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Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Friday, December 10, 2010
Some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.
Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter
Michael Petroni, Richard LaGravanese
In the enchanted land of Narnia, Edmund and Lucy join King Caspian on a sworn mission to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia. So begins a perilous new quest that takes them to the farthest edge of the Eastern world on board the mighty Dawn Treader. Sailing uncharted seas, the old friends must survive a terrible storm, encounters with sea serpents, dragons and invisible enemies to reach lands where magicians weave mysterious spells and nightmares come true. They need every ounce of courage and the help of the great lion Aslan to triumph in their most hazardous adventure of all.
Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) | Review
Has Narnia Found Its Niche?
The world we enter in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader also seems like another world. Part of this was, I think, the intention of C S Lewis, who wrote the Narnia books. Each of the books has a different feel to it. Dawn Treader, although set in the same world—or planet—as the other books, uniquely takes place far from the mainland in its eastern sea. Prince Caspian was a darker movie because it is derived from a book in which that world was going through a dark period of cynicism where the inherent "magic" of Narnia was being suppressed. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, on the other hand, even while the land was enslaved in winter, its magical quality remained.
The filmmakers have tried to recapture the magic of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe... quite a trick when your budget is slashed. (LWW had a budget of $180 million; Prince Caspian - $225 million; Dawn Treader - $140 million.) Money isn't everything, but, as many unemployed (and underemployed) have found these past two years, you have to make changes when your expected resources have been cut off. Hard times can actually make us more responsible.
The Narnia franchise had to come to terms with a more responsible budget. It also, as Ain't It Cool reporter "Maxwell Smart" put it, now "understands its limits." After the huge success of the first movie, the Narnia Makers thought they had another Lord of the Rings or, at least, Pirates of the Caribbean, on their hands. They dreamed that they could further expand the viewer base by enhancing its epic-swashbuckling-adventure feel. At the time, I thought they were on to something. Here are some of my comments from my opening day review:
Prince Caspian is intended as a "family movie," and I can strongly recommend that you take your children to see it. But I think the movie will also have a wider appeal to other audiences, too. An excellent children's movie will always have something in it that adults will appreciate—and this is an excellent children's film. The swashbuckling should appeal to those who like sword fighting.However, instead of expanding the audience, Prince Caspian was comparatively a flop. Don't get me wrong; a $140+ million domestic box office take is nothing to sneeze at... unless you have spent over $200 million on the film. The international box office and DVD sales probably barely put the film into the black. Something had to give.
But, I had better move on to the movie itself. In November, I attended a pre-screening of the movie with a group of pastors. We were told that this was not the final cut of the film. What we saw was essentially the complete movie, but they still had some "tweaking" to do. So this is not exactly a full review of the film. I really need to watch the movie again in order to give a more complete analysis.
I regret that I saw the pre-screening knowing too much. While Fox has done a good job keeping many of the details "under their hat," what had been disclosed though various sources gave me a good idea of the general plot twists. I was disappointed that the film left out or changed some of my favorite scenes from the book, but I was very pleasantly surprised by virtually all the details which I did not know about before seeing the film. Overall the filmmakers do a great job of capturing the spirit of the book, even while severely tampering with the plot.
If you are expecting to be bombarded with Christian messages throughout the film, you can put that idea out of your head. I do not believe that is what C. S. Lewis intended, and it would have been a disservice to him to make the movie heavy-handed in this regard. Certainly there are Christian messages if you are looking for them (as Darrel Manson points out in his review), especially at the very end, but there is also something for everyone. (See also my recent essay, Do the Narnia Films Subvert Lewis's Vision?)
Two and a half years after Prince Caspian we have Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a "kinder and gentler"—and more responsible—movie. And I'm beginning to think that, in this case, "less is more." Facing fiscal realities has helped the filmmakers understand what they have. The Chronicles of Narnia is not The Lord of the Rings, and understanding that has, perhaps, helped them find their proper niche. The movie-ticket-buying preferences of millions around the world will tell the tale.
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