Tag Archives: C S Lewis

Narnia Dawn Treader Caspian still

‘Dawn Treader’ Sails a Steady & Worthwhile Track

I just didn’t know what to expect as I descended into my pleasantly overstuffed theater seat to behold the third installment in Walden’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”. After a fantastic opening effort – “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” – came a real disappointment in “Prince Caspian”. There was definite anxiety swirling in my bosom. Was “Dawn Treader” going to be a nasty failure of a thing or would it do justice to Lewis’ fantastic tale and revive the franchise? With trepidation, I donned my spacey 3-D glasses…

Warning – Spoilers abound…

First, The Bad…

It will be fascinating to see the reaction from big-time lovers of the books, because – like Prince Caspian - Dawn Treader takes big time liberties with the book. And by liberties, we’re talking a menacing green mist invented as an omnipresent antagonist. It first appears when the Dawn Treader reaches its initial destination, the Lone Islands. There the Narnians observe the mysterious and apparently hungry mist taking away some peaceful islanders as hostages of some sort. Much of the rest of the journey becomes a battle to destroy the mist, which has apparently seized the seven lords Caspian set out to find. The whole mist business seems decidedly fishy at first, and I wasn’t big on the way they introduced the concept. The believability of the Lone Islands interlude isn’t great – even in a land of talking rodents.

Likewise, the tension that Prince Caspian introduced between Peter and the younger Caspian sticks around – perhaps in an effort to macho up the picture. This time they transfer the angst to Edmund / Caspian. It seems forced.

Just after Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace’s aquatic arrival – King Caspian gives a rundown of what’s been going on for the past several years in his friends’ absence. Thrown in are references to a Narnian victory over the Carlormenes which never happened in the book and also a throw away line about the awkward romance the previous film tried to kindle between Caspian and Susan. Thankfully, that’s the end of that.

Ben Barnes’ performance overall as Prince – now King – Caspian continues to be flat and uninspiring. It’s not poor acting, it just doesn’t have any zest. While this might seem like a pretty big deal for a main character, taken in light of other great performances it really doesn’t stick in one’s movie-going-craw.

Now The Good

Fantastic acting efforts from Georgie Henley as Lucy and Will Poulter as Eustace are supplemented by a treat of a voice  lent by Simon Pegg to the rodent Reepicheep. The combination of the impossible Eustace and irascible mouse really adds a compelling layer to the story. Liam Neeson reigns supreme with the perfect pipes to bring Aslan to life – despite his unfortunate personal feeling that the great lion could represent any old sacred figure depending on the day.

The cinematography is beautiful. The ship is just magnificent on the screen – particularly in 3D – all rich color and Narnian elegance. The film-makers didn’t try to overdo the ship and create some kind of Narnian battle cruiser. They created exactly what I pictured as a youngster reading Lewis’ description of the vessel. Wild island realms, conflicted dragons, and Aslan himself are brought to life in vivid fashion.

The deviation from the text is a big part of the film, and on the whole I actually liked what they did. The Dawn Treader was my least favorite of the books – I think due somewhat to the episodic nature of the story. It was almost more akin to a TV series with a separate episode being devoted to each island visit than an intertwined and cohesive story. The movie presents a unified yarn with a common theme, a common enemy, and in the end delivers a better payoff  because of it. Whereas the plot deviations in Prince Caspian seemed totally out of step and forced, those in Dawn Treader stay within the spirit of the story and enhance the movie.

There are continual references to resisting the temptation of evil by looking to Aslan and heeding his words. The intrinsic worth of each unique person is affirmed when Lucy has the chance to turn herself into her hottie sister Susan via a book of spells but Aslan intervenes. Then the greatest moment in the movie: on the beach at the entrance to Aslan’s Country. Reduced to tears at the prospect they won’t see Aslan again, the children ask if he is in their world as well. The lion replies…

“…But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Spine-tingling ensues.

And The Conclusion…

Bringing aboard 20th Century Fox to replace Disney and new director Michael Apted in place of Andrew Adamson appears to have been a recipe for success. They give casual movie-goers a smartly produced, exciting two hour journey while preserving the Christian meaning at the root of Lewis’ great tale.

It’s a hearty two thumbs up for Dawn Treader.

That is, if Geese had thumbs… but that’s another story…