Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Ben Barnes and Georgie Henley
Runtine: 113 mins
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is showing at City Screen. Click here for times and further details.
With Fox taking the reins from Disney in the production of this latest adventure in Narnia, and with a new director on board in Michael Apted (best known for the Bond film The World Is Not Enough), this third instalment in the Chronicles of Narnia franchise finds itself in new company. Indeed, if The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was applauded for its commendable attempt at staying faithful to C.S Lewis’s source material then its sequel, Prince Caspian, was criticized for its significantly darker style and tone, the film’s producer Mark Johnson going so far as to say “it was a little bit too rough for families”. This third instalment in the series attempts to deviate from the darkness of second film and align itself to a larger extent with the first; to be a light-hearted, well-crafted adventure, enjoyed by all, save perhaps for the most miserable, lifeless, joyless creatures which inhabit our earth.
Unfortunately, with uninspired plotting, debatable dialogue and questionable characterization, the film resembles something more akin to the latest trashy action thriller than C.S Lewis’s family classic. Narnian mythology is clearly a distant afterthought to the film’s indefinite preoccupation with mindless, action orientated entertainment. It is by no means a terrible film, mind, and it does contain moments of unequivocal entertainment. When transported to an imaginary cinematic world with the scope and detail of Narnia we cannot fail to be impressed, and there is something oddly satisfying about this world, with its sea serpents, dragons, witches and beautifully envisioned landscapes. Worlds such as Narnia seem to play on our childhood fantasies, offering a sense of escapism and adventure which the passing from innocence to experience tends to extinguish. Unfortunately though, not even the Narnian setting, conveyed fairly in the film, is able rescue The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from an unfortunate and absolute mediocrity.
Don’t get me wrong, the film contains enough action to keep young children happy, who’ll probably love it. Yet surely the everlasting appeal of Lewis’s Chronicles, which, through their imagination and allegorical invention continue to transcend both time and generations, are deserving of so much more than this? Like the vast majority of fantasy film and fiction, Narnia is a world based on the dichotomy of good versus evil and in the first film (and to a lesser extent the second) viewers had the White Witch to plot themselves against. In this third outing the antagonist comes in the form of a black fog which (like Sauron’s ring) tempts and corrupts individuals by manipulating their deepest human desires. It could have worked, yet, with the film clocking in at just 115 minutes compared to the 145-50 minutes of its predecessors, its clear that character development and a more sustainable plot were the least of the team’s development worries. The internal conflicts the protagonists face thus become undeveloped and ineffective, resulting in a clumsily crafted adventure which seems embryonic at best and subsequently pointless. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has its moments, yet ultimately it is a film which will soon be forgotten: neither good or bad, great or terrible, just moderately entertaining. It is rumoured this could be the last film in the series. Perhaps that is for the best.