10 December 2010
Voyage of the Dawn Treader- NARNIA 3 Review
Along with their odious cousin Eustace Scrubb, Edmund and Lucy are surprised to find they've been summoned to a peaceful Narnia. However, King Caspian soon has a mission for them, seeking out seven swords that must be laid at the mystical Jesus Lion Aslan's table in order to defeat a gathering evil. They travel the seas on the Dawn Treader, with each of our heroes being tested their enemies on the way.
Something about the Christian moralising in C.S. Lewis' stories just puts me off. As a lapsed Catholic and now atheist, I'm sure I'd have loved the books had I actually read them in my childhood. The cinematic adaptations of the story wear the religious connotations like a cassock that's several sizes too big, tripping them up as they stride along. It's not that I'm a Richard Dawkins acolyte, even if I'm irked by lines in magic spells that insinuate there's no truth in theology or in questioning anything about the big guy in the sky. It's simply that the central mission of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the page is incredibly fatalistic.
Almost in appeasement to certain widely-held views on the afterlife and God and what not, the film boosts the importance of the seven magic swords, turning the film into a more urgent version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. The fetch-quest element might seek to make it more secular and accessible, but the main effect is to remind me what it would have looked like if they really had squashed all of the seventh Harry Potter book into one film, as I wrongly suggested they should have in my review.
It's odd what with the deviations from the book later on, but this feels episodic and segmented in much the same way as Goblet of Fire does with the benefit of hindsight. I can't quite blame the influence of 20th Century Fox, who are more noteworthy for royally interfering with and ruining their tentpole blockbusters than those at the House of Mouse. Surely if that were the case, it would be under 90 minutes long and Jack Black would be Eustace instead of the really rather excellent Will Poulter from Son of Rambow.
Odder still, some of the segments seem to come out of other films entirely. The climactic action setpiece, for instance, has to be seen to be believed- it's an astonishing hybrid of the endings to the two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and Ghostbusters. I shit you not- Ghostbusters. This meandering juggernaut now rests on the shoulders of Lucy, Edmund and Caspian, still played by Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes and Ben Barnes. Henley is not above certain cringe-making twee moments and Keynes still seems surprised at where he is, but both have improved. Even Barnes steps up, now that he's abandoned his crap rendition of Inigo Montoya's accent from the last film.
It is definitely an improvement on the previous film, Prince Caspian, but for me, that's not saying an awful lot. That film was the Temple of Doom to the Raiders that was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe- it changed things up merely by being excessively violent. I still love Temple of Doom, but the big fight in Prince Caspian was just a big punch-up about things I didn't particularly care about. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might have the same staples as its predecessors- a role for Tilda Swinton, animals that sound like famous faces and someone bellowing "For Narnia!"- but enough is done differently to patch it all together.
The most valuable player in the film is the aforementioned Will Poulter as Eustace. In reverence for the source material, the film foolishly leaves him off the playing field for much of the film, for reasons of transmogrification. What we do get of him though is brilliant. He's annoying, but he's meant to be playing annoying, as opposed to Lucy, who occasionally lapses into Dora The Explorer dialogue like "We did it! I knew we would!" The stage is set for his return as a leading man in later Narnia instalments, and if for no one else but him, I hope the scripts and direction improve. He deserves the spotlight on the strength of his role here.
The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is now showing in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, why not share your comments below? If you didn't know I used to be Catholic, then never fear- I got better.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.