some time, on the ropes of giant bells, in order to catch people to enslave. This nonsense was, of course, not in the book. Also, in the book, the characters had the brains to not shout that they were royalty. For some reason, they did so in the movie, and in the film, the slavers neither scoffed in disbelief, nor realized that they could get even more money for their prisoners in ransom than on the slave market. The slavers in the film, oddly, didn't react at all. Finally, the exit from the island is strangely hurried - no one bothers to mop up the mess or reestablish order. All that was really needed, a fellow moviegoer noted, was some sort of proclamation that Lord Bern was now in charge, but for some reason we couldn't even get that.

5: The green mist is faceless, and we are left with no explanation as to why it came about, nor why seven magical swords can defeat it. We are just left to understand that the swords can defeat it, because they're magical. Also, we are left with no explanation as to why the White Witch is Edmund's temptation, considering that he defeated this temptation quite definitively in the first and second films.Someone suggested to me an altogether better solution for the movie, especially given that the franchise clearly intends to make good use of the considerable talents of the White Witch's actress, Tilda Swinton. This film could've invented a new witch to be the archvillain for the film, and cast Tilda Swinton as that witch. After all, the novel version of "The Silver Chair" helps establish that the witches are similar in strategy and enmity towards Narnia. I've been speculating, in fact, that Tilda Swinton has been kept active in the films, even though she is absent from the novel versions of "Prince Caspian" and "Dawn Treader", so that she can play the Green Witch in "The Silver Chair." Given that, casting her as a new witch in this film would make sense. If the movie makers really felt the need to invent something that wasn't in the book to be a more central plot force, this would've been stronger than faceless green mist, and given a reasonable explanation for Tilda Swinton's reappearance.

6: I thought that Lucy's temptation to beauty was handled well, and that it was a clever way to sneak back in Peter and Susan. However, it was pointed out to me later that Lucy's temptation was to beauty, not to being her sister. I saw the movie's point, but I could see theirs as well. Opinions may therefore differ.

Update: on Aslan claws no touch Eustace