Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie
Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie
Ben Barnes as Caspian
Will Poulter as Eustace Scrubb
Gary Sweet as Drinian
Terry Norris as Lord Bern
Bruce Spence as Lord Rhoop
Bille Brown as Coriakin
Laura Brent as Lilliandil
Colin Moody as Auctioneer
Tilda Swinton as The White Witch
Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie
William Moseley as Peter Pevensie
Shane Rangi as Tavros
Arthur Angel as Rhince
Directed by Michael Apted
A more adventurous plot, cool creatures, and a 3D presentation make "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" a Narnia sequel well worth checking out.
This film is based on the third book in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis.
With Peter and Susan Pevensie now grown up and on their own, Lucy and Edmund find themselves sent to their aunt and uncle's house to wait out World War II. They also must live with their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb. But the three soon find themselves sent to Narnia again, this time unexpectedly dropped in the middle of the ocean. There they are picked up by Prince Caspian, Reepicheep, and the crew of the Dawn Treader. They're on a mission to find out what happened to seven kings who departed on a quest to the extreme ends of Narnia and never returned. Along the way they face overwhelming challenges on several islands, but they must first face their own inner demons if they are to save the day.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is rated PG (for some frightening images and sequences of fantasy violence).
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" was always my favorite of the Narnia sequels and I think the things that made it my favorite book are also what make it a better movie. First of all, it departs from the formula that made the first and second films so similar. You don't simply have the kids dumped in Narnia again, run around a bit, then have a big battle with a bunch of animals at the end. Instead there's more of a quest where our heroes go from one island to the next, each time facing a different foe. On one island they battle slaver traders. On another they battle invisible creatures. On another they face a dragon. It mixes things up a bit and offers a variety of conflicts, visual eye candy, and mystery. It makes for, in my opinion, a much more interesting story.
Second, I think "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" has some better action scenes. We're treated to a great battle with a dragon. We also get some good sword fights on the ship. But the highlight is the grand finale where the crew of the Dawn Treader does battle against a sea monster. The creature design is quite impressive and would be well at home in the world of "The Lord of the Rings" or "Clash of the Titans." It made me long for more giant monster movies like "Godzilla."
The story is also good about, literally, diving right into the action. They dispense with the lengthy "Oooh! Ahh! Narnia's amazing!" scenes and get right to it. We already know who the characters are, we know the world, and we know the background story. That allows them to get right to the main plotline which is good considering this is a two-hour movie. The only character we're not familiar with is Eustace Scrubb who is played by Will Poulter (from "Son of Rambow"). But he's so annoying (as intended) that it doesn't take much to paint the picture of just who his character is and get on with it.
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" also has some good messages for kids, especially for young girls. Lucy becomes preoccupied by her looks and trying to emulate her sister Susan. At one point she has the opportunity to make herself look like her more beautiful sister. To underline the point, Lucy literally tears a page out of a magic book to make herself look beautiful. It comes across much like a young girl tearing a page out of a magazine with a picture of a supermodel. Aslan confronts her about it and emphasizes the importance of individuality and self worth. In a world where girls have problems with body image, it's a good message to send to audiences.
I also have to give the creators credit for not diluting the Christian themes that C.S. Lewis included in the original books. You would expect Hollywood to tone it down or modify it to make it appeal to broader audiences, but they stay true to the author's original work. This is one of those rare occasions where the movie stays true to the original literature.
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is released in 3D and it works quite well. The scenes where the dragon flies through the air or where Reepicheep poses gallantly on the figurehead of the Dawn Treader look quite impressive in 3D. The scenes where water comes pouring out of the picture frame also look quite cool in the 3D presentation. This is a case where the 3D lends itself to the story rather than coming across as a gimmick to jack up ticket prices. (But make no mistake about it, you'll still pay jacked up ticket prices.)
What Didn't Work:
At two hours in running time, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is a bit long. But I have to admit that looking back for what they could have cut out, there's very little. There's little fat in this script and all the scenes were relevant to plot and character development, so I'm not sure what director Michael Apted could have done to reduce the running time.
The pacing of the film is also a bit off at times. Any time they're on the ship between islands it can have a tendency to drag, but you can tell Apted tries to keep things going with a swordfight between Eustace and Reepicheep and the aforementioned image issues with Lucy. That helps move the pacing along a bit, but you probably will find yourself checking your watch a couple of times.
As much as I appreciate the Christian themes, they're so thinly veiled by the end of the movie that they might as well start referring to Aslan as 'Jesus' and Aslan's Country as 'Heaven.' It's even less subtle than the death and resurrection scene in "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." But that's C.S. Lewis' fault and not the filmmakers'. I think it could have been reworked a little to be less blatant. But again, I have to give them credit for sticking to the original book, for better or worse.
Finally, I'll add that this movie might be a tad intense for any child under five. My five-year-old has watched everything from "Ghostbusters" to "Jurassic Park" and even he was diving into Mommy's lap during the final battle with the sea monster. If you have sensitive young ones, be warned. It's rated PG but it can be a little frightening for the little kiddies.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, I think that "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is a better sequel than "Prince Caspian" and should please anyone that's a fan of the Narnia films.