I am finding it quite difficult to figure out why I didn’t enjoy The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Back in 2005, I really had fun with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – it was a fun mix of fantasy, action and memories of my childhood. With this latest instalment, however, I was just plain bored.
It could be that I’ve had enough of the heavy-handed Christian allegory one might refer to as Guilt 101. As a child, all of that stuff went completely over my head, but now it’s impossible to ignore. Or it could be that ‘Voyage’ simply isn’t one of the better books. Or it could be that the film seems too wrapped up in special effects instead of focussing on the story.
This time around, it’s only Lucy and Edmund that get whisked away to Narnia, along with their cantankerous cousin, Eustace Scrubb, who’s apparently in training to become a grumpy old man. They soon find themselves on the deck of the Dawn Treader, in the company of Prince Caspian and on the trail of the seven lost Lords of Narnia.
First things first, the Dawn Treader itself is a pretty sweet ride. The filmmakers obviously had the thing built, which is an absolute must for any film that spends much of its running time at sea. The production values, on the whole, are quite accomplished, which is to be applauded since this film had the smallest budget of the three to date. Whilst Disney jumped ship (so to speak) before this film went into production, it may have been a mistake, because the smaller budget might very well mean Dawn Treader sees greater returns than Prince Caspian.
The only part of this film that made me sit up and take notice was the performance of Will Poulter as Eustace. Poulter is hilariously indignant during every moment he’s onscreen, and it’s hard to believe that that boy can spend so many waking hours with his brow furrowed like that. Returning cast members do well, however it’s disappointing that Simon Pegg has replaced Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep. Izzard’s performance was one of the highlights of Prince Caspian, and whilst this time I didn’t realise the switch had taken place until the credits, I did feel the performance paled in comparison to the previous film.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the latest in a long line of shitty 3D conversions, and as you’d expect, it’s not worth handing over the extra money. I truly hope that the conversion fad is on its way out, because it’s quite a turn off and may actually reduce ticket sales (as Warner Brothers presumably decided with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1). And for all those who suggest I can easily see the film in 2D if it bothers me that much, you’re wrong: I could only find one cinema within a five suburb radius showing the film in 2D, and it only had two sessions per day, neither of which suited. (This is why I never got to see The Last Airbender.) However, this being a Narnia film, at least it’s bright, so the image doesn’t suffer much in the way of conversion murkiness.
For the most part, it feels as if the Dawn Treader is simply sailing from one special effect to the next, and there’s no real narrative drive. As far as fantasy quests go, this one’s utterly dull. To be honest, I hope the film does well enough to warrant a sequel, because The Silver Chair was always my favourite book in the series. Who knows – they might even be able to make the film thrilling.Rating: