Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Michael Apted

Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet, the voices of Simon Pegg, Liam Neeson

MPAA Rating: PG (for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action)

Running Time: 1:55

Release Date: 12/10/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | December 9, 2010

Based on the best entry in C.S. Lewis' fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader shows a movie series that has lost its footing. While the first film skated by on its faithful, rich recreation of Narnia, its two sequels are less concerned with the story's world (let alone the stories themselves) and more so on the spectacle.

As such, Lewis' ship-bound entry, with its basic, task-filled plot and multiple-island exploration structure, seems a fine balance on its own terms, but somehow the script (by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni) finds a way to ramble and miss the point.

Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) return to Narnia through a painting in their cousin Eustace's (Will Poulter, obnoxiously, insufferably annoying until he's not, and that is exactly the point) home, where the pair is staying until their parents can pay for their journey to America. Finding themselves in the middle of the sea, the trio are discovered by now King Caspian (Ben Barnes), who is sailing with a crew to the islands east of the mainland to find seven missing lords. The seven lords had seven swords that can undo the influence of a great evil coming from an evil island of green mist, disappearing peasants, and, of course, pure evil.

This is all eventually revealed in the slow buildup, causing some top-heavy pacing issues from the start. Once the true task is revealed and at hand, the movie stays fairly close to Lewis' moralizing center, as each of the central characters finds him and herself tempted by the whims of human nature, mainly greed.

Eustace discovers a horde of treasure and suffers an unfortunate transformation, although it's one that, with the help of the sadly underwhelming mouse warrior Reepicheep (voice of Simon Pegg), teaches him a lesson about courage. Edmund and Caspian find a pool that holds the power of Midas' gift/curse, and on an island full of invisible creatures whose bark is worse than their bite, Lucy discovers a spell book which could transform her external appearance. The resulting dream sequence, which suggests becoming another eliminates one's own self from existence, is director Michael Apted's most effective moral speculation.

Lewis' allegorical lectures on living rightly are here, but their weight is missing. The movie is still trapped in expanding where there needn't be expansion, like a cosmic journey with a magician, and softening the message, unless it happens to be the identity of mystical lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), who, like in the book, quite unnecessarily spells it out as though there's any doubt. One addition that does help is a climactic battle with a fearsome sea serpent.

After the solid start of the initial film, it seemed there might be a future for Lewis' Narnia saga, but The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, although better and more ambitious than its predecessor, puts that in doubt.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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