30 December 2010

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Simon Pegg, Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton. Adapted for the screen by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni. Directed by Michael Apted. Release date: 10 December 2010. 20th Century Fox, 115 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Lucy, Edmund, and their cousin Eustace are transported back to Narnia via painting to vanquish a island of evil that seeks to infect the whole of Narnia (!!!), but first must confront the 'evil' within themselves.

PRINCE CASPIAN was a near perfect film for me, and remains my favorite of the franchise. I know it's not the popular choice, but the second movie had so much emotion, power and story in its two hours, and director Andrew Adamson really stepped up to create a equally visually pleasing film. The magnificent score by Harry Gregson-Williams didn't hurt, either. Sad thing is, CASPIAN didn't perform all that well at the box office, and there was less than major excitement in commissioning a third. Luckily FOX got into the picture and picked up the franchise for a third, and rumored last, installment of the cinematic adaptation of C.S. Lewis' seven Christian novels. Although a fine movie overall, and well worth spending money and time to watch it, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER lacks all the emotion and intensity PRINCE CASPIAN exuded with every frame, and contains a lot of story ideas that just end up not being used to their greatest potential.

In addition to gaining, accepting and maintaining faith in something - in this case, the physical embodiment of God in the form of the lion Aslan - the main theme of the NARNIA saga is the tried and true Good versus Evil, and not just in a good guy v. bad guy type of way. PRINCE CASPIAN especially showed the darkness within ourselves, and asked our main characters, specifically Peter and Prince Caspian, to confront it before they can lead effectively and truly be men. Their insecurities, their doubts, their jealousy - it all needed to be laid out on the table and dealt with. Lest I forget to mention the tremendous seduction scene as the White Witch who, despite being dead in the first one shows up in both of the sequels, attempts to tempt Peter with promises of power and victory and a grand leadership. By the end of CASPIAN, Aslan notes that Peter and Susan have already 'grown up', have already gained the necessary skills in life to live, but Lucy and Edmund still have some learning to do.

Enter VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, which continues the theme of inner struggle, but this time, it's brought out by a green mist which represents 'evil'. As the heroes continue down their voyage to unite seven swords which will re-install Aslan's power of goodness in the land and dispel the evil, Edmund and Caspian have a row, and Lucy faces a temptation of her own about her personal insecurities. Frankly, I love when the 'heroes' fight themselves and truly have to conquer their own personal demons, but DAWN TREADER seems more concerned with flashy visuals and digital effects than maintaining coherency with the story, eliciting good performances, and gaining any emotion weight to the story at hand. I understand it's a movie meant to deliver a message and have fun while doing it and perhaps should not be given too much of a analysis, but I can't help but think up the missed opportunities. For example, the climax has our 'heroes', and I use the term loosely, coming to a island which is pretty much The Island of Evil Evilness, where their darkest fears come true and bad, bad, bad things are bound to happen cos, y'know, no one ever comes back from that island. So I was hoping for plenty of confrontation with temptation, against well-worded and mannered entities mocking our heroes and their journey - something juicy. What we get is a pretty sea serpent action sequence, which I loved don't get me wrong, but we could have had some more emotional intensity from the characters.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned Lucy yet, and I frankly don't know why. Admittedly, she has a nice subplot of her own, fearful her beauty won't live up to Susan's, but it's dealt with rather quickly and resolutely, that by the climax she really has nothing to do but look scared and scream. Even Eustace grows as a character more, and not just in a 'initially annoying to moderately tolerable'. Lucy was fine, not much more to say about it than that. She led us to our Necessary Exposition Scene where the threat of Narnia is revealed and our reactive characters have to go on another mission to restore Aslan's goodness to a small sector of the world.

I wager it seems like I have a distaste for VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, and that's not so. By all means, it was a enjoyable film, boasted some great visual effects, tight editing, and creative directing by Michael Apted. So, yes, it's recommended, especially if you've already seen the other two. If this is the end of the NARNIA cinematic franchise, I can deal with that, and I applaud all the efforts of the people involved, from the actors, directors/writers, and everyone on the production team. Together, these three films weave together nicely, creating, in a way, one big interconnected story about friendship, faith, and fighting for the greater good. I'm glad we got to experience that, and glad the folks at Walden, Disney, and 20th Century Fox created a trilogy that the whole family can enjoy.

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