Thursday, 4 December 2014
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
This is the third and to date last of the Narnia films. It was a (deserved, in my opinion) success at the box office, but the franchise has since then been caught up in the legal tangles that often afflict licensed properties. I'm going to assume you're familiar with my earlier reviews of the series for the purposes of this one. So if you aren't, now might be a good time to check them out.
The film begins with Edmund and Lucy staying with their odious cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb, whom as author C S Lewis memorably put it "very nearly deserved" his name. Eustace has always mocked his cousins for their stories of Narnia, and is outraged to be dragged along on their latest adventure with them.
As you might surmise, Eustace has the most prominent character arc in the film, as he learns to become a Narnian Hero. He's not alone in having an arc, though: the movie does a pretty decent job of providing them to Lucy, Edmund and King Caspian (as he has now become) as well.
The original Dawn Treader novel is something of a travelogue-style story. The only linking theme is the search for seven lost friends of Caspian's father. The movie introduces an active evil force to oppose the adventurers, which can only be overcome by gathering the swords of the missing men. Some Narnia purists objected to his change, but I think it is a smart one: books can get away with being less focused than a movie, generally speaking, and creating an evil to face gives the characters additional motivation to persevere in the face of the dangers they encounter.
Even with a linking thread, the movie feels quite episodic: the characters visit the island of slavers, the island of invisibility, the island of gold, and so on. Plus there's the whole 'Aslan is Jesus' thing to squeeze in. The movie makes an effort to rotate the focus characters in each section, which helps make them each seem worthwhile, but there feels like a bit too much content squashed into the run time.
Still, it's not as "KITCHEN SINK!" as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and it has the advantage of much more likable characters, so I thoroughly enjoyed it. As always, the effects are excellent and the singular strength of the series - fantastic casting of the children who are the main characters - continues with the actor chosen to play Eustace.
I hope we get more Narnia films - some progress is apparently being made on that front - but if this ends up being the last, it would be a solid conclusion.
It's also my 400th review on here, and a pretty cool way to hit that milestone.