After not getting a chance to get to the theater to catch this movie, I carved out some time last night to watch the latest installment of The Chronicles of Naria movies with my wife. Now, let me preface the remainder of this review by saying that it’s been about five years since I last read through the entire Chronicles, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was far and away my favorite of the books. I felt it read like an abridged Odessey, with lots of rich imagery and varied adventures in an epic manner.
That said, I didn’t have real high hopes for the movie for several reasons:
- Hollywood struggles with storytelling, which C.S. Lewis excelled at. It seems that you either start with a complex story that gets skimmed over, or start with a simple story that gets “jazzed up” with unnecessarry add-ins from the movie studios (see Spiderman 3, which killed that series/storyline). The Dawn Treader would fall into the first category.
- While The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by far the most popular of the books, was a solid movie, the follow up with Prince Caspian came across very “meh”, and very often sequels get caught in that downward spiral.
- The franchise was also switching from being Disney-backed to being a part of 20th Century Fox, and changing directors, and you never know how that’s going to play out.
- I read the book first. I already knew what to expect and had images of how things should look. Very rarely do movies live up to one’s imagination.
So, after watching the movie and hoping against hope, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was still an OK movie. It clearly lacked in storytelling depth (they spent about 12 seconds explaining why they were sailing into uncharted waters, and it felt like the characters were just jumping from one island to another), and the big fight scene was overly drawn out (you’d think someone would speak up and say “they spend more time fighting the giant serpent/bug thing than they do talking to each other…what is this, LOST?”), but it was sufficiently entertaining.
The two highlights for me were the early sword duel between Eustace and Reepicheep, which I found very amusing, and the final scenes, which did manage to depict the “edge of the world” by “Aslan’s country” almost exactly as I had imagined (my brain had no land, and a mirror-like wall of water).
In the end, I do have a hard time recommending Dawn Treader unless you’ve seen the previous movies, and are a fan of the books. The movie is like the Cliff Notes version with every fifth word redacted, and that doesn’t make for a great standalone movie experience.
Nonetheless, I do hope they continue to move forward and create the entire series. Word on the street is that The Magician’s Nephew is next on the docket, which is a great prelude to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and gives the whole backstory on Narnia, which should be interesting and possibly bring back those who may have been lost by the slow pace of Prince Caspian. The Silver Chair would be another one that could be very interesting to see, which is more of an fantasy adventure in other parts of Narnia. Let’s hope they can get a better grasp on those movies, and be able to do them justice in a 150-minute window.