Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Wednesday Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I will start by apologising for the long winded review. I just write down what comes to mind and I share it with my readers. Sometimes I can go off on a tangent. So hopefully you'll stick around and read the whole thing.

NOTE: This is not a review for the film as a novel adaptation, but as a film itself. Also, this will not include how Narnia is full of Christian allusions.

Title card from the film.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third instalment in the Chronicles of Narnia series based on the book of the same name by C.S. Lewis.

There are several changes between this film and the previous two that should be taken into consideration before criticizing the film. First off it should be noted that Disney stopped production of the Narnia series after Prince Caspian didn’t fare too well at the box office, so Fox picked up the series in its place. (Walden Media still produces the film though). Another change is that the music is no longer scored by Harry Gregson-Williams, but by David Arnold instead, music can impact a movie more than most people realise. Furthermore the biggest change is in directors. Andrew Adamson directed the first two films, whereas Michael Apted directs this one. The director has an idea of what he wants the film to look like. With one director the audience will feel a sense of continuity as well as have an idea of where the series will go. With a change in directors it is a new adventure each film because the audience will not know what the director will decide to change or keep from book to film.
Aslan greets the gang.

Review after the break

The Seven Lords of Narnia.
In the first two films the audience grows familiar with the Pevensie children, four siblings who go on magical adventures to another world. This time, however, only the youngest two children (Edmund and Lucy, played by Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley respectively) return to Narnia bringing along with them their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). Upon arriving in Narnia they meet up with Caspian (Ben Barnes) who is now King of Narnia. Caspian is on a voyage to discover what has happened to his father’s closest friends, who had fled from the tyranny of Caspian’s uncle Miraz. So the children join Caspian on his quest to find the seven lords of Narnia.

This film differs from the previous two in that the previous films were more action oriented, whereas this one is more adventure oriented. The first two films were filled with battles and betrayals, whereas this film is filled with travelling and discovery (although it still has its fair share of battles). The plot of this film is slower than the previous two, but still fast enough to keep you watching.

The entrance to Narnia, through a Narnian painting.
At the start of the film we are introduced to Edmund trying to pass as an older citizen so he can recruit in the war. Afterwards he explains that he shouldn’t have to take it because he is a king, whereas Lucy explains that they are not in their own world. This parallels the previous film where Peter proclaims that he shouldn’t have to take any gruff from people because he’s a king, with Susan telling him that they’re not in Narnia anymore. In having this simple discussion in this film, it shows that the characters are growing up and taking on similar personalities as their siblings. It also symbolizes that Peter and Susan are still here, in a way.

During the first scene we are also introduced to a subplot that is carried on throughout the film. Lucy notices a soldier chatting with a young, beautiful lady. When the woman fixes her hair, Lucy also does this, showing her desire to be beautiful, a plot point that continues to drive Lucy through the film.

When we are introduced to Eustace we are immediately shown how much of a little spoiled brat he is; whining and complaining about things that he doesn’t like, tattling on his cousin, hiding sweets away under the bed and blaming Edmund, and so on.  Also, why does he have a diary?

Despite Peter and Susan not being in the novel, both characters make appearances in this film. Susan first appears almost immediately in the film, in the form of a letter. We are given a glimpse of Susan writing the letter that Lucy and Edmund receive. We’ll see more of her later.
The Dawn Treader
Our first real glimpse of the Dawn Treader is right when they get into Narnia. And boy is she a beaut. The figurehead of the Dawn Treader is that of a dragon, its neck reared back ready to attack. The sail is a bright purple adorned with the Narnian crest. I could go on, but I’m not here to review ships, but rather films, so I’ll just say the ship was well designed for the film.

It isn’t until Caspian introduces Lucy and Edmund to his crew are we introduced to the familiar Narnia theme (probably has something to do with the whole, new composer thing I mentioned earlier).

Reepicheep is a brilliantly designed CG animated mouse. He looks very realistic, the animation for this film, as well as for the previous two, continues to be impressive, specifically on the creatures.

Caspian holds Edmund's flashlight.

Once again, Lucy’s obsession with beauty when she fixes her hair and asks Caspian if he has found a queen.

“We have nothing if not belief”

Apparently mermaids are made from water in Narnia ... unless those are water Dryads ...

It isn’t until 22min in that we are introduced to the major “villain” of the story, the mist. It envelops things and then they disappear. The mist did not exist in the novel, however the idea came from one of the islands, which causes dreams to come true (and by dreams it means nightmares). They expanded on that to have the island send out the mist and make it absorb people into it. After all, the novel didn’t really have a villain, so they needed to make one.
The mist.
Fact: Minotaur’s kick all kinds of ass. Faun’s dance too much.

The seven lords of Narnia just happen to have seven magic swords from Aslan that just happen to stop the evil mist from taking over the world.

After Eustace and Reepicheep have their sword fight, we are given the first glimpse of Eustace’s change. All it is is a small smile after Reepicheep congratulates him on the fight. Small, but the mark of change is still there.

The use of invisible/half invisible/see-though effects on the island of the Dufflepuds is really interesting. It looks really ... well ... cool. Especially in the transition from unseen to seen. It makes me glad to see special effects used in movies.

The book of incantations is sweet. I want one.

Opp! There’s some green mist in that book! Guess what’s coming next?! And Lucy finds a spell to make her look like Susan. Great effects used here to transform Lucy into Susan. Oh Anna Popplewell, you’re so gorgeous. And Aslan finally makes his appearance! Sort of. A voice angrily calling out Lucy’s name as she rips the spell out of the book. Que the green mist again. I think we all know what’s coming ahead.
Coriakin and his amazingly cool map.

Man do I want a map like the one Coriakin (the magician) has. The islands pop out of it, there’s an awesome mural on the map depicting events from the first two movies, images move. It’s awesome!

I wonder what Coriakin knows when explaining the Dark Island to the travellers. He looks right at Edmund when he says “It can take any form. It can make your darkest dreams come true.” I wonder if he knows about the taint of the White Witch inside Edmund.

“To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself.” I think we found the moral of the story.

Finally Lucy is the cause of the terrible things to happen to the main characters in the films. In the first two films she was always the pure hearted one who followed Aslan. In this film she gives into temptation and reads the spell to make her beautiful like Susan, causing the mist to spread through the Dawn Treader, infecting the others.

Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, and William Moseley
as Edmund, Susan, and Peter Pevensie.
The first challenge of the mist is upon Lucy. She casts the spell I keep mentioning and turns into Susan. Of course, in doing so she erases herself from history and therefore no one ever goes to Narnia so none of that could have happened and then she realises her mistake and POW! She’s back in Narnia in this little dream sequence talking to Aslan. She overcomes the mist and it moves on to infect the rest of the ship. And Edmund has a little encounter with the White Witch.

Edmund and Caspian are tempted into fighting each other over a pool that turns things to gold. And Eustace is tempted by gold and turned into a dragon because of it. The dragon looks fantastic, as with all the other special effects of creatures in the film. Kinda wish we could have seen the transformation though.

The change into a dragon really helps Eustace become a likable character, not only by the audience, but by other characters as well. Reepicheep and Eustace become quite close friends (something that neither showed any inclination of doing at all up to this point in the film).
Eustace and Reepicheep begin bonding after Eustace
has been turned into a dragon.
Aslan’s face is in the stars.

Question: how did the stone knife that the White Witch used to kill Aslan get all the way out to Ramandu’s Island?

The visual effects are heavily used to make everything seem magical. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This mist ... not seeming all that magical to me.

The brotherly moment between Edmund and Caspian makes up for the fight they had earlier.

Of course, just because Eustace is a dragon now, doesn’t mean he’s changed entirely. The fact that he’s still afraid to enter the Dark Island shows that the old Eustace still lives within the dragon’s body. It’s a good use of character development. He didn’t just change automatically, but gradually changed into another person.

Once Rhoop announces that your fears will come reality, Edmund immediately says “oh no”. ... It’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
This thing is terrifying once it gets cut open.
Epic sea serpent is epic.

Not gonna lie, when Eustace was knocked into the water, my first thought was “Oh no! The fire on Charizard’s tail will go out! He’ll die!”

I guess Aslan can turn into a seagull if you ask him for help. I wonder if the seagull Eustace was talking to earlier was Aslan too ...

Eustace cuts through mist. It's not very effective.
Lucy fires an arrow from Susan’s bow right into the eye of the sea serpent. Never doubt the power of Santa Claus’ magic.

Eustace’s change back to human form was not as cool as it could have been.

Dear Eustace: a sword cannot cut through mist.

The White Witch is always there.

The taint of the White Witch nearly caused them to lose the fight against the sea serpent. It’s great that after all this time Edmund still has this one gigantic character flaw that keeps holding him back.

Apparently those seven magic swords give Peter’s sword some extra magic powers. Aslan really thought that one out.
Super magic sword.
I guess destroying the embodiment of your fears destroys the dark island. I guess it’s true what Coriakin said, “To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself.” They really drove that one home. Some nice literal meanings, no metaphors, great job guys.

Eustace became a really good swimmer all of a sudden. Swam from one island to the next in a matter of minutes. I think becoming a dragon turned him into some kind of super kid.

So the reason they were brought to Narnia was to learn about Jesus in their own country? Not sure how that makes sense ... but I’m gonna go with it.

Reepicheep sails to Aslan's country.
Fact: the art used during the end credits is the art from the books.

Overall The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a difficult book to adapt into a movie and keep it interesting. Obviously things had to be changed to keep the film interesting, and as a book to film adaptation, it sucked. A lot. But as a standalone film I found it to be well constructed. They keep in touch with elements of past films as well as pushing boundaries expanding the Narnian world. However there were moments when what was going on didn’t make sense or felt to rushed, particularly the points when they were sailing from one location to the next. The effects on the creatures were well done and some background effects were pretty interesting as well. The plot held a nice mixture of comedy, action, adventure, and drama. The characters all developed a lot of character growth throughout the film. The actors were strong and believable, there was never a moment when I was think “Hmm, you’re just an actor, I don’t believe this.” However, on a whole the film could have been constructed a lot better.

For Narnia, and for Aslan, I’d give it 7 or 8 out of 10. So uh ... 7.5 ... I guess ...
God damn she's so gorgeous. 10/10 for Anna.

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