Finally had a chance to check out the third installment of The Chronicles Of Narnia, and the first without Disney’s involvement, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book so I’m not sure of the total differences (and I’m sure there are many due to it being made into a film). The real question is, did Fox and a much smaller budget have a good or bad influence?
First, a bit about the background of the story: Two of the Pevensie children, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), are staying with their cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) while World War II continues, with Susan having gone to America with their parents and Peter studying for school with Professor Kirke (although it is unclear in the movie where Peter is, I believe it was implied he was also in America). Eustace is an annoying git – he doesn’t like his cousins and tries to get them into trouble quite a bit. While he is annoying his cousins further in the guest room, they notice water coming from a painting of a ship on the ocean – a rather Narnian-looking ship. Suddenly the room floods, the children are drawn underwater – and appear in the ocean next to the ship. They are pulled up by now King Caspian (Ben Barnes), and learn that he is on a quest to find the seven lost lords of Narnia – friends of his late father who fled in banishment from King Miraz and left for the Lone Islands – and haven’t been heard from since.
As per the end of Prince Caspian, Peter and Susan could not return to Narnia as they had grown too old, but they do make cameo appearances in the movie.
Despite the lower budget, I expected the visuals to suffer, but I didn’t see it much. The first island visited was a location shoot, although I don’t know where but it did give the impression of an old abandoned fortress island. There were some visual effects shots that really worked (the building at the beginning), some that were decent (the magician’s manor), and a few that didn’t work great (I could see that some of the long boats were digitally added and faded away in the water). A good amount of processing time was spent on the dragon as it was an important part of the story, and they didn’t make it look like flying for such a massive dragon was effortless – rather, you could see the trouble the wings had lifting the bulk – especially given the “inexperience” of the dragon.
Character-wise, the film could have been stronger. I was not convinced with Edmund’s dilemma over what he wants – it just wasn’t very convincing. And Lucy’s wanting to be “beautiful like Susan” would have been more believable if she didn’t already resemble Susan and was pretty in her own right. Caspian has mysteriously lost his accent, and the tension that should have been here between him and Edmund really didn’t exist – even when they nearly came to blows. Perhaps the most compelling character was Eustace – but as the stereotypical spoiled brat character he became annoying to the audience as much as the Pevensies. Perhaps the digital characters of the dragon and Reepicheep (now voiced by Simon Pegg) were the most interesting.
Walden Media keeps inserting Jadis, the White Witch into the story where she doesn’t appear in the books at all. I’m not sure of the reason beyond wanting to keep some sort of running thread of contention. But given that it all revolves around Edmund, and this is his last significant appearance in the series, I’m not sure where they want to take it. Although there has been debate on whether the character of The Lady Of The Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair is actually the Jadis or not, there is nothing from C.S. Lewis connecting them, so she really doesn’t serve any further purpose other than a taunt that could be achieved in other ways. If they had ultimately made her the source of all the problems it would have made more sense – but they didn’t make that connection, and it didn’t exist in the books anyways.
But overall, I don’t think it was a bad movie. I think it was an acceptable installment of the story, perhaps suffering a bit from the lack of experience in the actors, a new director (Michael Apted, who’s credits appear to lack anything comparable) and a new production company with a smaller budget. Plus, each adventure on the islands really demanded more time that could be afforded them. Perhaps the budget hit the visuals in a way that made them lack an epic scale – what was shown was good, but lacked the wonder of Narnia.
I did snicker at the scene where they were at the Dark Island, and they are told not to think of their fears, as they would take form to destroy them – and I almost blurt out, “the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!” I’m sure I was not alone among the adults in that.
However, I believe it is a terribly uphill battle that would need to be waged before we see another installment of the series (reputed to be The Silver Chair, the next in line in the chronology). This movie is far behind its siblings already, and even with the smaller budget it is going to be tough sell to take it further.