Michael Apted's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a worthy Narnia chapter, perhaps the least of these new films, but not by much. It follows Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), the younger Pevensie siblings from the first two adventures, as they return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter, so great in Son of Rambow) through a picture painting at Eustace's home, where they are living during the Blitz.
The first two films (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) were directed by Andrew Adamson, who also directed the first two Shrek films. I liked both Narnia films, the second much better.
But veteran/genius Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, Thunderheart, Enigma and his amazing documentary series following a group of people from their seventh year and returning for updates every seven years, among many others) does a good job creating this new adventure while staying faithful to the look and feel of the previous films.
Eustace is introduced early as an antagonist to the Pevensies, but, interestingly, from his own perspective, as narration from his diary reveals the depths of his disdain for Lucy and Edmund and their open-ended stay among his things. It could have been difficult to introduce a major character to an established series like this, but it's handled with aplomb, and perfect casting. Eustace is like a middle-aged man in a child's body, and we know the perfect prescription for that ailment is a trip to Narnia. Eustace works as comic relief, but his character grows into more than that, which is good, since he may be anchoring future adventures.
This time around, there has been no official summoning by the people of Narnia, still led, as at the end of the last film, by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), though Aslan, of course, knows all about it. The children are plunged into the waters off Caspian's ship Dawn Treader, carrying the king and his crew in search of the seven lost Lords, who disappeared after setting sail to discover the origin of a green mist which is swallowing up Narnian sailors and their ships at an alarming and increasing rate.
So this film, like the others, concerns a specific battle or quest against the evil forces in Narnia. It has magic, weird creatures, the various bedraggled lords found in various states of bedragglement or worse, and some fine interdimensional developments.
Along with the major conflict of good and evil, Caspian and Edmund have some minor clashes and jealousies. Edmund still has to confront the White Witch and her sly offers to his pride. Lucy's pride gets a test when she discovers a magical spell which seems to change her appearance. And Eustace's greed leads to major lessons for him. The cast are all excellent, including Simon Pegg as the new voice of intrepid warrior Reepicheep.
As with the previous film, a bit of the wonder of discovering Narnia for the first time is lost, but there are new vistas to see here. Santa Claus is missing, and the White Witch is greener, but scenes of magical snow in a great library, the ship's following a blue star which turns into a beautiful woman, and lotus blossoms crowding the shore of the gateway to Aslan's country at the end of the world, all sub in for a Christmasy feel.
I've seen it twice already in 3-D and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's probably good in 2-D, too, but why would I watch it in 2-D, when I can watch it in 3-D and it's good? That's a whole extra D. Anyway, now we're all set up for the next movie, whichever it may be (there's some debate). But this one is a very good show. I hope there are four more in this great series, and would be glad to see Adamson or Apted or both pick up some of them.
Follows The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
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