The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sets sail to the usual fantasy fare: valiant heroes, animals that talk and fight, monsters, magic and adventure in a far away land.
Movie III of the series takes two of the Pevensie kids back to their beloved Narnia. Lucy and Edmund join Prince Caspian on the quest to find the seven swords of the seven lords banished by the last movie’s bad guy, King Miraz.
The swords belong to Aslan and finding them puts all things in harmony and stops a smoky, green mist from kidnapping people and spreading evil throughout the land.
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To find the seven swords, Caspian and crew must sail to the end of the world. That’s where Aslan’s country begins. On a physical level, the characters encounter all sorts of black and white magic, and battle slave merchants, sea serpents and the mostly undefined, villainous mist.
The life lessons in C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory are found in the horror of self-doubt and the temptation to serve self.
Peter and Susan Pevensie are the oldest of the four children from The Chronicles of Narnia series. At the end of the second book, they said they were “too old” to tromp back to Narnia for more adventures.
They may have a valid point.
There have been three of these films in the past five years. We have almost three years of the Twilight series, seven Harry Potter movies stretched over a decade, and the three years of The Lord of the Rings. Always eager to capitalize on a sure thing, Hollywood has inundated us with movie and TV knockoffs.
Copycat characters, effects and settings tend to make one series blend in with another. The whole fantasy thing has grown commonplace.
You may have guessed that fantasy isn’t my thing. However, if fantasy is yours, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader isn’t bad and you’ll notice some definite improvements in the series’ third film.
After the Prince Caspian disaster, Disney dropped The Chronicles of Narnia. That’s a good thing because 20th Century Fox picked it up.
Fox immediately dumped director Andrew Adamson. Convinced the series can still make money, Fox then pumped more of it into the production and tabbed Michael Apted to do film No. 3, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Apted ( Amazing Grace, The World is Not Enough) is a master of the art of storytelling. With more money to work with and better storytelling skills than Adamson, Apted’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is smoother sailing and has effects that are a lot less cheesy than the first two films.
You also get to take the trip back to Narnia in three dimensions. In 3-D, the sweeping panoramas of Dawn Treader sailing the sea are fantastic. So is the gorgeous scenery that dots the film’s landscape. Apted’s CGI characters and effects are exceptional and meld seamlessly into the live action.
All that hurts the production is the less-than-stellar acting.
Post script. A few weeks before the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the studio set up an advanced screening of some of the film’s scenes for critics. The clips were in two dimensions.
They were outstanding. So if you can’t afford the extra few bucks for the 3D, the film does look fabulous in two dimensions.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG for some mature themes and violence. It opens Friday, Dec. 10th at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.