The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

15 Dec

Title: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Michael Apted
Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis
Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Liam Neeson, Simon Pegg
MPAA Rating:
PG, some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action
115 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

If you have followed the history of the Narnia movies you probably know how much was at stake with this one. The first film in the franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was a very entertaining film that was also a commercial success, making $745 million at the box office worldwide. After that, in 2008, came its sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, a film that had a budget nearly $50 million bigger than that of the first one, but that wasn’t as good as the first one, and was considered a box office disappointment, making less than $420 million, a huge decline from the first installment.

That steep fall in box office gross caused Disney to decide to back off the franchise, and Fox then acquired the distribution rights for this third entry. And, basically, if this one didn’t do well it meant our chances of getting to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, the potential fourth film, would be pretty much done with. And, unfortunately for us who wanted to go for another trip to Narnia this one didn’t do so well on its first weekend in theaters doing less than $25 million and managing to make on its entire first weekend just a bit more than what the first film in the franchise did on its first day of release. Fox is counting on word of mouth and the holiday season to see this one have some legs in it, but sequels don’t usually have much of those, which means this may just be our last adventure with the Pevensies.

But, whether it makes money or not, I will say one thing, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was, to me, a much better experience than its predecessor, though not as good as the first one. However, the improvement from the second entry in the franchise, I believe, won’t be significant enough to warrant fans of the source material to trust the film adaptations again. The performances were pretty good, and the special effects looked seriously amazing, but the film wasn’t really that good in the end.

The problem I have with the Narnia films is that, unlike the Harry Potter films, which are the standard for family fantasy epics, they are films that will have you spending a decent two hours of your afternoon but that won’t stay for you for much longer than that. That’s the problem for me, it doesn’t warrant repeat viewings, it doesn’t bring out the fanboy spirit that the good films of its type achieve, and considering the richness of its source material that’s just inexcusable.

As I said, the effects are amazing here, and the battle sequences are still quite cool in all their PG-rated glory, and that will make for a fun couple of hours, especially if you have kids that likely won’t care much for all that’s missing from this film. But if you’re a fan of the series you’ll find fault in what’s not there, and in the pace this film adopts, one that may be consistent, but not in a good way.

You know how this adventure will go. Narnia will indeed be in need of the Pevensies once again, they’ll find their way back into this alternate reality, this time via a painting of an ocean that then spills into the room the painting was in, they’ll be aboard of a boat, that’s captained by last film’s Prince Caspian and will be reunited with Aslan, the wise lion with the voice of Liam Neeson.

As you might remember from the past movie, though I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, the older Pevensies wouldn’t be coming back to Narnia anymore. So this time around we’re left with Edmund and Lucy, though they have brought their little cousin, Estace, on board with them.

On the boat we are then informed of how the Dark Island and those who inhabit it are threatening their magical land, and how the only way to beat them is to find and bring together these seven lost swords that would invoke the Lords of Telmar. And of course on a boat filled with an awesome lion, a warrior prince and a pretty cool rat voiced by Simon Pegg the most likely to complete the task are two young brothers and their even younger cousin. That’s how it is in Narnia.

The adventure is fun enough, at the very least it’s a very attractive visual spectacle, the battle against the huge sea monster an especially wicked sight. And if the pacing is going to feel so awfully pre-meditated as it is here, which is to say everything happens to create an opportunity for another cool special effects scene, then at least the effects in question are cool enough. The performances from the cast are actually quite all right, too, their characters aren’t developed as nicely as they could have been, but they make the most of it. It’s a family film, and as that I guess it doesn’t disappoint, not the best in show, but it’s better than the last one, and it might just be our last outing to this magical land so appreciate it as such.

Grade: B-


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