The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a pretty solid continuation of the series. Though there is nothing in it that will blow people away, it is a fun, well-crafted adventure that does justice to the source material. Though one might hope for a little more innovation, most will come away satisfied with this exceptionally competent take on the series.
Edmund and Lucy Pevensie (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) are now staying with relatives in Cambridge while their two elder siblings travel in America. While in an argument with their snotty cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), a painting in the room comes alive. Before they know, the three are transported to Narnia, and are soon aboard Caspian’s ship The Dawn Treader. They join him on a quest to find the seven lost lords of Narnia, a quest that takes them into dangerous uncharted waters, where it is rumored that Aslan’s country lies. There, they encounter a great evil that can bring their worst fears to life.
The story is standard adolescent fantasy fare. It’s a tale of young people coming of age in strange, fantastic settings. The film doesn’t lack for big set pieces, the plot hurling its characters headlong through a series of magical encounters. The children have swordfights, wrangle with magical storms, and unravel the magic of an invisible mansion. They encounter living stars and dragons and sea serpents. It’s all quite fun, though the film has trouble tying things up. The problem may be rooted in the story’s main allegory, which basically takes control away from the characters. In the end, it is only the power of Aslan that can really save them.
The film is available in 3D, but I can’t really recommend that version. The film is gorgeous on its own, with decent special effects and generally great production design. The extra dimension doesn’t really do much for it. In fact, the glasses just end up dimming what’s supposed to be a pretty bright film. Veteran director Michael Apted gives the film plenty of velocity, employing a sense of fun to keep things moving along. The film falters a bit when it takes a stab at gravity, but it’s well made overall.
I’ve always thought that Skandar Keynes was the best actor among the four original kids. But here his performance feels a little off. There’s a sense that he’s trying a little too hard, and it adds a layer of artifice that just wasn’t there before. Georgie Henley, on the other hand, was never that good to begin with. She’s getting better as she ages, but she still has plenty of learning to do. Both of the Pevensie leads are completely upstaged by newcomer Will Poulter, who some might remember from cult film Son of Rambow. He is perfectly annoying as the insufferable Eustace Scrubb. There’s a sense that he’s the only one who’s having fun, and that helps a lot.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s a very competent fantasy film. It’s chock full of magic and action and crazy characters, all of it adding up to a pretty fun time. It doesn’t quite match up with the other big fantasy film franchises, but that doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t have charms of its own. I think it’s safe to say that fans of the books will find this film a competent adaptation. Everybody will still be in for a pretty decent time.