Feb 21, 2011

[Movies] The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)I've previously discussed how Harry Potter has had a tremendous impact on pop culture. Whether we like to admit it or not, one of the biggest lessons of this franchise is the fact that writers and owners of the rights to various young adult lines are scrambling to get movie deals secured in order to rake in the goods. Thus we've experienced movies like City of Ember, Inkheart, Percy Jackson and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2-Disc Special Collector's Edition).

It's a good and a bad thing - at least kids are reading a bit more than they used to and now there's a lot of focus on generating new content. It may not necessarily be great content, but it's content nonetheless. And to be fair, some of these new creations turn out to be great gems while others, well, sort of flounder around a bit.

But beyond the new writers, we've had a chance to revisit a few older or at least more established book lines from a movie potential perspective. Hence the release of movies based on works like The Seeker. But just because a movie is made doesn't mean it's going to go well - not all books translate easily nor is there always a strong enough fan base around it to justify sequels and additional marketing efforts.

I've always had mixed feelings about the Narnia movies, and that may be because I was never particularly a big fan of the Narnia books either. While I don't particular have anything against anthropomorphic animals, I was never particularly drawn to them either. In that regard, I suppose I'm really more a science fiction geek at heart.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third movie in the Chronicles of Narnia movie franchise as based on the novel of the same name. It was directed by Michael Apted while the previous movies had been directed by Andrew Adamson.

As was generally depicted in the book, the movie begins with Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) staying with the family of their cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) while older siblings Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley) are in America. The Pevensies haven't been getting along too well with Eustace but all that is literally swept aside when painting of a ship that reminds Lucy of Narnia starts to pour water into Eustace's bedroom. The three children are than swallowed up by the water and emerge to find themselves in Narnia.

They're picked up by sailing ship in the painting, which is known as the Dawn Treader. Amongst the crew are King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and their feisty rodent friend, the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (Simon Pegg). It turns out that three years have passed in Narnia and Caspian is on a quest to find the missing seven Lords of Narnia who were banished when Caspian's uncle Miraz was still in power.

Thus it's clear that the Pevensie's have been summoned back to Narnia for another quest in service of the kingdom, although it's not quite clear why Eustace was dragged along. He continues to whine and wail through most of the story, complaining about the state of affairs, needing to be on a ship with unusual creatures like fauns and minotaurs and generally because he's that kind of a boy.

Now before we really get into things, I have to set the disclaimer that I personally didn't really enjoy the book version of this same story. It was probably a bad idea to try and read all of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series in one go, hence by this point I was a bit tired of the whole thing. In terms of the full chronological order, this is the fifth book in the series, so there were some weirder ones before this book that kind of set the tone all wrong for me. But this is just a personal note.

Now back on point, the Narnia series was never meant to be anything like Harry Potter where you get to grow up with the actors involved. On the contrary, Narnia has always been rather unforgiving of aging between the time differential between Narnia and the "real" world along with the fact that once you get past puberty, you're sort of disqualified from coming back. It's like the ultimate secret clubhouse for Christian kids or something.

Georgie Henley at the UK premiere of The Chron...Image via WikipediaWhile I still respect the unique quality Henley brings to the movie in terms of her acting, the other two lead "children", Keynes and Poulter, both represented characters were didn't like as viewers. Edmund was pretty much the a bad guy for most of the first movie and newcomer Eustace was ridiculously one-sided on the annoying side of the fence. This is not necessarily about the quality of their acting - it's just that their characters were crafted not to be liked. So these feelings sort of lingered.

Plus Lucy wasn't doing too well either given her weird obsession with being somehow as "pretty" as her sister Susan, it dead lead to some pretty odd sequences.

Caspian was just sort of there in the background most of the time, trying to look pretty for the camera. I know a lot of girls go for him, and that's fine. Not my type though, just for the sake of record. Hence the reason I felt he could have done more.

The story in itself was never that clear. It felt like "yet another quest from Aslan" in terms of structure and you'd think that the experienced Pevensies would have been used to the formula by now. But this is still a movie based on a children's book after all, so I guess we can forgive this.

Effects were pretty decent, but nothing spectacular. There were moments when the direction of the animated sequences felt a bit off. And don't get me started on that weird Predator-hybrid of a sea serpent. The whole I open up with scary bits or whatever that was supposed to be felt a tad forced and not very frightening. Heck, it didn't even seem functional from a monster perspective.

And I refuse to comment on the continued appearances of the character of Jadis, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). She died in the first movie - can't we learn to accept that? As much as she's a phenomenal actress, stop dragging her back into this franchise! She was never meant to be in this story! And I'm not complaining from a geek ranting about canon, but more because of how it's clear the writers involved don't know how to meaningful add in new ideas into this franchise.

The movie's plot weaknesses largely lie in the source material, so I don't want to focus too much on that. I mean seriously, the movie ends and we all feel a tad sad about the lack of fulfilling resolution other than maybe Eustace realizing he shouldn't be such a jerk.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a decent movie but one that's beginning to suffer from sequel fatigue. It should act as a warning sign that it might be a good idea to stop making more movies within this franchise, but I really doubt people are going to stop beating this dead horse just yet. It gets 3 moments the entire audience wants to throttle Eustace out of 5. While they're not officially out yet, you can already pre-order copies of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray online.

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