Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
The Chronicles of Narnia films were always expected to piggyback off the success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings – perhaps unfairly so. The resounding business that those two franchises achieved proved that there was a huge demand for fantasy and CS Lewis’ series of children books seemed to be a perfect recipe for success.
When the second film, Prince Caspian, failed to do desirable numbers, Disney jumped ship leaving the whole production in limbo until 20th Century Fox threw them a lifeline. In hindsight, Disney is probably going to regret that decision because, as anyone who’s ever read the books knows, the story just gets better from there.
The most interesting novels turned out to be the ones that never included the Pevensies at all (my favourite was The Horse and His Boy) - but of the ones that did, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was by far the most exciting. The Odyssey-esque tale expectedly translates well onto the big screen largely due to new director Michael Apted.
Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) return to the realm of Narnia through a magical painting along with their uptight and annoying younger cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). It’s been three years since the events of the previous film and Narnia is now finally at peace.
Since then, King Caspian has undertaken a sea voyage to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia who were banished by Miraz. Missing their adventures in Narnia, Lucy and Edmund are only too happy to assist in this quest. Less enthusiastic is Eustace, who is distressed and disbelieving that he is trapped in a world that he previously mocked as his cousins’ flights of fancy.
The royal ship soon encounters nefarious slave traders, mythical monsters, invisible dwarves, an alchemistic river and a mystical green mist that seeks to corrupt our heroes, among many other strange happenings and perilous situations during their archipelago-hopping journey.
The use of the green mists as a catalyst for conflict is probably the most effective one. The Chronicles of Narnia has never been shy about its religious overtones and no entry in the series is more blatant than this one. As the whole narrative is an explicit Judeo-Christian metaphor - I’ll give you one guess as to what an incorporeal force that leads good men into temptation is supposed to represent.
The green mist brings out some fascinating psychological problems plaguing Lucy and Edmund, with both their dark desires steeped in petty jealousy (also one guess as to why the mist is green) and inferiority issues. Lucy secretly wants nothing more than to be as beautiful as her elder sister Susan, while Edmund feels tired of being in the shadow of elder brother Peter and Caspian.
The movie’s plot strays somewhat from the book’s but the deviations are minimal only done to make the story more linear. Purists might disagree but the changes seem necessary for momentum’s sake especially since a blockbuster such as this has to use an easily digestible traditional three act structure. The key ingredients are still present though – most importantly being Eustace’s character growth.
Will Poulter does very well as the snotty brat and does even better in his transformation into reluctant Narnian hero. The baton has been passed and Poulter is more than capable of carrying the franchise should The Silver Chair (a Eustace-centric tale) come to fruition as the next instalment.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is easily the most cohesively entertaining of the franchise to date thanks to some excellent visual effects (though the 3D seems to add no value), creative use existing mythology to spur new conflict and consistently lively set-pieces.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.