THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER - Still Wonderful
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (fantasy adventure in 3D)
Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni from novel by C.S. Lewis
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: This third Narnia movie looks and 'feels' different from its predecessors (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) because it is directed by a different director from the first two films. While Andrew Adamson's versions paid more attention to the detail and the wonders of Narnia, especially its sensuous icy world, Michael Apted's Voyage of The Dawn Treader takes on a livelier and faster pace but feels rather superficial not as sophisticated as Adamson's efforts.
Still, this one also stays faithful to C.S. Lewis' book and has its thrills and magical moments.
THE SKINNY: The story is also different from the first two as the two elder Pevensie siblings, Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are not involved in this adventure. Instead, their snotty cousin Eustace Scrubb (played by Will Poulter) 'accidentally' and reluctantly joins Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) on Caspian's (Ben Barnes) ship - and on an island-hopping quest to rid the land of a curse emanating from the "Dark Isle".
Along the way, they encounter invisible one-legged folks, enchanting mermaids, a nasty sea monster and a fire-breathing dragon, just to name the main ones. Aslan the Lion (voice of Liam Neeson), of course, also makes an appearance, ostensibly to guide the kids on their moral path and render some advice.
HITS AND MISSES: The Dawn Treader seemed to be sailing into dark waters when Disney Studio pulled out of financing the production after seeing the disappointing returns for Prince Caspian. Twentieth Century Fox took over - and now The Dawn Treader looks like a big test for the Narnia franchise. Basically, the Narnia films appeal to young children and preteens and are more of a family entertainment than the popular Harry Potter series. As such, when its fans grow older, they tend to grow out of Narnia's appeal, unlike the Harry Potter films.
Still, there are enough thrills, fantasy and intellectual lure in this sequel for both the young and old. Apted has steered the narrative reasonably close to its source material and even manages to bring it into vivid (read three-dimensional) life - as in the aerial duel between the dragon and the sea monster. And as for humour, it is served in regular doses by Poulter's Eustace and the rodent swashbuckler Reepicheep (voice of Simon Pegg) - pictured above.
At its heart, this Narnia instalment is about friendship, courage and "defeating the darkness inside ourselves". At one point, Aslan tells the kids that he goes by another name back in the 'real world' and to look for him there as a source of strength. Is he referring to Christ, or Simba the Lion King?
THE LOWDOWN: Another wonder-filled out-of-this-world adventure.