Director Michael Apted and producer Mark Johnson were in New York City yesterday to show some of the first footage from 20th Century Fox and Walden Media’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third movie based on the fantasy series from C.S. Lewis.
They started by showing a teaser of footage cut together specifically for the presentation, which went by pretty quickly, but we’d get to see a lot of that same footage in context over the course of the next 45 minutes. One thing we weren’t able to see later though was an appearance by Tilda Swinton’s White Witch, who clearly has a presence in the third movie just as she did in the second.
Fox 2000 President Elizabeth Gabler came out after that brief promo trailer and gave some backstory about how the “Narnia” movies came to Fox–the first two movies having been released by Disney–and why she was happy they could be involved with the movie. She then introduced Johnson who talked a bit about the background of how he and Andrew Adamson approached the making of the series, including the casting of the Pevensie kids seven years ago for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and how much they had grown since then. He emphasized that they really hoped to bring back the magic and wonder of the first movie with “Dawn Treader” to the point of using “Return to the magic, return to the wonder” as the film’s tagline.
After being introduced, Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) came out to present the footage, which comprised of roughly half an hour of clips from all sections of the movie, including the end (So SPOILERS to those who haven’t read the book or who may not want to know anything about the movie going in.) The footage featured a glorious score by David Arnold, best known for scoring the Bond movie, and though the movie is going to be in 3D, the footage was shown in 2D, but we could get some idea what the depth of 3D could add to many of the seafaring scenes.
Apted joked about how he wasn’t able to read the books while growing up because they weren’t written back then, but the toughest part was getting the series of events from the books and turning them into a cohesive story. After talking about the production, which shot for four or five months in Australia before moving to England for post-production, he kicked things off by showing the first eight or nine minutes of the movie that sets up the Dawn Treader’s crew with their mission. (Most of the first trailer was pulled from this opening footage.
The movie begins with a shot of a castle with a lion motif which might make you think that we’re in Narnia, but the plane flying overhead immediately clues us in that we’re in England, and from the attire, we can tell that it’s in the ’30s, presumably just as WWII is starting. After an establishing shot, the camera moves into an army recruitment office and at the front of the line, looking quite a bit older than when last we saw him but immediately recognizable as Skandar Keynes’ Edmund Pevensie, who is trying to pass himself off as old enough to join the army.
“Are you sure you’re 18?” the recruiter asks him, to which he asks if he looks older, but his identification card says “Alberta Scrubb” so clearly Edmund is trying to fake his age. His sister Lucy, played by Georgie Henley, comes in and says he’s supposed to be helping her with groceries, giving up his age in the process, and he storms out, quite furious having been a king who fought wars and led armies back in Narnia. Lucy is clearly growing up and noticing boys and having issues with her looks as teen girls often do, and she wants nothing more than to be as beautiful as her older sister Susan, something that will play a part in her journey.
The two younger Pevensies have been sent to live in Cambridge with their Uncle Harold, and we first meet their cousin Eustace Scrubb, played by Son of Rambow star Will Poulter, as he’s in his room writing in his diary, and we can see he’s an odd boy who has jars filled with moths and bugs nailed to boards. He writes about how much he hates his cousins who “invaded” their house 253 days prior and that he’s not sure how long he can cope living with them. He writes how he’d love to treat his relatives like he does insects by putting them in a jar or pinning them to a wall, then he writes “Note to self: investigate legal ramifications of impaling relatives.”
Then Edmund and Lucy get back home and after Edmund and Eustace get into a bit of a scuffle, they head upstairs to her room to read a postcard they’ve received from their elder sister Susan, who is in the States with their father, who she says they never see cause he’s working. But it seems like the two kids will be stuck there for a little while longer as they’re unable to cross back over the Atlantic. After a bit more talking, Edmund notices a painting on the wall of a ship at sea and she suggests that it’s very “Narnia-looking,” but it’s so far off the distance it’s hard to tell. They’re both missing being in Narnia, but at that point, Eustace walks in reciting a snotty poem about them wasting their time believing in “Narnian nursery rhymes.” Edmund gets back into it with Eustace, while Lucy continues to look at the painting, as the waves seem to be moving slightly and then a little more and soon, the entire painting has turned into a lifelike and moving picture of a ship at sea. As they continue to quarrel, the waters starts splashing harder and harder until it starts pouring out of the frame and Lucy starts screaming and Eustace runs over to grab the picture with plans to smash it, and the three of them struggle over it as water continues to pour out filling up the room. Eventually, the water overcomes them and they sink to the bottom with all of the furniture from Lucy’s bedroom and when they surface, we see they’re in the ocean with the ship from the picture bearing down on them. Three figures jump off the ship and as one of them grabs Lucy, we see that it’s Ben Barnes’ Prince Caspian, now sporting a beard. This whole time, Eustace is completely freaking out and crying that he wants to go back to England, but Caspian pulls them out of the water with a flourish on some sort of ladder and they’re brought onboard the ship.
On the Dawn Treader, we see all sorts of minotaurs and Narnian creatures, and Caspian asks how they ended up there, because he didn’t call for them, but they’re jolly reunion is broken up by Eustace who is screaming as he’s lying on the ground with a rat sitting on his stomach. Of course, it’s the swashbuckling rodent Reepicheep, and after paying his respects to the kids, Reepicheep explains he was just trying to expel the water from his lungs, which just gets Eustace more freaked out because the rat is talking, this time in the voice of Simon Pegg. Caspian makes a crack that getting Reepicheep to talk is nothing but getting him to shut up is another story. Eustace continues to yell and carry on about wanting to wake up. He wants to know where “in the blazes” he is and he’s told by a Minotaur that he’s on the Dawn Treader which causes him to faint and everyone else to laugh. “Was it something I said?” the Minotaur asks. Caspian then presents the castaways to the crew as “Edmund the Just” and “Lucy the Valiant” and the entire crew bows down because they were King and Queen of Narnia, after all.
Apted then talked about the adventure the three kids will be joining Caspian on, in which they look for seven lords, friend’s of his father’s who were exiled after the war, and to get seven swords which will put a stop to the White Witch returning. Apted talked briefly about the first island they visit where the kids are caught and brought to a prison where they find the first lord and his sword. Once they leave, they start running out of food, and the next clip opens with Eustace going down to the galley to steal an orange from the pantry. He’s caught by Reepicheep who tells him to hand over the orange but Eustace denies knowing anything, and the two start arguing, at which point Eustace grabs the rat’s tail and he pulls his sword out and challenges him to a duel. Eustace claims to be a pacifist and runs off instead and Reepicheep chases after him and the duel continues on deck as everyone looks on. Eustace clearly isn’t very skilled with a sword but he does get in a good jab and Reepicheep seemingly falls off the edge of the boat but when Eustace looks over, it’s clear he was faked out.
At the second island, Lucy is kidnapped by “invisible giants” while everyone else is sleeping and they take her to an “invisible house” for her to find the Book of Incantations to turn things visible. We see Lucy in a jungle at doors standing on their own and looking inside, they lead to the interior of a large hall so Lucy walks inside and the doors close behind her, making it look as if there was nothing ever there.
We then cut to the beach where the others wake up and immediately notice Lucy’s absence so they go off looking for her. We go back to Lucy, who is walking through the strange house adorned with all sorts of books and paintings, and she comes to a large book on a pedestal but it seems to be locked with nonsensical words on the front. At the top of the stand on which the book rests and just above it is an angel ornament that comes alive and blows wind ahead of it, clueing Lucy to the fact that she has to blow on the front of the book, which she does. The letters start swirling around to form the words “The Book of Incantations.” She opens it up and starts looking at the spells, reading one that looks like it will create snow. Indeed, one snowflake falls on the opposite page and then more snow starts falling inside the large room. When she goes to blow the snow off the book, the pages start turning by themselves until it lands on a page with a spell on one side and what looks like a mirror on the other. She reads the spell that says it will make her the “beauty she always wants to be” and she looks in the mirror and it looks like Susan but clearly, it’s made her wish to look more like her older sister, but when she walks away and looks in another mirror in the room, she sees that she’s still the same. When she goes back to the book, some dark energy known as Green Mist starts swirling around and that clip ends.
Apted then told us that after reuniting with the crew, they go to Magician’s Island where they meet the Magician Coriakin, and the next clip begins with said magician unfurling a giant living topographical map that covers the floor, which impresses Eustace. “It’s quite beautiful,” he exclaims. “For a make-believe map of a make-believe world.” Coriakin explains that their problems come from Dark Island where “evil lurks” and that it can take many forms, making “your darkest dreams come true.” Lucy asks how to stop it and he tells her that the one sword they carry must be united with six others and they must follow the Blue Star to Ramandu’s Island, where they must be placed on Aslan’s table to unleash their magic. But he also warns them that they’re all about to be tested and that “evil has the upperhand” and will try to tempt them until they accomplish their mission. “To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself,” he tells them forebodingly. Throughout this conversation, the map is moving to show different islands that the group will visit.
Apted tells us what each of their vices are, including Lucy’s vanity and Eustace’s greed, which has him stealing gold from a cave and him being punished by getting transformed into a dragon. In the next clip, we see Eustace as a dragon, lying on the ground and moping, a tear rolling down his eye, when Reepicheep comes over to give him a pep talk. “All’s not as lost as it seems. I’ll wager you didn’t even believe in dragons this morning.” He says that extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people and that maybe it’s a sign that maybe he has greater things ahead of him. Reepicheep starts to tell him a story about meeting a dragon on an earlier adventure.
The group eventually arrives at Ramandu’s Island and they find Aslan’s table and three more swords, making it six total, and when they put the six swords on the table, the Blue Star hovering in the sky starts to come downward to earth and change into a pretty young girl, and everyone bows down to her. She welcomes the travelers and tells them to rise, saying her name is Lilliandil, Ramandu’s daughter–played by newcomer Laura Brent–and she tells them she has been their guide. She offers them food waving her hands so that candles light up illuminating a table overflowing with all manners of delicacies. She tells them that the lords they had been seeking had gone mad by the time they arrived there and started fighting but violence is forbidden so they were sent to sleep.
Apted would only give us a brief tease of the climactic battle between the group and the Sea Serpent, but the footage had Eustace as a dragon stepping up and fighting the serpent, flying around the beast’s head before he’s caught in its mouth and thrown to a rock. Landing there, Eustace lets out a blast of fire at the beast and that clip was over before we could really get into it.
After the battle, the next scene shows the three kids and Reepicheep in a boat rowing through a sea of lilies and we see that Eustace has been changed back into a boy by Aslan. He talks about how he had been transformed and how he feels completely different, though he says that being a dragon “wasn’t all bad.” He apologizes for their behavior, and Reepicheep announces that they’ve arrived. Their boat arrives on the beach and as they get out and start walking across the beach, we see that on the opposite side is a huge wall of water, like a giant tidal wave frozen in time. As they start walking towards it, we see Aslan walking behind them. He tells them that their journey is at an end, and he tells them that his country lies beyond the waves.
Apted then briefly stated that if they choose to go through the waves into Aslan’s Country, they will never be able to go back to Narnia. Instead, they choose to go home, except for Reepicheep who decides to follow his king into the country, and he bows to Aslan and says that he’s always dreamt of seeing his country. Reepicheep doesn’t feel worthy but Aslan says that his country was made for noble hearts. Reepicheep says his goodbyes and starts walking towards the edge of the beach, leaving his sword behind and getting into his oval coracle and starts paddling into the water and up the side of the wave to cross over to Aslan’s Country.
And that was it! Overall, it was an impressive cross-section of what to expect from the movie in terms of the magic and wonder they’re aiming for, we got a tiny taste of the action, as well as getting some idea about the new characters and how the two youngest Pevensie kids have changed since the previous movie.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens December 10 in 3D and 2D theaters.