Film Review: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

10/12/10 | Posted by MattPage

With a change of director and a change of studio, the latest instalment in the Chronicles of Narnia series has finally arrived in cinemas after a break of two and a half years. As with the book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader follows the adventures of the younger two Pevensie children, Lucy and Edmund, and their brattish cousin Eustace, as they arrive back in Narnia via a painting of a Narnian ship. There they rejoin King Caspian and the valiant talking mouse Reepicheep who are on a quest to find seven lost Narnian Lords.

image
 Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Reepicheep and Eustace

The novel is fairly episodic and is content to rely on this one storyline line to hold everything together, but the filmmakers (rightly in my opinion) obviously considered this to be an insufficient basis to drive the plot. As a result they have borrowed a couple of elements from the next book (“The Silver Chair”) and blended them into a new sub-plot which gives the movie a bit more momentum.

This isn’t the only change from the book Lewis’s work; indeed this is a far looser adaptation than either of the previous two films. Most of the changes, though, are fairly easy to justify. Some elements have been chopped, severely shortened or combined with others in order to squeeze the material into a couple of hours. Others either improve the film’s pacing, or they give it as bit more drive. One of the movie’s key innovations does feel a little too much like it has been stolen from The Lord of the Rings, but overall these alterations work fairly well.

Another significant change is the relationship between Eustace (Will Poulter) and Reepicheep (now voiced by Simon Pegg). Poulter is outstanding as Eustace, irritatingly sulky at the start, but still human enough to his change of heart thoroughly believable. Much of the transformation happens through his interactions with Reepicheep, which are all the more impressive because Poulter will have had to do them without the CGI mouse that we see.

Reepicheep is a more compassionate character in this film, managing to both chastise Eustace, but also coax him into becoming a better person. Of course the mouse is only really laying the groundwork here. Eustace’s conversion mainly happens when he meets Aslan. Aslan has a much smaller role here than he did in Prince Caspian, plays the role of noble hero. Together the Dawn Treader’s crew rout a bunch of slave traders, make some one-footed dwarves uninvisible, discover new lands and, inevitably save the day.

I’m still a little unconvinced by 3D, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is certainly a nice film to look at, with a good array of sets and locations and so many of the story’s magical elements zing into life with the well executed CGI. Whilst I could do with seeing all three films again, Voyage of the Dawn Treader may be the best of the Chronicles of Narnia films to date.

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It has been interesting to see the comments posted here on the Narnia films and to have watched the Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. The BBC a few years ago - produced a far superior version in terms of being child friendly, engaging children’s imagination and being truer to C S Lewis’ work. I would encourage everyone to look for the BBC version and share them with children as well as adults. They are a wonderful introduction to the Narnia books - a true gem. If you have to watch these films just be aware that the BBC have a wonderful version.

#1. By Graham on December 11, 2010

I must admit, I felt the addition of the green mist was rather unnecessary, and that the search for the seven missing lords would have made a perfectly good driving force behind the story by itself, and some of the book’s more subtle themes got lost in the changes. I enjoyed the film a lot though, especially the extra development in Eustace and Reepicheep’s relationship - I loved the way they started to become friendly and work together even before Eustace became a dragon, showing that he always had that potential in him. And it looks beautiful!

#2. By Juliette Harrisson on December 13, 2010

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#3. By celinarpinkston on February 17, 2017

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