Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

directed by Michael Apted

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader takes the guise of a cute children's movie and goes into full-on fire and brimstone overdrive. Whilst the first couple of Narnia films in this series were vaguely preachy this one takes the sermonising to new levels of obviousness.

England is at war with Germany, and whilst the older Pevensie siblings are away in America, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) are stuck in England with their grumpy cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). Edmund is frustrated because he's still too young to enlist, although he feels more than ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood after his previous adventures in Narnia.

Eustace is a keen scientist and a sceptic. He keeps specimens in jars, takes notes in his diary, and has no time at all for the fantastical ramblings of his Narnia-obsessed cousins, who he disparages at every opportunity. Eustace is not a believer.

So when a painting starts to pour seawater into the room and whisks Lucy, Edmund and Eustace into Narnia, Eustace is unimpressed. He's confused, and thinks he's having a bad dream. When they fetch up on the Dawn Treader in the company of the Pevensie's old friend Caspian (Ben Barnes), Eustace makes a point of moaning constantly.

Caspian is searching for seven lost lords of Narnia. They've left people prey to slavers and worse. On the outskirts of the kingdom a mysterious green mist is spreading. The mist takes people away, leaving a trail of loss and terror. The party set out to investigate this evil fog, find the lost lords, lay some magic swords on a table, and thereby set the world to rights once again. Easy.

This film is about temptation and belief, and along the way the characters are tested in various ways and encouraged to stray from the one true path. For Lucy it's all about beauty. She's jealous of her sister Susan's good looks, and she wishes she were older and prettier than she were. But what would she have to give up if she could be other than she is? Edmund and Caspian have their own desires and hangups, and they also do battle with their inner demons. The white witch is back, whispering her poison words to Edmund in an attempt to make him join her side.

Narnia is as magical and attractive as ever, with transparent mermaids leaping through the waves and spells that make it snow indoors. Visually it's the whole works, from a huge, gruesome sea serpent to the sweet, ridiculous Dufflepuds, which are reminiscent of something out of Labyrinth. Top it all off with a brave king, the odd wizard, a swashbuckling mouse, and a fancy ship and all the pieces are in place for a decent fantasy adventure.

However this movie is far too prescriptive, and its heavy-handed religious messages leave a bad taste in the mouth. Eustace, for instance, doesn't merely start off as bad-tempered and annoying. He's shown as cowardly and deceitful as well. It's a character assassination. There's no doubt about how we're meant to see him, and no room for ambiguity. We're meant to think he's wrong, and bad, and amazingly whiny. There's no exploration of why his logical approach to the world might be flawed. Similarly Lucy declares the importance of belief, but she doesn't follow this up with further discussion. This isn't a film that delves very far into why belief is vital, or why it's so important to resist temptation. Instead it voices a few opinions on religion, and then directs the audience to look at the pretty glowing star or the shiny, shiny dragon.

The ending is predictably sentimental, making this one of the fluffiest of the recent Narnia movies. Fluffy seems to sum up what this film is all about, too, both in terms of how feelgood it is and the way it has the intellectual heft of belly-button lint.

11th January 2011

Film Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson