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You can tell when a film series is on its last legs; everything about it just goes downhill, thereís less invested in every way.  Somebody try to convince me that Ewan MacGregor was awake during that last Star Wars movie.  I can see the pillow marks on Harrison Fordís face in that last Indiana Jones and strings on the whip.  A series that neednít go on any longer is often marked with signs of the lack of care in an inferior script or lessening in its production values.  Rarely was more evidence of that apparent than with The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 

While not quite the on the same level of greatness as its sire, the 2005 smash, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, one could still see the interest in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian {2008}.  The thing looked great, wonderful visual effects and a real feeling as if the viewer were being transported seamlessly to this mythical world.  Caspianís problem was a mudbound script tied up too much in the story of the Telmarine race and less of the four Pevensie children, who audiences embraced.  Nothing could be done for it, thatís what C.S. Lewis wrote.  Consequently, despite some improvements including a nice development of the maturing quartet, particularly Skandar Keynes, so witty as young Edmund Pevensie, the sequel didnít do as well at the box office as the first.  When Walt Disney Pictures dropped the property there was real doubt that the third installment would ever be.  Now having been acquired by 20th Century Fox, one wonders if they shouldnít have taken the Disney abandonment as a sign.  Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a misery; a joyless lesson in overstaying oneís welcome.

For no creditable reason, thereís some creepy rule in Narnia that you canít stay once puberty ends or nearabouts, so the film starts with a new, younger, sort-of Pevensie, irritating prig cousin Eustace.  Iím not sure why their parents wonít come and claim them, but once again Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are passed off into the hands of relatives and dreaming of Narnia, a place Eustace simply refuses to believe in.  Lucyís eye for art brings the trio back into the magic land at the prow of their old friend, the former Prince - now King - Caspianís ship, the Dawn Treader.  Caspian must retrieve the swords of seven ancient kings and bring them together at the table of Aslan, Narniaís roaring ruler, to solidify his rule.  How?  Why?  Quite honestly, I forgot, but one reason to go on a scavenger huntís as good as another, so off the crew of men, minotaurs, fauns and a mouse - that would be Reepicheep from the last film - go to various islands risking capture and slavery from the forces that oppose Caspian.  Finally, Eustace believes his cousins.  Well, thatís a relief.  

The one creditable thing about Eustace is that he doesnít go around pretending to be brave; heís a coward after my own heart.  It may not be good drama, but itís certainly believable when thereís danger and someone runs away from it.  Doesnít help Eustace with this crowd, if thereís trouble, itíll find them. 

Their seagoing adventures culminate in a final test of courage, going up against all sorts of exceedingly large sea varmints.  Very swashbuckling, this chapter.  When the film began, I noticed that Lucyís sudden attention to her hair and figure and mooney-eyed gazes at Caspian, along with Edmundís cracking voice must mean trouble, so it goes at the end of Dawn Treader that the last of Narniaís Four High Kings (- and Queens) are shuffled off to the mundane world of adulthood.  Have no fear, readers; the series can go on because thereís still an almost-Pevensie in the picture.

Thank goodness for Cousin Oliver, I mean, Eustace.

Itís just bad.  Everything about this movie is marked down like a fire sale.  The visuals, so breathtaking in the first film and more than serviceable in the second, look downright shoddy.  The wonderfully realised creatures of the past films look like bad CGI from five years ago and not very imaginative at that.  The script is an uninspired dud and the poor young actors have absolutely no reason to give any effort at all as there is no character development whatsoever.  Annoying cousin Eustace isnít at all interesting and completely one-note until he is hit with some magic mojo that causes him to see things from a higher perspective and even then heís not that great. 

This production is so cut-rate, they couldnít even afford Caspianís accent.  Iím sure the world will be sad to know that Ben Barnesí excellent Zorro the Gay Blade intonations that so lit up the previous film, have completely disappeared, along with any discernable personality for his character.  It seems even acquiring a full beard for Caspian was out of the budget.  The saddest loss in the portrayals is the muting of Edmund; Skandar Keynesí timing and dry wit shone like a star through the murk of Prince Caspian and it feels like weíre watching pod-Edmund here, just going through the assigned motions.  Even the chipmunk-cheeked Georgie Henleyís adorable smile can only charm so much.  Even blink-and-youíll-miss-Ďem cameos by Tilda Swinton as Edmundís bÍte noire, the White Witch and Anna Popplewell and William Moseley as eldest Pevensie sibs, Susan and Peter, canít help. 

While Narnia was never the most cheerful of series, this chapter gets downright depressing as we watch one characterís decision to walk into Aslanís country, a very clumsy metaphor for Heaven, and boy do they add muscle to their tearjerking.  It felt like it was the filmmakerís mission to make the little ones cry, yet the attempt is a bust because we donít care a fig for anyone in the picture, theyíre all pretty disposable.  Disposable would be a perfect word for Aslanís treatment of the Pevensies; theyíve risked their lives fighting for him and his world time and again, are told they are the High Kings of the land, and then booted out as soon as they grow axillary hair.  Sheesh, I hope Narnia has good unemployment insurance.  Awkward Narnia moment number 300 takes place when Lucy is having her last goodbyes with Aslan, who then comforts her by telling her that he is in her world under another name and she must learn it to know him there.  So heís incognito?  A giant talking lion?  Actually, in the Lewis book, there are very strong hints as to what that name is, but try getting a pro-Christian reference into a childrenís movie these days and see what you get.

Suffice it to say that The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader is overall a would-be straight-to-DVD redheaded stepchild to its better made, higher production-valued predecessors.  Itís funny that the producers of the film thought that they could degrade the visuals, the quality of which were a stunning hallmark of the two previous films, render them so poorly and no one would notice.  More focus on action (- Egads, those jumpy camera edits) means nothing when you donít care about either the character or story.  Narnia producers shouldíve given their audiences more credit for having some intelligence and wanting more than some loud, bright shiny object.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

December 10th, 2010


Click here to read our 2008 review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


Click here for our 2008 interviews with William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Georgie Henley and Peter Dinklage for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


Click here for our 2008 New York Comic Con interview with Prince Caspian himself, Ben Barnes.




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