The Chronicles of Narnia
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
dir Michael Apted
scr Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni
prd Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer
with Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet, Arabella Morton, Bille Brown, Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, Simon Pegg, Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton
release UK 9.Dec.10, US 10.Dec.10
10/UK Fox 1h55
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Old pals: Barnes and Keynes

henley poulter pegg
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Prince Caspian (2008)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader This third instalment in the Narnia series changes the director and studio, as well as the setting (from the land to the sea). The result is a rousing adventure that's enjoyable even if it still feels rather sanitised.

As war rages in Britain, Lucy and Edmund (Henley and Keynes) have left London to live with their obnoxious cousin Eustace (Poulter). One day when he's taunting them about tales that they were royalty in Narnia, a painting comes to life and pulls all three of them into its watery depths. Rescued by now-King Caspian (Barnes) and his first-mate mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Pegg), they embark on an epic voyage in the ship Dawn Treader, sailing off the edge of the map on a quest to restore balance to the kingdom.

The story is much more cinematic than other Narnia chapters, and director Apted makes the most of both the ship and the islands they visit along the way, adding a sense of scale and scope. Clever camerawork makes the digital creatures feel more matter-of-fact (to everyone except the horrified Eustace), and only a few dodgy effects (mainly the mermaids and a dragon) let things down on the technical side.

In addition, the actors are more relaxed this time, giving more confident, natural performances. Franchise newcomer Poulter is especially good, walking the fine line between being a loathsome jerk and a needy young boy. So it's a shame that the plot feels so simplistic, composed of a series of set pieces as the ship stops at various ports of call and our heroes encounter seemingly random inhabitants who helpfully give them information to continue their journey.

Most oddly, there isn't a villain here: evil is represented by a creeping green mist that seems to have neither an origin nor a purpose. So the sense of danger isn't very strong, although the encounters with grotesque monsters might be worrying to young viewers. In the end, the film is enjoyable enough, with some stronger-than-usual themes about confronting your inner fears and doing the right thing. But even young children will probably dismiss this as pure fantasy, as Eustace does before his more-personal encounter.

cert pg themes, violence 5.Dec.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall