‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ (2010) review: Missing the old ‘Narnia’

The absence of any real danger hinders the story’s progression

When you hear the word “voyage,” grand images of life-harrowing adventures, skin-grazing sword fights and one-of-a-kind characters flood your mind. However, when “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” sets sail, the only thing that floods is the ship. Less-than-memorable characters, a slow and broken plot and disappointing action sequences come together to make the weakest “Narnia” film yet.

20th Century Fox’s “Dawn Treader” continues the “Narnia” story, this time around involving the younger Pevensie siblings, Lucy and Edmund (Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes), along with their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter). The two older siblings, Peter and Susan, are in America. The war is still engulfing England. Life is hardly crumpets and tea for the British children. It doesn’t help that Lucy and Edmund can’t stand boarding with Eustace, whose mere voice can prove to be grating, his unrelenting know-it-all attitude even more so. (Isn’t this how all the movies begin?)

But as all “Narnia” story lines require, the children are soon taken to the magical world of Narnia. Lucy, Edmund and Eustace are dumped into the ocean, right next to the Dawn Treader, a ship of King Caspian (Ben Barnes), who is sporting a very “Prince of Persia”-esque look these days. While Lucy and Edmund get reacquainted with old friends, including the ever-quippy rodent Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg), Eustace gets the shock of his life when he starts hearing animals talk.

But that is where the magic stops.

While some comedic bits ensue, including an instructive-yet-entertaining sword fight between Eustace and Reepicheep, the absence of any real danger hinders the story’s progression. The main antagonist? Mist. Mind you, it is green mist that makes your worst nightmare come to life, but mist nevertheless. Apparently, this mist (a visual for the darkness) is out to the destroy the world, to remove the light from the land of Narnia. Well, the High King and Queen of Narnia can’t just stand by and let that happen, can they? So begins the quest to find mystical swords gifted by Aslan (voiced by Liam Nelson), the all-knowing lion king, and take them to some island near the edge of the world in a bid to gain an upper hand against evil.

For a story filled with such awe-inspiring magic and tales, “Dawn Treader” can’t manage to rope you in. It doesn’t explain enough of what is going on and fails to detail the book’s more engrossing points. For instance, Edmund has become a better sword fighter, yet he hasn’t trained since the last Narnia endeavor. Lots of battles occur (as bloodless as ever), but none ever create a sense of urgency, or even add a boost of adrenaline. Even the battle against a grotesque sea serpent comes across as lackluster. And the religious undertones, while always obvious in C.S. Lewis’ classic series, seems more in-your-face this time around.

Kudos are deserved, though, for the sense engendered that Lucy and Edmund have finally grown up a little. It’s a pleasure to see them make it on their own. And Poulter’s portrayal of Eustace, while annoying at first, grows on you. And seeing him grow as a person is almost worth the price of admission. Almost.

But, in the end, “Narnia” is supposed to invoke powerful feelings regarding growing up, coming into your own, having faith not only in yourself but in a greater power and in those around you. The only feeling you fight here is sleepiness.

Two stars out of five.

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2 responses to “‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ (2010) review: Missing the old ‘Narnia’

    • I did read the series, and while I used some information only found in the book in which I compared, I tend to try to judge a movie on its own merits. There are plenty of fantastic books that have been made into horrible movies through no fault of their own, you know?

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