Monday, 2 May 2011

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Two of the Pevensie children, Edmund and Lucy, return to Narnia, this time with their toxic cousin Eustace reluctantly in tow. Only this time, they land in the middle of the sea instead of dry land where they're rescued by King Caspian and his ship The Dawn Treader, whom they'd help to reclaim his thrown three years (in Narnia time) earlier.  As in the book, Caspian is seeking the seven Lost Lords, whom his uncle had banished.  However, director Michael Apted eggs the pudding by adding an overarching menace.  While doing so, the crew of The Dawn Treader must battle a mysterious evil from the Dark Island that is sending out a mist to capture people.  Meanwhile, Eustace, who doesn't believe that any of this is real and that his shipmates are insane, is as odious as ever as he becomes the foil of the valiant mouse Reepicheep.  Along the way, Eustace's shiftlessness and greed causes him to steal a magic bracelet from a dead dragon's hoard that turns him into a dragon, forcing him to confront himself while the rest of our heroes must face temptations that may lead them to spiritual destruction.

Not the best of the Narnia Chronicles films, the making of Dawn Treader was something of a tightrope walk, with the poor box office returns of the previous film sparking Disney's decision to pull out of the production.  This forced Walden Media to find new partners and Apted to work under a much tighter budget.  Apted also felt that the book didn't lend itself very well to the screen, so much of it was condensed with some elements left out and others borrowed from The Silver Chair.  This kept the running time to a manageable 115 minutes and tightened the narrative line, though for some reason, Apted kept in the pointless device of having the White Witch manifest herself again (despite being firmly established as being as dead as a doorknocker) and inserted a climax where a giant brine shrimp attacks the ship.  Since this is manifested out of Caspian's fears, my reaction was, "It's the Stay-Puf marshmallow man". 

Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes do a credible job as the Pevensie children, though they are aleady showing signs of getting too old for the series, while Will Poulter is suitably repellant as Eustace.  It's unfortunate that Apted couldn't find a way to show us his point of view as the dragon, because in doing so one of the best parts of the story is lost.  Special mention should also be made of Simon Pegg, who takes over from Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep.  Despite (or because of) his powers as a comic actor, he is able to bring a proper sense of nobility to the role while keeping the character humourous rather than comic.

Finally, Apted kept the ending more or less intact and included this line that the PC brigade missed:
But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.
Even as a greying, middle-aged man that line always, like hearing the hymn Jerusalem, makes me cry. In fact, the Narnia books generally have that effect on me despite the years and revisiting the books again with my daughter.

Or perhaps it's because of it.

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